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.

Top Rated Comments

contacos Avatar
13 weeks 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
13 weeks 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
13 weeks 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
13 weeks 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
13 weeks 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
13 weeks 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)

Related Stories

Child Safety Feature yellow

Apple Removes All References to Controversial CSAM Scanning Feature From Its Child Safety Webpage [Updated]

Wednesday December 15, 2021 1:53 am PST by
Apple has 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 may hang in the balance following significant criticism of its methods. Apple in August announced a planned suite of new child safety features, including scanning users' iCloud Photos libraries for Child Sexual Abuse Material...
Child Safety Feature Purple

Apple's Proposed Phone-Scanning Child Safety Features 'Invasive, Ineffective, and Dangerous,' Say Cybersecurity Researchers in New Study

Friday October 15, 2021 12:23 am PDT by
More than a dozen prominent cybersecurity experts hit out at Apple on Thursday for relying on "dangerous technology" in its controversial plan to detect child sexual abuse images on iPhones (via The New York Times). The damning criticism came in a new 46-page study by researchers that looked at plans by Apple and the European Union to monitor people's phones for illicit material, and called...
Child Safety Feature Blue

Apple Delays Rollout of Controversial Child Safety Features to Make Improvements

Friday September 3, 2021 6:07 am PDT by
Apple has delayed the rollout of the Child Safety Features that it announced last month following negative feedback, the company has today announced. 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...
European Commisssion

EU Approves Landmark Legislation to Regulate Apple and Other Big Tech Firms

Tuesday July 5, 2022 5:53 am PDT by
European Union lawmakers have approved landmark legislation to heavily regulate Apple, Google, Meta, and other big tech firms. The Digital Markets Act (DMA) and Digital Services Act (DSA) were proposed by the European Commission in December 2020. Now, collected in a "Digital Services Package," the legislation has been formally adopted by the European Parliament and seeks to address...
eff apple park plane 1

EFF Flew a Banner Over Apple Park During Last Apple Event to Protest CSAM Plans

Friday September 24, 2021 2:06 am PDT by
In protest of the company's now delayed CSAM detection plans, the EFF, which has been vocal about Apple's child safety features plans in the past, flew a banner over Apple Park during the iPhone 13 event earlier this month with a message for the Cupertino tech giant. During Apple's fully-digital "California streaming" event on September 14, which included no physical audience attendance in...
eff logo lockup cleaned

EFF Pressures Apple to Completely Abandon Controversial Child Safety Features

Monday September 6, 2021 3:18 am PDT by
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...
communication safety feature yellow

Apple's Messages Communication Safety Feature for Kids Expanding to the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand

Wednesday April 20, 2022 11:06 am PDT by
Apple is planning to expand its Communication Safety in Messages feature to the UK, according to The Guardian. Communication Safety in Messages was introduced in the iOS 15.2 update released in December, but the feature has been limited to the United States until now. Communication Safety in Messages is designed to scan incoming and outgoing iMessage images on children's devices for nudity...
european parliament

EU Provisionally Agrees on Law That Would Force Apple to Allow Alternative App Stores, Sideloading, and iMessage Interoperability

Friday March 25, 2022 4:46 am PDT by
European lawmakers have provisionally agreed upon a new law that would force Apple to allow user access to third-party app stores and permit the sideloading of apps on iPhones and iPads, among other sweeping changes designed to make the digital sector fairer and more competitive. The European Council and European Parliament said on Friday they had reached a political agreement on the...

Popular Stories

iPhone 14 Pro Purple Rear Flat MacRumors Exclusive

iPhone 14 Pro Predicted to Start With Increased 256GB Storage Alongside Rumored Price Increase

Wednesday August 10, 2022 11:14 am PDT by
Earlier today, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed iPhone 14 Pro models will be more expensive than iPhone 13 Pro models. Kuo did not reveal exact pricing, but he said that the average selling price of all four iPhone 14 models will increase by about 15% overall. While higher prices would be disappointing for customers, it is possible the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max will offer increased...
iPhone 14 Pro Lineup Feature Silver

Kuo: Apple to Increase Prices of iPhone 14 Pro Models

Wednesday August 10, 2022 8:22 am PDT by
Apple plans to increase the prices of iPhone 14 Pro models compared to iPhone 13 Pro models, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Kuo did not reveal exact pricing for the iPhone 14 Pro models. However, in a tweet today, he estimated that the average selling price of the iPhone 14 lineup as a whole will increase by about 15% compared to the iPhone 13 lineup. In the United States, the iPhone...
iPhone 14 Pro Purple Front and Back MacRumors Exclusive feature

iPhone 14 Is Just a Few Weeks Away: Three Tips to Prepare for the New iPhone

Wednesday August 10, 2022 4:08 am PDT by
The launch of the new iPhone 14 is just a few weeks away, meaning millions of iPhone customers will soon upgrade their existing iPhone or perhaps get an iPhone for the first time. Exclusive MacRumors iPhone 14 Pro renders by graphic designer Ian Zelbo Whether upgrading from an older model or this is your first iPhone, we've rounded up a few tips to help you prepare for the next flagship...
battery percentage ios 16

Here's Why the iPhone Battery Status Icon in iOS 16 Is So Controversial

Wednesday August 10, 2022 4:34 am PDT by
In the latest iOS 16 beta, Apple has updated the status bar battery icon on iPhones with Face ID to display the exact percentage remaining rather than just a visual representation of battery level, and while the change has been largely welcomed, some users are unhappy with the way it has been implemented. In iOS 15 and earlier, battery percent has not been present on iPhones that have...
Apple Watch Body Temperature Finished

'High-Accuracy' Apple Watch Temperature Sensor Revealed by Patent Filing Just Weeks Before Series 8 Unveiling

Wednesday August 10, 2022 5:39 am PDT by
Apple has been granted a patent for a temperature sensor suitable for the Apple Watch, just weeks before the company is expected to unveil the Apple Watch Series 8 with body temperature sensing capabilities. The newly granted patent, spotted by MyHealthyApple, was filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and is titled "Temperature gradient sensing in electronic devices."...