Apple plans to scan U.S. iPhones for child abuse imagery – FT


According to Apple, the corporation will search photo libraries kept on iPhones in the US for known photographs of child sexual abuse. Child protection groups applaud the move, but privacy advocates caution that it crosses a boundary that might have serious repercussions for users’ personal information. For the first time, the business will inspect the contents of end-to-end encrypted messages.

“neuralMatch” is Apple’s planned technology, according to two security researchers who were briefed on the virtual meeting.

If it detects illicit imagery, the automated system would alert a team of human reviewers, who would subsequently call law authorities if the material could be authenticated. In the beginning, the programme will only be available in the United States.

“This innovative new technology allows Apple to provide valuable and actionable information to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and law enforcement regarding the proliferation of known CSAM [child sexual abuse material],” the company said. “And it does so while providing significant privacy benefits over existing techniques since Apple only learns about users’ photos if they have a collection of known CSAM in their iCloud Photos account.”

Prior to uploading photographs to the company’s iCloud Photos online storage, neuralMatch will scan them and compare them to an image database that contains known child abuse images. A user’s account will be disabled if a child abuse match is confirmed, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) will be alerted.

Apparently, since the tool only scans images that are already in NCMEC’s database, parents who take photos of their children in the bath should not be concerned about the program’s use. As a result of its inability to “see” images but only mathematical fingerprints that represent them, researchers are concerned that the matching tool could be misused for other purposes.

Johns Hopkins University’s Matthew Green, a cryptography researcher, has warned that the technology might possibly be used to falsely accuse innocent people by sending them seemingly benign photographs tailored to trigger matches with child abuse images. To mislead such systems, “researchers have been able to do this rather quickly,” he said.

Apple aims to scan customers’ encrypted texts as they are written and received via iMessage, in addition to the neuralMatch technology. Parents will be able to put on automatic filters for their children’s inboxes thanks to an AI-based tool that will attempt to automatically identify sexually explicit photos. This mechanism, which is solely designed to “warn youngsters and their parents when receiving or transmitting sexually explicit photos,” will not result in sexually explicit images being forwarded to Apple or reported to police. Parents, on the other hand, will be notified if their child sends or receives sexually inappropriate photos.