European Commission is putting paedophiles privacy ahead of fighting online child abuse

Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. The European Commission has been accused of undermining the fight against online child abuse by introducing new laws which will protect the privacy of paedophiles.Charities say new EU regulations would stop tech firms searching out child abuse images on their platforms and reporting them to police because it would be a potential breach of paedophiles’ privacy.Unlike the new laws on data, there are no exemptions in the proposed EU regulations that would allow investigators to override the rights of paedophiles to privacy to protect children from abuse.The government is understood to have raised its concerns with the EC that “personal rights should not obstruct companies from protecting children who use social media platforms.”A source said Sajid Javid, the home secretary, fully supported companies having the power to detect and act upon “abhorrent” images and grooming for child sexual abuse.“We have taken note of the EU’s proposal for the introduction of European Privacy Regulation (EPR) and are discussing it with EU member states,” said a government spokesperson.John Carr, secretary of the Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety, which represents 11 of the biggest charities including Barnardo’s and the NSPCC, wrote last week to the EC, demanding they amend the regulations so investigators can continue to report and remove indecent images. Javed Khan, chief executive of Barnardo’s, Britain’s biggest charity, said: “Online child abuse is appalling. Any regulation change should not restrict the ability of tech companies and law enforcement to work together to stop child abuse online.“We would urge the EC to make a simple change to the new e-privacy regulation so that all EU countries can continue to fight this horrific crime effectively.” Microsoft technology known as PhotoDNA has enabled tech giants like Facebook, Twitter and Google to track down millions of illegal child abuse images on their platforms.It is estimated more than 20m such images will have been located by US watchdogs and the Internet Watch Foundation in the UK by the end of this year and removed through the use of PhotoDNA, which “fingerprints” any illegal image so copies of it can be traced across the internet.Under new data laws – the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – there are three exemptions to a users’ right to privacy which allow tech firms to seize and report indecent images.These are where it is of vital importance to protect the interests of an individual, to comply with a legal obligation or to perform a task that is carried out in the public interest.The European Privacy Regulations (EPR), however, have no such exemptions. “Article 5 of the EPR prohibits the processing of data unless consent is given by the end user [ie the paedophile],” said a charity legal expert. “The worry is that if consent is the only exemption to the prohibition on processing data, then child sexual abuse offenders are unlikely to give their consent. “The purpose of the regulations are stop the abuse and misuse of people’s data and privacy but the consequence is it potentially undermines what is being done to tackle child sexual abuse online.”It is understood a number of other European countries have raised concerns in an attempt to force through an alternative option aligning the privacy laws with the GDPR exemptions. Mr Carr said: “There ought to be no room for doubt or ambiguity on a matter of such fundamental importance to the protection of children.  And yet there is.” read more