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A protester holds an iPhone with an image of the A demonstrator protesting against the court order requiring Apple to make it easier for the FBI to unlock an encrypted iPhone used by a gunman in the December 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack, Feb. 23, 2016, in New York (AP photo by Julie Jacobson).

Apple’s Sudden Move on Child Safety Rekindles the Debate Over Encryption

Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021

Last Friday, Apple announced that it was implementing measures to combat the distribution of child sexual abuse media, or CSAM, on its services. Apple, the company that famously defied the FBI by refusing to provide technical assistance in hacking its own iPhones after a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, surprised commentators in both the tech and human rights communities with this announcement, and there was a predictable torrent of criticism from both ends of the policy spectrum.

The electronic distribution of child abuse images has been a perennial and unsolved issue for more than 20 years. The growing popularity of end-to-end encrypted apps such as Apple’s iMessage and Facebook’s WhatsApp has made it more difficult for both law enforcement and the platform providers themselves to access evidence of criminal activity or detect abuse.  ...

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