Apple delays implementation of controversial new child pornography tools

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The tools developed by Apple to fight against child pornography will ultimately not be part of the next updates of iPhone, iPad, iWatch and iMac in the United States. The Silicon Valley giant has finally caved in to criticism from encryption and privacy specialists who
are concerned that the tools may not be used for other purposes and open a door to surveillance or censorship.

Unveiled in early August by Apple, these new features were designed to better identify images of a sexual nature involving children, on its iCloud server and on iMessage messaging for children’s accounts linked to a family subscription. The group, which has made the protection of its users’ data a major selling point, ensured that these new algorithms did not make the system less secure or confidential. Apple is also known to have, so far, stood up to anyone who tries to bypass its encryption system to gain access to private messages.

Open letter signed by more than 7,700 people

An open letter against these technologies has been signed by various NGOs and more than 7,700 people, including former CIA computer scientist and whistleblower Edward Snowden. The Cupertino company has tried to defend its new technologies on several occasions.

But in the face of feedback from clients, advocacy groups or researchers, she decided “to take extra time over the next few months to gather feedback and make improvements before releasing these important child protection features to the public.” “.

Apple loose ballast

By postponing the implementation of its new tools, the apple brand seems to make a new concession to its critics as it is attacked on several fronts and finds itself under pressure from regulators and courts in several countries. The group notably announced last week that it would allow publishers of mobile applications to offer their customers means of payment outside the App Store, a radical change for the company from Cupertino, California.

On Wednesday, he let go of the ballast again by indicating that he would let certain publishers include, in their application, a link to their site, in order to be able to bypass his payment system, which generally charges them 15% or 30% commission. One of the tools developed by Apple is supposed to compare the photos uploaded to its iCloud server with those stored in a file managed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) without having direct access to the image. But encryption and privacy experts fear that it will be used for other purposes.

“A compromise on confidentiality that affects 1 billion users”

Another tool developed by Apple technicians can scan photos received or sent by minors via iMessage messaging. But being able to intervene, in any way, on iMessage messaging calls into question the fact that content is supposed to be end-to-end encrypted, experts fear.

Matthew Green, who teaches cryptography at Johns Hopkins University, welcomed Apple’s decision to engage in dialogue with the general public. With these new tools, “it’s not just about adding a fancy new touch bar; it’s a compromise on confidentiality that affects 1 billion users, ”he remarks on Twitter.

For Andy Burrows, head of online child safety at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, however, it is an “incredibly disappointing” decision. “Apple had taken a proportionate approach that sought to balance user security and privacy, and (the group) should have stood firm in the face of criticism,” he regretted.

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