After criticism: Apple specifies measures against child pornography


After Apple’s announced system for tracing child pornographic photos has aroused surveillance fears, the iPhone company is improving. For example, Apple announced that only content that was brought in by at least two child protection organizations from different countries should come into a database for comparison with already known abuse images.

Critics of Apple’s plans had warned, among other things, that an authoritarian state could try to smuggle pictures with political motives into the database in order to find out who has them on their phones.

The function to search for child pornographic material is initially limited to US users who use Apple’s online storage service iCloud. It is not about analyzing the content of all existing images. Instead, a file with so-called “hashes” of known child pornographic content should be loaded onto the devices – a kind of digital fingerprint of the image. This means that a copy of the photo can be recognized when comparing with special procedures.

If they match, suspicious images are provided with a certificate, thanks to which Apple can exceptionally open them after uploading them to iCloud and subject them to an examination. The system only sounds the alarm when there is a certain number of hits.

When it was first announced last week, Apple did not provide any information about how many matches the system would hit. On Friday, the group announced that the threshold should be around 30 images.

After the initial criticism, Apple also assured that it would reject any attempts by governments to abuse the process to search for other content. At the same time, some cryptography experts and IT security researchers, among others, had criticized the fact that the creation of such a system alone opens up the possibility for authoritarian governments to require Apple to include other content in the database with the hashes and thus to carry out political surveillance.

#heiseshow: Child abuse scanning on iPhones

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