Apple has been scanning attachments in iCloud Mail for child abuse images since 2019

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Since 2019, Apple has been scanning attachments that users receive or send in iCloud Mail for child abuse images. That is what Apple says in response to questions from 9to5Mac. Later this year, Apple will scan photos and videos that users in the US want to upload to iCloud.

Email isn’t encrypted, so Apple can scan those attachments on its own servers, notes 9to5Mac. That has been happening since 2019, but Apple does not say whether that will only happen in the US or whether the scan will also take place in other countries. It concerns attachments of e-mails sent or received via its own mail service iCloud Mail.

Apple does not say how often it finds child abuse footage through the scans. It was previously clear that Apple makes far fewer reports of such images than many other tech giants such as Google or Facebook.

The iPhone maker will begin scanning photos on-device later this year before the device uploads them to iCloud. This is done with the NeuralHash algorithm, which a security researcher recently reverse engineered. The scans will only take place in the US from the end of this year. If the algorithm finds around thirty matches, the software sends data to someone from Apple who checks whether the report is correct. The report then goes to Nncmec, the American organization to combat child abuse. He can then file a report.

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