Why is it important to protect mobile phones against child sexual abuse material?
Mobile phones, and especially smartphones, have in many ways transformed our lives. They are phones, cameras and computers in one, and give us access to the internet almost no matter where we are. Mobile networks and mobile phones are aiding progress across the globe in many fields – from healthcare to community development.
However, mobile phones are also used for harmful purposes. And, while we celebrate and enhance the positive impact that mobile development has, we must also take action to protect those who are at risk of falling victim to an increasingly technological and connected world – children.
The 3.5 billion smartphone users
Today, there are 3.5 billion smartphone users in the world. That translates to 45 percent of the world’s population owning a smartphone. Across the US and Europe this number is considerably higher, with 83 percent of North Americans and 76 percent of Europeans owning a smartphone. 5.2 billion people, nearly 70 percent of the world’s population, subscribe to mobile services. (Source: The Mobile Economy 2020 report by GSMA*).
Mobile services are used to drive positive developments across the world. In their report GSMA gives the example that 1.4 billion subscribers use their phone to improve their own or their children’s education. They also state that the mobile development has helped reduce the financial exclusion gap in low- and middle-income countries.
Mobile phones in child sexual abuse investigations
Mobile phones are however also driving harmful developments. The NetClean Reports, which survey law enforcement professionals who investigate child sexual abuse crimes, have since 2015 repeatedly shown that mobile phones are becoming increasingly common in investigations concerning child sexual abuse crime.
In the NetClean Report 2019 Eric Oldenburg (Law Enforcement Liaison at Griffeye, NetClean’s sister company, who has many years’ experience of child sexual abuse investigations), said that mobile phones are driving the spread and production of child sexual abuse material, due to the ease of access that they provide.
“Nearly everyone has a mobile phone, and they are cheap, have good cameras, and feel very private and secure as people always carry them with themselves. Using mobile apps it is also very easy for offenders to access collections of material” – Eric Oldenburg.
Data in the same report showed that nine in ten police officers reported that their investigations include child sexual abuse material found on mobile devices, and three in ten said that they have seen an increase in this already big trend over the past three years.
It protects IT environments and mobile devices from being used for illegal purposes, but more importantly it limits the exposure and revictimization of child victims.
Disrupting illegal activity on mobile devices
As mobile phones are increasingly being used to produce, consume, share and store child sexual abuse material, it has become increasingly important to do what we can to disrupt this trend. Employers who provide their work force with mobile phones are one of the stakeholders in this effort.
We know from the NetClean Report 2018 that 1 in 500 work computers are used to access child sexual abuse material. Businesses are increasingly acting as ethical corporate citizens and taking action to protect their work computers from being used for illegal activities. To rigorously protect the business IT environment, it is equally important to protect mobile devices that are provided to employees.
Until now, there has been no technical solution developed specifically for mobile devices, leaving businesses with something of a blind spot in terms of IT protection. With the release of NetClean ProTective, a mobile protective solution is now available.
NetClean ProTective is used to block business mobile phones from accessing websites known to contain child sexual abuse material. This is important for several reasons. It protects IT environments and mobile devices from being used for illegal purposes, but more importantly it limits the exposure and revictimisation of child victims.
Research shows that the trauma of child sexual abuse is more severe if the sexual abuse is documented and disseminated on the internet. You can read more about that here. Also, stay tuned, as this post will be followed up with more information on revictimisation.
* The GSMA represents the interests of more than 750 mobile operators worldwide.