Apple to Scan iPhones, iCloud for Photos of Child Abuse

Technology giant Apple unveiled its plans to scan iPhones and iCloud accounts for images of child sexual abuse via a system called neuralHash. The system will first be launched in the United States and this is the first time Apple has agreed to scan users’ files in the cloud, reveals Tech Crunch.

According to a statement to Tech Crunch, the technology is aimed particularly at protecting children from abuse and exploitation, particularly those who are using Apple’s wide range of services.

Prior to Apple agreeing to scan users’ images, the likes of Dropbox, Google, and Microsoft have already provided a system that scans users files for possibly harmful content that might be illegal or directly violates their terms of service, revealed Tech Crunch.

Scan iPhones for Photos of Child Abuse

Meanwhile, Apple has always provided its users with the option to encrypt data prior to uploading or allowing it to reach the iCloud servers to protect their files and information.

With the new technology called neuralHash, however, Apple seeks to change the landscape by scanning images even before they are uploaded to iCloud. The software works by hashing and comparing images with a database of images of known child sexual abuse, reveals Reuters.

In the event the software finds a match in the system, law enforcement officers will ensure that these findings are reviewed. Then, the Associated Press states that if malicious content or child sexual abuse or pornography is confirmed, the account will be disabled and the authorities over at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children will be notified.

Chief executive officer of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children John Clark said of the new approach, “With so many people using Apple products, these new safety measures have lifesaving potential for children who are being enticed online and whose horrific images are being circulated in child sexual abuse material. The reality is that privacy and protection can co-exist.”

While the Associated Press maintains that many child protection groups are in favor of Apple’s plans to scan iPhones and iCloud accounts, the news site also brings up the concern of security researchers in that the software may be misused, with other nonprofit organizations such as the Center for Democracy and Technology calling for the technology to be withheld from the public.

In an interview with the Associated Press, cryptography researcher Matthew Green from Johns Hopkins University said that the system could frame innocent people. Green also maintained that governments looking to surveil their people could abuse the system.