Apple has announced the rollout of a new feature that is both winning praise and raising concerns. The tool, scheduled for rollout later this year, will scan photos and text messages on Apple devices looking for known images of child sex abuse.
Jim Lewis, an expert in cybersecurity, said Apple “has gone out of its way to make this as privacy friendly as possible.”
“There will be part of the program that has access to data … what they call hashes of imagery, in other words, the picture reduced to a numeric formula,” said Lewis, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. “Apple will use that numeric formula to look for things, images, that match it on your device.”
If there’s a match, the photos will be shown to an Apple employee. Verified sensitive material will then be forwarded to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and the user’s iCloud account will be locked.
The move is drawing both applause and outcry on Twitter, Tom Hanson reports for “CBS This Morning: Saturday.”
Ashton Kutcher called it “a major step forward in the fight to eliminate” child sexual abuse material from the internet.
But security watchdogs are concerned the new software could be exploited by hackers and foreign governments.
The head of WhatsApp, Will Cathcart, said he’s “concerned.”
“I think this is the wrong approach and a setback for people’s privacy all over the world,” he said in a series of tweets.
“Can this scanning software running on your phone be error-proof? Researchers have not been allowed to find out,” he tweeted.
Lewis said the Apple program “is designed in such a way that the chances of it making a mistake … of it saying something is child pornography when it’s not … are infinitesimally small.”
“I don’t think this is a serious threat to privacy,” he said.
Lewis said all tech companies are looking at ways to deal with malicious content. “There’s a lot of bad stuff on the internet and it’s more than overdue that they try and step in to change that,” he said.
Apple says its efforts to protect children will evolve and expand over time.