Apple said it would deny any government request to use a system designed to detect child pornography in iCloud accounts for other criminal or national security investigations.
The company has come under heavy criticism following the announcement last week of its child sexual abuse material (CSAM) detection system, which involves automatically scan photos from iPhone before they are uploaded to iCloud.
In response to many of these criticisms, the company posted a series of frequently asked questions about the risk that the system could be used to search for non-CSAM images that may be of interest to government authorities.
Apple said it would “refuse such requests” from governments to “force Apple to add non-CSAM images to the hash list” – referring to the list of fingerprints used to identify abusive material without sharing that material himself.
“We have already been faced with requests to create and deploy government-mandated changes that degrade user privacy, and we have firmly refused those requests. We will continue to refuse them in the future,” he added. society.
However, this position was questioned by Professor Steven Murdoch of University College London, who noted that the company’s refusal “to create new features to unlock an iPhone“is” different from adding a hash to an existing database “.
Professor Murdoch noted that “in other cases, Apple has acceded to legal requirements aimed at reducing security, for example by limiting the availability of Private Relay and iCloud encryption.”
Apple said, “Let’s be clear, this technology is limited to detecting CSAM stored in iCloud and we will not accede to any request from a government to expand it.”
Professor Murdoch noted similarities with a system in place in the UK, which Internet service providers (ISPs) were able to use to block abusive content, then were forced to expand to cover less serious crimes such as that infringement of intellectual property.
ISPs – including British Sky Broadcasting Limited, then owner of Sky News – lost in court when they tried to challenge this.
In his judgment, Justice Arnold noted: “The orders would not force ISPs to acquire new technology – they already have the technology required. Indeed, most ISPs now have a greater technical capacity to implement such orders than three years ago. “
Mr Murdoch asked: “Will Apple leave a market if it is placed in the same position?”