Apple Criticized for System That Identifies Child Abusing Photos

Apple criticized for the system that identifies child abusing images and child pornography materials for the US mobile devices users. Apple has come under fire for a new system that finds child sexual abuse material (CSAM) on consumer devices in the United States.

The technology looks for matches against known CSAM before saving the image in iCloud Photos. But there are concerns that the technology could be expanded and used by authoritarian governments to spy on their own citizens.

WhatsApp boss Will Cathcart called Apple’s move “very worrying”.

Apple said the new versions of iOS and iPadOS, due for release later this year, “will have new cryptographic applications to help curb the spread of CSAM online while protecting user privacy”.

The system reports a match, which is then manually checked by someone. It can then take steps to deactivate the user’s account and report it to law enforcement agencies.

The company says the new technology offers a “significant” privacy advantage over existing techniques – because Apple will only study users’ photos if they have a collection of known child sexual abuse material on their iCloud account.

But WhatsApp’s Cathcart said the system “could easily be used to scan private content for anything they or governments want to control. Countries selling iPhones will have different definitions of what’s acceptable”.

Photo credit: Twitter

He claimed that WhatsApp’s system for handling child sexual abuse material reported more than 400,000 cases to the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children without breaking encryption.

Facebook and Apple don’t like each other. This hostility has increased in recent months because of secrecy. Apple’s Tim Cook consistently beats the “privacy first” drum. He doesn’t criticize Facebook’s business model harshly – which is basically selling people’s data to advertisers.

The latest feature of Apple’s new iOS update asks users if they want to be tracked online when they download a new app. Facebook resented the move and warned shareholders it could hurt their bottom line.

So it’s no surprise that WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, is strongly against Apple’s new move.

Cynically, Apple’s announcement was an opportunity for Facebook to let the world know that Apple isn’t as passionate about privacy as it is often said to be.

But WhatsApp bosses are not alone with their criticism. There are some very real fears that this technology – in the wrong hands – could be used by governments to spy on their citizens.

Facebook has made it clear that it believes this vision of online security is dangerous and should be defended.

This is not the first time the two companies have taken completely different philosophical positions on the issue of our time – secrecy.

Read more Facebook updates the Settings page to make it more user-friendly

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