Apple delays plan to scan devices for photos, videos depicting child pornography and abuse

Apple confirmed on Friday that it’s delaying its plan to scan U.S. iPhones for images of child sexual abuse, saying it needs more time to refine the system before releasing it.

The company had revealed last month that it was working on a tool to detect known images of child sexual abuse, which would work by scanning files before they’re uploaded to iCloud. It had also planned to introduce a separate tool to scan users’ encrypted messages for sexually explicit content.  Apple never set a specific date for when the scanning technology would roll out, beyond saying it would occur sometime this year. 

Apple insisted its technology had been developed in a way that would protect the privacy of iPhone owners in the U.S. But the Cupertino, California, company was swamped criticism from security experts, human rights groups and customers worried that the scanning technology would open a peephole exposing personal and sensitive information.

“Based on feedback from customers, advocacy groups, researchers, and others, we have decided to take additional time over the coming months to collect input and make improvements before releasing these critically important child safety features,” Apple said in an update posted above its original photo-scanning plans.

Matthew Green, a top cryptography researcher at Johns Hopkins University, warned in August that the system could be used to frame innocent people by sending them seemingly innocuous images designed to trigger matches for child pornography. That could fool Apple’s algorithm and alert law enforcement.

Not long after Green and privacy advocates sounded warnings, a developer claimed to have found a way to reverse-engineer the matching tool, which works by recognizing the mathematical “fingerprints” that represent an image. Green said Friday that Apple’s delay was the right move and suggested that the company talk to technical and policy communities and the general public before making such a big change that threatens the privacy of everyone’s photo library.

“You need to build support before you launch something like this,” he said in an interview. “This was a big escalation from scanning almost nothing to scanning private files.” Green said Apple might have been blindsided by the widespread pushback to a policy aimed at child safety because it was so secretive in developing the new technique.



The following two tabs change content below.
Paul, 37, is from Scotland in the UK, but currently lives and works in Bangkok. Paul has worked in different industries such as telemarketing, retail, hospitality, farming, insurance, and teaching, where he works now. He teaches at an all-girls High School in Bangkok. “It’s a lot of work, but I love my job.” Paul has an active interest in politics. His reason for writing for FBA is to offer people the facts and allow them to make up their own minds. Whilst he believes opinion columns have their place, it is also important that people can have accurate news with no bias.

Leave a Reply