Bulletins

Apple delayed its child-protection features after they caused huge controversy

Now Apple says it will “collect input and make improvements.”

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Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

After weeks of controversy, Apple announced that it will delay the rollout of several new child-protection features, including the new on-device scanning tech it designed to detect child sexual abuse material.


“Previously we announced plans for features intended to help protect children from predators who use communication tools to recruit and exploit them and to help limit the spread of Child Sexual Abuse Material," Apple said in a statement posted above its original press release announcing the features. "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."

Apple's announcement set off a huge amount of discussion in the industry, with privacy advocates saying the moves amount to Apple giving itself (and by extension others) the tools to snoop on users' devices. Apple maintained it was only focused on child protection and a few specific use cases, and was unusually public and forthcoming in defending the policies, but still failed to persuade most of its critics.

The primary question was always one of unintended consequences. Even if Apple was building a specific tool for a specific and positive purpose, the possibilities for expansion and abuse seemed to many people to be not worth the risk. "Apple plans to erase the boundary dividing which devices work for you, and which devices work for them," Edward Snowden wrote. Apple will have to work out how to deal with those issues before it tries to launch these features again.

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