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Apple delaying its controversial CSAM detection system

The company says it will take time to gather more input

In a statement to 9to5Mac, Apple says it’s delaying its controversial CSAM detection system and child safety features. 

Apple’s statement

Here’s Apple’s statement: Last month we announced plans for features intended to help protect children from predators who use communication tools to recruit and exploit them, and limit the spread of Child Sexual Abuse Material. 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.

About the CSAM plan

On August 6, Apple previewed new child safety features coming to its various devices later this year. And the announcement has stirred up some controversy.

You can read the entire “Expanded Protections for Children” article for details, but here’s the gist of it:

Apple is introducing new child safety features in three areas, developed in collaboration with child safety experts. First, new communication tools will enable parents to play a more informed role in helping their children navigate communication online. The Messages app will use on-device machine learning to warn about sensitive content, while keeping private communications unreadable by Apple.

Next, iOS and iPadOS will use new applications of cryptography to help limit the spread of CSAM online, while designing for user privacy. CSAM detection will help Apple provide valuable information to law enforcement on collections of CSAM in iCloud Photos.

Finally, updates to Siri and Search provide parents and children expanded information and help if they encounter unsafe situations. Siri and Search will also intervene when users try to search for CSAM-related topics.

These features are coming later this year in updates to iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, and macOS Monterey.

The controversy

However, the announcement was met with major controversy. For example, Fight for the Future, a nonprofit advocacy group for digital rights, has launched nospyphone.com. It’s a web page designed to give individuals a way to directly contact Apple to oppose its controversial child protection plan that involves scanning devices for child abuse images.

Also, employees spoke out internally about Apple’s plans, reports Reuters. The August 13 article said employees of the tech giant have flooded an Apple internal Slack channel with more than 800 messages on the plan announced a week ago. Many expressed worries that the feature could be exploited by repressive governments looking to find other material for censorship or arrests.

What’s more:

° PC Mag notes that the intent is to stop crime, but it could come at the expense of an iPhone owner’s privacy. The main concern is that Apple is creating a beachhead to monitor the activity on a consumer’s personal hardware, a step beyond simply surveilling the data on a social network, video site, or email service.  

the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the editor/publisher of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.

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