Apple approached by policy groups to drop child abuse detection system

By Arya M Nair, Official Reporter
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The American technology giant Apple has encountered criticism from over 90 policy and human rights organizations around the world who have signed an open letter requesting the company to avoid plans to check texts for nudity and phones for images of child sex abuse. 

The largest campaign to date on an encryption issue at a single company was organized by the US-based nonprofit Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT). Some global signatories are concerned about the impact of the modifications in countries with different legal systems, including some that are already engaged in heated debates about encryption and privacy.

Though the new features are intended to protect children and reduce the spread of child sexual abuse material, there are concerns that they will be used to censor protected speech, risking people’s privacy and security around the world, and creating disastrous consequences for many children, according to the letter.

Multiple organizations from Brazil, India, Mexico, Germany, Argentina, Ghana, and Tanzania signed the document. The signers said the step could endanger children in intolerant homes or those seeking educational material and the change will break end-to-end encryption for iMessage, which Apple has staunchly defended in other contexts.

Other groups that signed include the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Access Now, Privacy International, and the Tor Project.

Apple has offered a series of explanations and documentation to show that the risks of false detections are low, due to the initial outrage following its announcement two weeks ago.

The organizations also fear the fact that governments might force Apple to expand the notification to other accounts and detect images that are objectionable for reasons other than being sexually explicit.

Related: Photos in iCloud will be scanned by child abuse detection system; Apple