Apple is reportedly developing a tool that will scan your iPhone photos for child sexual abuse (CSAM) material, including child pornography-related media content. The new development, which is expected to be announced shortly, will be implemented on the client-side – on the user’s device – to search for certain perceptual hashes and send them directly to Apple servers if they appear in high quality. The idea is that by performing checks on the user’s device, it protects their privacy, although it is unclear if this system can be misused in any way.
Cybersecurity expert Matthew Daniel Green, who is an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Information Security in the United States, tweeted about Apple plans to launch a client system to detect child abuse images from iPhone. He said the unfinished tool could ultimately be a “key ingredient” in adding surveillance to encrypted messaging systems.
“As Apple is doing this launch, they are going to start with non-E2E. [non-end-to-end] photos that people have already shared with the cloud. So it won’t “hurt” anyone’s privacy. But you have to ask why would anyone develop such a system if scanning E2E photos was not the goal, ”Green said in a detailed Twitter thread.
Apple could raise concerns among users with its new tool, as even if there are enough layers to protect against misuse, it can generate false positives. Governments can also abuse the system to go beyond looking for illegal children’s content and looking for media outlets that can nudge public opinion into political action.
Gadgets 360 has reached out to Apple for comment on the reported development of the tool and will update that space when the company responds.
In the past, it was discovered that Apple deployed similar hashing methods Look for child abuse material in iPhone users’ emails. It was also reported last year that the Cupertino-based company placed encrypted backups on its iCloud to discreetly provide a backdoor for law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
However, the new move seems to be made with privacy in mind as it will be deployed to the user’s device without the need to send images to the cloud. The exact scope of the tool has yet to be determined as Apple has yet to provide any official details, but Green tweeted that the announcement could take place this week.