European Commission to Release Draft Law Enforcing Mandatory Detection of Child Sexual Abuse Material on Digital Platforms

The European Commission is set to release a draft law this week that could require tech companies like Apple and Google to identify, remove and report to law enforcement illegal images of child abuse on their platforms, claims a new report out today.

European Commisssion
According to a leak of the proposal obtained by Politico, the EC believes voluntary measures taken by some digital companies have thus far "proven insufficient" in addressing the increasing misuse of online services for the purposes of sharing child sexual abuse content, which is why the commission wants to make detection of such material mandatory.

After months of lobbying, groups representing tech companies and children's rights organizations are said to be waiting to see how stringent the rules could be, and how they will work without tech companies having to scan the gamut of user content – a practice deemed illegal by the Court of Justice of the European Union in 2016.

Apart from how identification of illegal material would operate within the law, privacy groups and tech companies are worried that the EU executive could result in the creation of backdoors to end-to-end encrypted messaging services, the contents of which cannot be accessed by the hosting platform.

The EC's Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson has said technical solutions exist to keep conversations safe while finding illegal content, but cybersecurity experts disagree.

"The EU shouldn't be proposing things that are technologically impossible," said Ella Jakubowska, speaking to Politico. Jakubowska is policy adviser at European Digital Rights (EDRi), a network of 45 non-governmental organizations (NGOs.)

"The idea that all the hundreds of millions of people in the EU would have their intimate private communications, where they have a reasonable expectation that that is private, to instead be kind of indiscriminately and generally scanned 24/7 is unprecedented," said Jakubowska.

MEPs are far from aligned on the issue, however. Reacting to the leak of the proposal, centrist Renew Europe MEP Moritz Körner told Politico the Commission's proposal would mean "the privacy of digital correspondence would be dead."

The heated debate mirrors last year's controversy surrounding Apple's plan to search for CSAM (child sexual abuse material) on iPhones and iPads.

Apple in August 2021 announced a planned suite of new child safety features, including scanning users' iCloud Photos libraries for CSAM and Communication Safety to warn children and their parents when receiving or sending sexually explicit photos. The latter, and arguably less controversial, feature is already live on Apple's iMessage platform. Apple's method of scanning for CSAM has yet to have been deployed.

Following Apple's announcement, the features were criticized by a wide range of individuals and organizations, including security researchers, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Facebook's former security chief, politicians, policy groups, university researchers, and even some Apple employees.

The majority of criticism was leveled at Apple's planned on-device CSAM detection, which was lambasted by researchers for relying on dangerous technology that bordered on surveillance, and derided for being ineffective at identifying images of child sexual abuse.

Apple initially attempted to dispel some misunderstandings and reassure users by releasing detailed information and sharing interviews with company executives in order to allay concerns. However, despite Apple's efforts, the controversy didn't go away, and Apple decided to delay the rollout of CSAM following the torrent of criticism.

Apple said its decision to delay was "based on feedback from customers, advocacy groups, researchers and others... we have decided to take additional time over the coming months to collect input and make improvements before releasing these critically important child safety features."

In December 2021, Apple quietly nixed all mentions of CSAM from its Child Safety webpage, suggesting its controversial plan to detect child sexual abuse images on iPhones and iPads hanged in the balance following significant criticism of its methods.

However, Apple says its plans for CSAM detection have not changed since September, which suggests CSAM detection in some form is still coming in the future.

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.

Popular Stories

Apple Vision Pro 2 Feature 2

Apple Reportedly Suspends Work on Vision Pro 2

Tuesday June 18, 2024 8:17 am PDT by
Apple has suspended work on the second-generation Vision Pro headset to singularly focus on a cheaper model, The Information reports. Apple was widely believed to have plans to divide its Vision product line into two models, with one "Pro" model and one lower-cost standard model. The company is said to have been deprioritizing the next Vision Pro headset over the past year, gradually...
Apple WWDC24 Apple Intelligence hero 240610

Apple Explains iPhone 15 Pro Requirement for Apple Intelligence

Wednesday June 19, 2024 4:48 am PDT by
With iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and macOS Sequoia, Apple is introducing a new personalized AI experience called Apple Intelligence that uses on-device, generative large-language models to enhance the user experience across iPhone, iPad, and Mac. These new AI features require Apple's latest iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max models to work, while only Macs and iPads with M1 or later chips will...
M4 Real Feature Red

