UK cybersecurity chiefs approve phone scanning for child abuse photos

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Tech major Apple’s plan to scan photos before they are uploaded to the company’s image-sharing service has been halted over privacy concerns.

Client-side scanning refers to scanning messages for matches against a database of objectionable content before they are sent to intended recipients. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

UK cybersecurity chiefs have preferred to allow companies to implement “client-side scanning” that could protect “children and privacy at the same time”.

In a working paper, the technical director of the National Cybersecurity Centre, Ian Levy, and Crispin Robinson of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) said they did not find merit in the arguments that the technology was not secure. to prevent the uploading of child abuse images.

However, critics argue that client-side scanning, which refers to scanning messages for matches against a database of objectionable content before they are sent to intended recipients, runs counter to the end-to-end encryption policy.

Tech major Apple’s plan to scan photos before they are uploaded to the company’s image-sharing service has been halted over privacy concerns.

“We found no reason why client-side analysis techniques cannot be implemented safely in many of the situations encountered,” they said.

However, Levy and Robinson, who is the technical director of cryptanalysis at GCHQ, clarified that the working paper was not government policy.

“It’s relatively easy for a service provider to silently add a law enforcement participant to a chat or group call. This kind of solution doesn’t seem any more intrusive than the virtual alligator clips that our democratically elected officials and our justice system empower today,” the duo said.

They also warned that lack of clarity in understanding the question could lead to “the wrong outcome”.

“Details are important when talking about this topic… Discussing the topic broadly, using ambiguous language or hyperbole, will almost certainly lead to the wrong outcome,” their working paper said.

Child protection activists welcomed the duo’s argument.

Andy Burrows of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said the document “breaks the false binary that children’s fundamental right to online safety can only be achieved at the expense of children’s privacy. adults”.

He told the Guardian“It is clear that legislation can incentivize companies to develop technical solutions and provide more secure and private online services.”

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