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Apple Delays Child Protection Measures after Privacy Concerns

After internal and external criticism of the system on privacy and other grounds, Apple announced on Friday that it would need more time to collect feedback and improve proposed child safety measures.

Apple’s vow last month to scan US consumer phones and computers for photos of child sex abuse provoked a global response from a wide spectrum of rights groups, as well as internal criticism from staff.

Critics claimed that the capability could be used by authoritarian governments seeking for other material to suppress or imprison people, and that it would be impossible for independent researchers to tell whether Apple was simply analyzing a small selection of on-device information.

Apple retorted that it would allow security experts to test its assertions, but the company warned on Friday that system modifications would take longer.

“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,” the company said in a statement on Friday.

Apple’s decision, according to Matthew Green, a cybersecurity researcher at Johns Hopkins University who had previously criticized the company, is “promising.”

On Twitter, Green stated that Apple should “Make sure you know why you’re scanning and what you’re looking for. It was a huge jump from scanning nothing except email attachments to scanning everyone’s private photo library. Escalations like this must be justified.”

For weeks, Apple had been defending the idea, and had already provided a series of explanations and documentation to demonstrate that the danger of erroneous detection was low.

It had intended to release the functionality with software upgrades for iPhones, iPads, and Macs later this year in the United States.

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