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Apple postpones plans to scan iPhones for child abuse

Apple delayed plans to rollout detection technology that would have scanned iPhones of US users in search for child sexual abuse material.

This follows widespread criticism from privacy organizations and others who were concerned that the on-device tracking was a dangerous precedent.

Apple stated that it had received negative feedback and was reconsidering its plans.

There were concerns that the system could be misused by authoritarian states.

NeuralHash would scan images before they were uploaded to iCloud Photos. It would then match them with known child sexual abuse material from a National Center for Missing and Exploited Children database.

If a match is found, it will be manually reviewed by a person and, if necessary, steps taken to disable the account of the user and to report it to law enforcement.

It was expected to launch in the second half of this year.

Apple released the following statement: “Last Month we announced features that will help protect children against predators who use communication instruments to recruit and exploit them and limit the spread child sexual abuse material.”

“Based on feedback received from customers, advocates groups, researchers, and others, we have decided that we will take extra time in the coming months to gather input and make improvements before releasing these critical child safety features.”

Privacy activists expressed concern that this technology could be used to spy on citizens by authoritarian governments.

Electronic Frontiers Foundation was one of the most vocal critics, collecting a petition signed 25,000 customers against the move.

Cindy Cohn, the company’s executive director, stated to the BBC that she believes that the company needs to do more than listen and abandon its plans for putting a backdoor in its encryption.

“The vast coalition that has spoken out will continue demanding that user phones be protected – including their photos and messages – and that the company keeps its promise to give real privacy to its customers.”

Apple has always been a proponent of privacy and encryption at all levels in the past.

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