M4 MacBook Pro Models Expected to Launch in Late 2024

Tuesday June 18, 2024 10:50 am PDT by
MacBook Pro models with an M4 chip are expected to launch in the fourth quarter of 2024, according to display analyst Ross Young. In a tweet for subscribers, Young said that panel shipments for new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models are set to begin in the third quarter of 2024, which suggests a launch toward the end of the year. Apple started its M4 chip refresh in May with the launch...
2022 back to school apple feature

Apple's 2024 Back to School Sale Launching This Week

Monday June 17, 2024 12:27 pm PDT by
Apple will launch its annual Back to School promotion for university students in the United States and Canada this week, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Apple's back to school sales provide students with a free Apple gift card when purchasing a Mac or an iPad, and this year's promotion could help Apple push the new M2 iPad Air and M4 iPad Pro models. Last year, Apple offered U.S....
iOS 18 Calendar Feature

iOS 18: Calendar App Design Changes and Reminders Integration

Tuesday June 18, 2024 6:16 am PDT by
Apple in iOS 18 has given the Calendar app a major update, adding some welcome interface design changes, not to mention long-awaited integration with Reminders. In the month-by-month calendar view, the month now appears in large bold font in the top left, while the Events list toggle has been replaced by a new button that lets you choose between Compact, Stacked, Details, and List views. ...
watchOS 11 Thumb 2 1

watchOS 11 Supports Automatic Nap Detection

Monday June 17, 2024 4:05 pm PDT by
watchOS 11 appears to include a new feature that allows an Apple Watch to automatically detect and record when you're taking a nap. As shared on Reddit, an Apple Watch owner took a nap and was able to see the sleep data recorded in the Health app, despite not putting the device in Sleep Mode. Right now, the Apple Watch only tracks and records sleep when it is in Sleep Mode, and there is no...

Top Rated Comments

contacos Avatar
28 months ago
and at the same time another entity in the EU demands end-to-end encryption. Hilarious.

It starts with child porn and ends with having an opinion. Scary future
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
rme Avatar
28 months ago

and at the same time another entity in the EU demands end-to-end encryption. Hilarious.

It starts with child porn and ends with having an opinion. Scary future
Europe is once again heading towards a very very dark place. Was always obvious that ever more centralisation of power and ever bigger empire was going to lead to misery.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AdonisSMU Avatar
28 months ago

Eh- not a fan of this.

Inevitably, "think of the children" always wins.
Also not a fan. EU is doing too much As. Per usual. The EU doesnt know how to leave people alone. The its for a good cause is a terrible argument. Do the people of the EU get to vote for the representation in the EU?
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mac Fly (film) Avatar
28 months ago

and at the same time another entity in the EU demands end-to-end encryption. Hilarious.

It starts with child porn and ends with having an opinion. Scary future
Careful with having an opinion around here. MR don’t love that; you may get a temporary ban for such. Live in the EU and hate the EU. Centralised power corrupts. If child porn was the issue we’d know Maxwell’s client list and the court case transcript would be made public. Alas, child porn only matters when the perps are not wealthy and powerful.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
VulchR Avatar
28 months ago
Many posting above assume that Apple's local CSAM-detecting spying software is a response to pressure from governments like the US and EU. Perhaps. However, it is likely that Apple's system has given encouragement to governments that want 24/7 surveillance on our private lives. I can just picture authoritarian legislators now: 'See? Apple has a system that guarantees privacy [sic], so we can move ahead with this requirement for surveillance'.

Criminal investigations should begin with detection of crime. Global surveillance should not be used for the prevention of crime. The cost to liberty is too high.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Abazigal Avatar
28 months ago
I previously opined that Apple’s implementation was them trying to have their cake and eat it too - find a way to detect illegal material one’s device without human intervention and thus preserving one’s privacy.

I continue to stand by this statement, and I believe that if Apple were ever to roll out said feature, it would be the least invasive means of scanning for CSAM compared to what the other companies are doing.

We also know now why Apple was exploring such a feature in the first place. Totally makes sense now.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)