Apple has said that all photo libraries of US iPhone users will be screened for known child abuse images if they are stored on the online iCloud service.
The disclosure came in a series of media briefings in which Apple seeks to dispel alarm over its announcement last week that scan users’ phones, tablets and computers for millions of illegal photographs. The company has clarified that it will only apply to photos that are uploaded and stored online.
While Google, Microsoft, and other tech platforms verify uploaded photos or email attachments against a database of identifiers provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and other clearinghouses, security experts criticized the Apple’s plan as more invasive because the scanning occurs on users’ devices. .
Some said they hoped governments would seek to force the iPhone maker to expand the system to search for other material on the devices.
In a post on its website on Sunday, Apple said it would fight such attempts, which can occur in secret courts.
“We have faced lawsuits to build and implement mandatory government changes that degrade user privacy before, and we have strongly rejected those demands,” Apple wrote. “We will continue to reject them in the future.”
In Monday’s briefing, Apple officials said the company’s system, which will roll out this year with the release of its iOS 15 operating system, will check existing files on a user’s device whether users have those photos. synchronized with the company’s storage servers.
The technology will be rolled out first in the United States, with other countries potentially to follow.
Julie Cordua, CEO of Thorn, a group that has developed technology to help law enforcement officials detect sex trafficking, said about half of all child sexual abuse material is in video format.