Apple Wipes Controversial Child Abuse Photo Scanning From Its Site

Apple logo above an Apple Storefront

Apple has quietly removed all references to its highly controversial plan to scan iPhone photo libraries for child sexual abuse material (CSAM). The company previously postponed its plans in response to backlash but may abandon them entirely now.

Apple first announced that it would add a CSAM scanning feature in all of its devices in early August. After some strong pushback from users and privacy experts, Apple said it had introduced “confusion” with its announcement of the photo scanning feature and released a white paper that it hoped would better explain its plan to scan photo libraries for CSAM.

While the concept, in theory, sounded like a good idea that would be able to protect children from predators, privacy and cryptography experts continued to levy sharp criticism of Apple’s plan. Less than a month later, the company said it would put the project on hold for at least a few months while it made improvements to the system.

“Last month we announced plans for features intended to help protect children from predators who use communication tools to recruit and exploit them, and limit the spread of Child Sexual Abuse Material,” the company said at the time.

“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.”

Now three months later, MacRumors notes that the most recent version of Apple’s webpage dedicated to child safety is devoid of any references to its formerly planned CSAM photo library scanning efforts and instead only references the nudity detection that it announced earlier this week.

The complete removal of any reference to the plan to automatically scan iPhone photo libraries indicates that Apple could very well be quietly abandoning it entirely following the considerable pushback and criticism it faced at the time of the initial announcement.

There is precedent for this strategy. In 2017, Apple announced the AirPower charger, a large wireless charging mat that was billed as a way to charge a host of Apple devices all at once. The company said it planned to ship AirPower sometime in 2018, but for the next two years would go radio silent on the device, acting as if it didn’t exist. Finally, in 2019, the company admitted that the project had been canceled.

If Apple runs with the same strategy as it has in the past, it may be a couple of years before we hear if Apple fully abandoned the feature.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.