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10 September 2021 | Podcasts | Article by Alan Collins

HJ Talks About Abuse: Apple to scan iPhones for child sex abuse images

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In this episode of HJ Talks about Abuse podcast, Alan Collins and Feleena Grosvenor address Apple’s new system to scan iPhones for child sex abuse material.

Organisations, including Apple and Facebook, have been under criticism for, supposedly, prioritising customer privacy and keeping individuals safe from hackers and criminals. This is rather than using processes to identify and report child sexual abuse material.

This is related to the previous podcast “Encryption on Tackling Child Sexual Abuse” whereby Alan and Feleena identified the issues with end-to-end encryption on apps such as Whatsapp and Facebook messenger.

Apple have announced details of a system which both limits the spread of child sexual abuse material and protects user privacy.

It is a system which, before the image is stored in iCloud photos, scans for child sexual abuse material from the existing database of known child abuse images. The system would identify not only the original but edited or similar versions of the original image.

Apple claims that it has an extremely high level of accuracy and each report will be manually reviewed to confirm if there is a match. If there is, it would then disable the user’s account and report to the authorities.

The limitation is that the images have to be in their iCloud Photos account to be caught by the system. On the one hand, this limits the benefit to tackling the spread of child sexual abuse images, but on the other it limits the negative impact on customer privacy as their images can be saved elsewhere.

Whether the system goes too far or not far enough, ultimately, it identifies prohibited content and may serve to encourage other organisations to introduce the same.


We encourage anyone who has comments or concerns relating to this subject, or about abuse in general, to get in touch with Alan Collins at [email protected]

Author bio

Alan Collins


Alan Collins is one of the best known and most experienced solicitors in the field of child abuse litigation and has acted in many high profile cases, including the Jimmy Savile and Haut de la Garenne abuse scandals.  Alan has represented interested parties before public inquiries including the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry, and IICSA (Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse).

Internationally, Alan works in Australia, South East Asia, Uganda, Kenya, and California representing clients in high profile sexual abuse cases. Alan also spoke at the Third Regional Workshop on Justice for Children in East Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok hosted by Unicef and HCCH (Hague Conference on Private International Law).

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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