Apple Addresses CSAM Detection Concerns, Will Consider Expanding System on Per-Country Basis

Apple this week announced that, starting later this year with iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, the company will be able to detect known Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) images stored in iCloud Photos, enabling Apple to report these instances to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a non-profit organization that works in collaboration with law enforcement agencies across the United States.

apple csam flow chart
The plans have sparked concerns among some security researchers and other parties that Apple could eventually be forced by governments to add non-CSAM images to the hash list for nefarious purposes, such as to suppress political activism.

"No matter how well-intentioned, Apple is rolling out mass surveillance to the entire world with this," said prominent whistleblower Edward Snowden, adding that "if they can scan for kiddie porn today, they can scan for anything tomorrow." The non-profit Electronic Frontier Foundation also criticized Apple's plans, stating that "even a thoroughly documented, carefully thought-out, and narrowly-scoped backdoor is still a backdoor."

To address these concerns, Apple provided additional commentary about its plans today.

Apple's known CSAM detection system will be limited to the United States at launch, and to address the potential for some governments to try to abuse the system, Apple confirmed to MacRumors that the company will consider any potential global expansion of the system on a country-by-country basis after conducting a legal evaluation. Apple did not provide a timeframe for global expansion of the system, if such a move ever happens.

Apple also addressed the hypothetical possibility of a particular region in the world deciding to corrupt a safety organization in an attempt to abuse the system, noting that the system's first layer of protection is an undisclosed threshold before a user is flagged for having inappropriate imagery. Even if the threshold is exceeded, Apple said its manual review process would serve as an additional barrier and confirm the absence of known CSAM imagery. Apple said it would ultimately not report the flagged user to NCMEC or law enforcement agencies and that the system would still be working exactly as designed.

Apple also highlighted some proponents of the system, with some parties praising the company for its efforts to fight child abuse.

"We support the continued evolution of Apple's approach to child online safety," said Stephen Balkam, CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute. "Given the challenges parents face in protecting their kids online, it is imperative that tech companies continuously iterate and improve their safety tools to respond to new risks and actual harms."

Apple did admit that there is no silver bullet answer as it relates to the potential of the system being abused, but the company said it is committed to using the system solely for known CSAM imagery detection.

Note: Due to the political or social nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

dmx Avatar
35 months ago
This system is ripe for abuse and privacy creep over time.

Anyone who it would catch will just turn off iCloud photos anyway, defeating the purpose.

Apple should admit that they made a mistake and cancel the rollout.
Score: 156 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ScottishDuck Avatar
35 months ago
US government known not to abuse systems
Score: 100 Votes (Like | Disagree)
transpo1 Avatar
35 months ago
This is a horrendous idea with so many ways this tech could go wrong.

Limiting it to the U.S. is not a solution and it’s obtuse of Apple to think so. Apple needs to stop now. Get rid of the feature, both the iCloud and Messages versions. No one wants this.
Score: 87 Votes (Like | Disagree)
budafied Avatar
35 months ago

Apple's known CSAM detection system will be limited to the United States at launch, and to address the potential for some governments to try to abuse the system, Apple confirmed to MacRumors that the company will consider any potential global expansion of the system on a country-by-country basis after conducting a legal evaluation.
Oh, idk. I thought the US government was pretty ****ing dishonest when it comes to privacy. How did that get approved in the first place?

**** Apple for doing this.
Score: 84 Votes (Like | Disagree)
StrangeNoises Avatar
35 months ago
And when China, or Russia, or India, give them a big list of hashes they want to be notified of, or you don't get to sell phones in those countries any more?
Score: 83 Votes (Like | Disagree)
J___o___h___n Avatar
35 months ago
I’ve nothing to hide, but this just doesn’t seem right to me.

I’m not updating any existing device to iOS15 until this is roll-out is stopped. I don’t want my photos scanned and I don’t want it to happen to my children’s messages. I ensure my children are safe myself. There’s a level of trust and these sort of forced policies just don’t agree with me.
Score: 69 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

apple tv 4k yellow bg feature

When to Expect a New Apple TV to Launch

Tuesday April 9, 2024 8:30 am PDT by
It has been nearly a year and a half since the current Apple TV was released, so the device is becoming due for a hardware upgrade. Below, we recap rumors about the next Apple TV, including potential features and launch timing. The current model is the third-generation Apple TV 4K, announced in October 2022. Key new features compared to the previous model from 2021 include a faster A15...
iPhone 16 Pro Sizes Feature

Alleged iPhone 16 Battery Details Show Smaller Capacity for One Model

Tuesday April 9, 2024 3:46 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming iPhone 16 lineup will feature bigger battery capacities compared to previous-generation models with the exception of the iPhone 16 Plus, which will have a smaller battery than its predecessor. That's according to the Chinese Weibo-based leaker OvO Baby Sauce OvO, a relatively new source of supply chain leaks with an as-yet unproven track record for accuracy. The iPhone 16 ...
iPad Mini 6 YouTubed 2

When to Expect the Next iPad Mini and Low-End iPad Models to Launch

Sunday April 7, 2024 6:45 am PDT by
While rumors have been focused on new iPad Pro and iPad Air models, some Apple customers are wondering when the next iPad mini will be released. In his Power On newsletter today, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman said new iPad mini and entry-level iPad models will be released in late 2024 at the earliest. "The company is also working on new versions of the low-end iPad and iPad mini, but those...
iPhone 16 Camera Lozenge 2 Colors

iPhone 16 Plus Rumored to Come in These 7 Colors

Wednesday April 10, 2024 3:52 am PDT by
Apple's iPhone 16 Plus may come in seven colors that either build upon the existing five colors in the standard iPhone 15 lineup or recast them in a new finish, based on a new rumor out of China. According to the Weibo-based leaker Fixed focus digital, Apple's upcoming larger 6.7-inch iPhone 16 Plus model will come in the following colors, compared to the colors currently available for the...
10th Gen iPad Feature Deals 2

Best Buy Introduces Record Low Prices Across Every 10th Gen iPad

Sunday April 7, 2024 8:01 am PDT by
Following a few notable discounts on MacBooks yesterday, Best Buy today introduced a sale on the 10th generation iPad, including numerous all-time low prices on the tablet. Prices start at $349.00 for the 64GB Wi-Fi model, and include $100 markdowns on both Wi-Fi and cellular devices. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Best Buy. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may...
Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite Laptop

Microsoft Says Windows Laptops With Snapdragon X Elite Will Be Faster Than M3 MacBook Air

Monday April 8, 2024 10:00 am PDT by
Microsoft will advertise that its upcoming Windows laptops with Qualcomm's Snapdragon X Elite processor are faster than the MacBook Air with Apple's latest M3 chip, according to internal documents obtained by The Verge. "Microsoft is so confident in these new Qualcomm chips that it's planning a number of demos that will show how these processors will be faster than an M3 MacBook Air for CPU...
M3 iPad Feature 3

Apple Event for New iPads Still Considered 'Unlikely' Following Delays

Tuesday April 9, 2024 6:37 am PDT by
Apple is "unlikely" to hold an event to announce new iPad Pro and iPad Air models, according to sources cited by Taiwanese supply chain publication DigiTimes. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman already said Apple was not planning to hold an event for the new iPads, but he made this claim back in early March, before it was reported that the devices were postponed due to manufacturing delays. With the...