The Electronic Frontier Foundation has said while it is “pleased” with Apple’s decision to delay the launch of its controversial child safety features, it wants Apple to go a few steps further and completely drop the features.
Apple announced on Friday that it is delaying the rollout of the Child Safety Features that it announced last month following pushback from multiple quarters.
The new communication tools will allow parents to play a more informed role in helping their children navigate the world of online communication. The Messages app will use on-device machine learning to warn about sensitive content while keeping private communications unreadable by Apple.
iOS and iPadOS will use new applications of cryptography to help limit the spread of CSAM online while designing for user privacy. CSAM detection will help Apple provide valuable information to law enforcement on collections of CSAM in iCloud Photos.
Updates to Siri and Search provide parents and children expanded information and help if they encounter unsafe situations. Siri and Search will also intervene when users try to search for CSAM-related topics.
These features were scheduled for later this year in updates to iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, and macOS Monterey.
Apple confirmed that the negative feedback it has received from customers, advocacy groups, researchers, and others has given the company pause and it has decided to make improvements.
In a response to the announced delay, the EFF said it was “pleased Apple is now listening to the concerns” of users, but “the company must go further than just listening, and drop its plans to put a backdoor into its encryption entirely.”
The digital rights group had previously criticized Apple over the intended features, which it has called “a decrease in privacy for all iCloud Photos users, not an improvement.”
It also highlighted the negative reaction to Apple’s announced plans by mentioning a number of petitions that have been organized in opposition to the intended move.
The responses to Apple’s plans have been damning: over 90 organizations across the globe have urged the company not to implement them, for fear that they would lead to the censoring of protected speech, threaten the privacy and security of people around the world, and have disastrous consequences for many children. This week, EFF’s petition to Apple demanding they abandon their plans reached 25,000 signatures. This is in addition to other petitions by groups such as Fight for the Future and OpenMedia, totalling well over 50,000 signatures. The enormous coalition that has spoken out will continue to demand that user phones—both their messages and their photos—be protected, and that the company maintain its promise to provide real privacy to its users.