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Apple Employees Internally Raising Concerns Over CSAM Detection Plans


Apple employees are now joining the choir of individuals raising concerns over Apple’s plans to scan iPhone users’ photo libraries for CSAM or child sexual abuse material, reportedly speaking out internally about how the technology could be used to scan users’ photos for other types of content, according to a report from Reuters.

According to Reuters, an unspecified number of Apple employees have taken to internal Slack channels to raise concerns over CSAM detection. Specifically, employees are concerned that governments could force Apple to use the technology for censorship by finding content other than CSAM. Some employees are worried that Apple is damaging its industry-leading privacy reputation.

Apple employees have flooded an Apple internal Slack channel with more than 800 messages on the plan announced a week ago, workers who asked not to be identified told Reuters. Many expressed worries that the feature could be exploited by repressive governments looking to find other material for censorship or arrests, according to workers who saw the days-long thread.

Past security changes at Apple have also prompted concern among employees, but the volume and duration of the new debate is surprising, the workers said. Some posters worried that Apple is damaging its leading reputation for protecting privacy.

Apple employees in roles pertaining to user security are not thought to have been part of the internal protest, according to the report.

Ever since its announcement last week, Apple has been bombarded with criticism over its CSAM detection plans, which are still expected to roll out with iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 this fall. Concerns mainly revolve around how the technology could present a slippery slope for future implementations by oppressive governments and regimes.

Apple has firmly pushed back against the idea that the on-device technology used for detecting CSAM material could be used for any other purpose. In a published FAQ document, the company says it will vehemently refuse any such demand by governments.

Could governments force Apple to add non-CSAM images to the hash list?
Apple will refuse any such demands. Apple’s CSAM detection capability is built solely to detect known CSAM images stored in iCloud Photos that have been identified by experts at NCMEC and other child safety groups. We have faced demands to build and deploy government-mandated changes that degrade the privacy of users before, and have steadfastly refused those demands. We will continue to refuse them in the future. Let us be clear, this technology is limited to detecting CSAM stored in iCloud and we will not accede to any government’s request to expand it. Furthermore, Apple conducts human review before making a report to NCMEC. In a case where the system flags photos that do not match known CSAM images, the account would not be disabled and no report would be filed to NCMEC.

An open letter criticizing Apple and calling upon the company to immediately halt it’s plan to deploy CSAM detection has gained more than 7,000 signatures at the time of writing. The head of WhatsApp has also weighed into the debate.



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