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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

The business of privacy is booming

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Investors and consumers show growing enthusiasm for privacy-focused alternatives to Google and Facebook amid renewed scrutiny over the real cost of their "free" services.

Yes, but: It's still hard to compete with the massive profit engines those companies have built.

Nov 9, 2021 - Technology

Twitter launches "Twitter Blue" subscription in the U.S.

Twitter Blue.

Twitter on Tuesday said it's rolling out its first subscription product called "Twitter Blue," in the U.S. and New Zealand after initially launching in Australia and Canada.

Why it matters: The new product offers long-awaited features, like an "Undo Tweet" button, for people who used Twitter frequently or for work.

Nov 9, 2021 - Technology

Exclusive: New bipartisan bill takes aim at algorithms

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers has introduced a bill that would require online platforms to let users opt out of having personal data-driven algorithms select the content they see, according to a copy of the text shared exclusively with Axios.

Driving the news: Recent revelations about Facebook's internal research findings have renewed lawmaker interest in bills that seek to give people more of a say in how algorithms shape their online experiences.