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Did you know Apple is already scanning your iCloud Mail for child abuse photos?

Since 2019, Apple has routinely scanned incoming and outgoing mail for CSAM.

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Apple is about to start scanning iCloud Photos for CSAM, drawing fire from privacy advocates and pretty much everyone else. 9to5Mac has confirmed that Apple has already been scanning some of its products for CSAM, namely iCloud Mail.

The site noticed something while reading The Verge’s coverage of the Epic Games vs Apple lawsuit. That was one statement in an iMessage chain involving Apple’s anti-fraud chief, Eric Friedman. He stated, “We [Apple] are the greatest platform for distributing child porn.” Apple’s chief privacy officer, Jane Horvath, also said something very similar at the start of 2020 at a tech conference.

9to5Mac wondered how that could be, since Apple already said it didn’t want to scan iCloud, and iMessage is encrypted. Well, now we know. Nothing sent in iCloud Mail is encrypted, so since 2019, Apple has routinely scanned incoming and outgoing mail for CSAM.

Yes, your emails have been scanned by Apple if you own any of its devices, or if you use iCloud Mail as your primary email. According to 9to5Mac, Apple also does some “limited scanning of other data,” but wouldn’t tell the outlet what it was, other than to say it was definitively not iCloud backups.

The thing is, the number of CSAM reports the company makes every year is in the hundreds, so it’s not a huge amount (not to say it’s not a significant amount, as needing to make one report is too many). The inference from Eric Friedman that Apple products are riddled with it might be based on the fact that other platforms regularly scan everything for CSAM, and disable accounts accordingly.

Maybe that’s what finally led to the push to scan iCloud Photos, as Apple has to balance user privacy with its legal obligations and possible exposure to risk.

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