Sweeping new data laws introduced by the European Commission will restrict tech firms from flagging up child abuse images to police as it would be deemed a breach of paedophiles’ privacy.
The new data laws are unlike any other data laws as the rules will not let investigators overrule the rights of paedophiles in order to protect children from harm.
The move has been slammed by charities across the EU.
Last week John Carr, secretary of the Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety, the body which represents 11 of the biggest charities including Barnardo’s and the NSPCC, wrote to the European Commission and demanded alter the regulations so investigators can remove inappropriate images.
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.”
He has been joined by Javed Khan, who is the chief executive of Barnardo’s, Britain’s biggest charity. Mr Khan said that:
“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 European Commission to make a simple change to the new e-privacy regulation so that all EU countries can continue to fight this horrific crime effectively.”
There are three exemptions to a users’ right to privacy which give tech firms the power to seize and report indecent images of children under new data laws, called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
These come into effect when it is imperative to protect an individual’s interest, to comply with the law or to carry out a task 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.