Submission: Inquiry into law enforcement capabilities in relation to child exploitation

In August 2022 the Joint Committee on Law Enforcement initiated an inquiry examining law enforcement capabilities in relation to child exploitation.

Digital Rights Watch made a submission to the inquiry in January 2023, in relation to two points in the Inquiry Terms of Reference:

(d) considering the use by offenders of encryption, encryption devices and anonymising technologies, and Remote Access Trojans to facilitate their criminality, along with the resources of law enforcement to address their use;
(e) considering the role technology providers have in assisting law enforcement agencies to
combat child exploitation, including but not limited to the policies of social media providers
and the classification of material on streaming services;

Our submission outlines some of the challenges related to regularly proposes technological options for tackling CSAM online. We do this not to dismiss the severity of the issue at hand, but to encourage a necessary dialogue about the limitations and risks of certain approaches such that an informed and reasonable debate can ensue. We focus on:

  • The importance of end-to-end encryption,
  • The challenges associated with client-side scanning and automated detection of first generation material
  • The need for more robust safeguards regarding law enforcement surveillance powers, including access to databases, and
  • The current lack of research informing evidence-based and proportionate responses.