Apple is known to be completely against practices that violate the privacy of users. However, a recent search warrant has revealed that Apple intercepts emails that contain material on sexual abuse of children. Well, this naturally raises privacy concerns as going through emails of users is not part of the company’s privacy policies. Thankfully, the process does not include an active screening of user emails by the company.
How The Process Works
The process includes automatically detecting photos and videos that have already been flagged as “materials containing child abuse”. These photos and videos contain unique signatures in their meta-data. The signatures are called “hashes”. Now, while analysing the emails that are sent through Apple’s servers, if the system detects these unique hashes in an email, that email will be flagged immediately. The specific email will be barred and will be awaiting inspection.
Then an operator or a staff member will check the email to reach a final decision. The operator, after analysing the email, can decide whether the same can be approved or should the authorities be informed. In a specific case, Apple was able to find illegal child abuse material in an email. Apple was also able to provide details like the user’s name, address and phone number to the Homeland Security.
“I think the balance that Apple has drawn is a good one. It allows for the search for known extreme imagery but also has safeguards to prevent abuse of the ability to search emails.” said cyber-security professor at the University of Surrey, Alan Woodward.