EFF Pressures Apple to Completely Abandon Controversial Child Safety Features
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has said it is "pleased" with Apple's decision to delay the launch of of its controversial child safety features, but now it wants Apple to go further and completely abandon the rollout.
Apple on Friday said it was delaying the planned features to "take additional time over the coming months to collect input and making improvements," following negative feedback from a wide range of individuals and organizations, including security researches, politicians, policy groups, and even some Apple employees.
The planned features include scanning users' iCloud Photos libraries for Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM), Communication Safety to warn children and their parents when receiving or sending sexually explicit photos, and expanded CSAM guidance in Siri and Search.
In its response to the announced delay, the EFF said it was "pleased Apple is now listening to the concerns" of users, but "the company must go further than just listening, and drop its plans to put a backdoor into its encryption entirely."
The statement by the digital rights group reiterated its previous criticisms about the intended features, which it has called "a decrease in privacy for all iCloud Photos users, not an improvement," and warned that Apple's move to scan messages and iCloud Photos could be legally required by authoritarian governments to encompass additional materials.
It also highlighted the negative reaction to Apple's announced plans by noting a number petitions that have been organized in opposition to the intended move.
The responses to Apple's plans have been damning: over 90 organizations across the globe have urged the company not to implement them, for fear that they would lead to the censoring of protected speech, threaten the privacy and security of people around the world, and have disastrous consequences for many children. This week, EFF's petition to Apple demanding they abandon their plans reached 25,000 signatures. This is in addition to other petitions by groups such as Fight for the Future and OpenMedia, totalling well over 50,000 signatures. The enormous coalition that has spoken out will continue to demand that user phones—both their messages and their photos—be protected, and that the company maintain its promise to provide real privacy to its users.
The suite of Child Safety Features were originally set to debut in the United States with an update to iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, and macOS Monterey. It's not clear when Apple plans to roll out the "critically important" features or how it intends to "improve" them in light of so much criticism, but the company still appears determined to roll them out in some form.