Apple is Overturning Photo Surveillance Plans- Fight Against Picture Abuse

After multiple protests, Apple has to rethink the concept: The announced system for tracking down abuse images is not coming – for the time being.

Apple is postponing the introduction of a feature against child abuse content in the United States.

Based on feedback from customers, interest groups, researchers and others, we have decided to invest even more time in the coming months.

They wanted to take the time to make further suggestions and improvements to the system before the important tools came out, it said in a post that the company published on a website with information about the project.

In August, Apple announced that it was working on a system with which photos on devices of US users could be compared with known images of abuse before they were uploaded to its own storage service iCloud.

Experts warn against accusing innocent people
Apple attributed the shift to feedback from customers, organizations and academics, among other things. Initially, it was said that the changes should be introduced this year as part of updates to the operating system for iPhones, Macs and Apple Watches. A separate function was also planned, which would be used to detect possible unambiguously sexual material in encrypted messages from users.

However, Matthew Green, an expert on cryptography at Johns Hopkins University, warned that the system could be used to falsely accuse innocent people. You could get supposedly harmless images that land alleged hits when comparing images for child abuse images. Apple’s algorithm could be tricked and the security authorities alerted, said Green. Data protection activists made similar statements.

Cryptograph describes Apple’s postponement as correct
Shortly afterwards, a developer reported that he had succeeded in reading out the function for image comparison. In a sense, the system can recognize digital fingerprints that represent an image.

Green said Apple’s postponement was the right move. He advises the company to exchange ideas with the tech scene, political decision-makers and the general public before such major changes are made that threaten the privacy of all users’ photo libraries.

Criticism also from the FDP
Critics spoke of a dam break because Apple wanted to conduct a search for illegal content on users’ devices without cause. The chairman of the Bundestag Digital Agenda committee, Manuel Höferlin (FDP), protested against Apple’s plans in an open letter to Apple boss Tim Cook.