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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Apple announced new iPhone features Thursday that it said would enable the detection and reporting of illegal images of child sexual abuse while preserving users' privacy.

Driving the news: One new system will use cryptographic hashes to identify illegal images that users are uploading to Apple's iCloud without Apple directly snooping in users' troves of photos, which can be encrypted.

  • If Apple's system flags enough such images in any one account, it will have human moderators review the case for possible referral to law enforcement.
  • Apple says it's confident its system's error rate is one in a trillion.

Another feature will flag sexually explicit photos sent via Apple's Messages service by or to users with family accounts. This system uses on-device machine learning to warn users of potentially problematic content.

Details: The features will begin rolling out for testing in the U.S. immediately and will arrive in final form as part of an update to iOS 15.

What they're saying: An Apple spokesperson at a background press briefing emphasized that the iCloud screening feature is similar to steps many cloud providers already take to comply with the law, but takes additional measures to preserve users' privacy.

The Financial Times first reported the news, along with questions from security researchers concerned that Apple's systems might become vehicles for broader surveillance.

Go deeper

Sep 22, 2021 - Technology

Facebook says Apple’s ad changes are hurting its business

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Facebook said Wednesday that changes to Apple’s new privacy terms will continue to cause headwinds for its ads business in the third quarter.

Why it matters: Facebook doesn’t typically provide these types of updates outside of earnings calls. The update signals to investors that the company is seeing numbers in the current quarter that reinforce previous warnings about impact from Apple’s changes.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Sep 21, 2021 - Technology

New iPad mini is this close to replacing your iPhone

Photo: Apple

The new iPad Mini that Apple announced last week has all the hardware needed to be a cheaper alternative to the iPhone, with a larger screen to boot.

  • There's just one thing disqualifying it from the role: Apple makes it hard for you to take traditional calls or dial out.

Youth gaming platform Roblox rolls out new age verification system

Image: Roblox

Roblox is rolling out an age verification system starting Tuesday that involves a lot more than asking users to click a birthdate from a dropdown menu and really, please, don’t lie.

Why it matters: Roblox is promoting this as a way to safely roll out new features like voice chat, which will only be offered to users 13 and older.