Microsoft set to pull support of CEOP, says chief

The technology giant has told Jim Gamble, the outgoing chief of CEOP, that it is 'unlikely' to continue backing the child protection taskforce if it is rolled into the new National Crime Agency
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Microsoft is considering withdrawing its support for the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, according to the taskforce's outgoing chief executive.

Jim Gamble said the move was prompted by the home secretary's proposal, announced in July, to amalgamate the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) into an FBI-like crime-fighting body called the National Crime Agency (NCA).

"I have a statement from Microsoft... they feel it extremely unlikely that they will continue philanthropic support of CEOP," Gamble told the Home Affairs Select Committee.

Gamble, a child exploitation expert, resigned as CEOP chief executive last Tuesday in protest at the government's merger plans. He is set to step down in four months.

The government's plans mean that CEOP will be "fighting for airtime" in an environment that would be focused on tackling other serious offences such as gun crime and terrorism, Gamble told the parliamentary committee. He added that CEOP had not been consulted by the government over the plans.

CEOP, which is affiliated with the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), is a law enforcement agency charged with overseeing the UK's national and international efforts to combat online crimes involving children. Approximately £9m of its £12.5m budget comes from the government and around £3m comes from industry, said Gamble. Philanthropic donors include Microsoft and AOL.

The Home Office said on Tuesday that it is working on the implementation of the NCA proposal and that the outcome for the child-protection arm is still under discussion.

"We've not made any final decision as to the future status of CEOP," a Home Office spokeswoman told ZDNet UK. "We're still considering how CEOP, Soca and NCA would operate."

CEOP is very concerned that its mission will be subsumed within an organisation whose primary focus would be criminal justice, rather than child protection, according to a senior manager at the agency.

"We have the view that if CEOP is rolled into an NCA, that we will become the poor relation," the CEOP manager told ZDNet UK.

Microsoft had not responded at the time of writing.

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