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Apple delays privacy-invading child abuse detection software

Neill Fronde



PHOTO: Apple delays the release of child sexual abuse protection software amid privacy concerns. (via Wikimedia)

After huge backlash over their seemingly well-intentioned plan to fight child pornography and child sexual abuse, Apple has backed down and delayed the release of a software update that would include protection tools that many believe would invade privacy and open the door for other infringement in the future.

The Silicon Valley tech giant had introduced a plan to release software on all of its iPhones and iPads that would protect children by detecting images that matched a database of child sex abuse images when they were uploaded to iCloud the cloud storage service Apple created, as well as give warnings to children and parents when it detected messages that were dangerous regarding child trafficking or exploitation.

But this week Apple recognized the concerns that allowing a backdoor to detect these child abuse images and messages create a slippery slope that could later allow the company to search not just for illegal content, but for anything they find disagreeable, or allow government or authorities to access a device’s data.

Now Apple has decided to delay the rollout of this new software update announcing on Friday that they are responding to the criticism from advocacy groups, customers, research, 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.”

The plan was to identify abusive photos by comparing them using artificial intelligence against a database of known abuse images that are provided and curated by safety organizations. The software would flag these images when they were uploaded to Apple’s cloud storage software and alert proper authorities.

Apple maintains that the system would use a cryptographic technology that would not reveal the contents of the child abuse image but compare its pixel data without a human eye ever seeing it. But digital rights organizations fought back quickly, saying that it was an invasion of privacy and created a much bigger risk.

Digital privacy experts postulate that changing Apple’s operating system to allow the software to run would create a backdoor that governments or nefarious groups may be able to access against the phone or mobile device owner’s wishes.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post


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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10 years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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