In a statement released to various media organizations, Apple said it would be delaying the launch of its CSAM detection features, previously slated for inclusion in iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS 12 Monterey:
Last month we announced plans for features intended to help protect children from predators who use communication tools to recruit and exploit them, and limit the spread of Child Sexual Abuse Material. Based on feedback from customers, advocacy groups, researchers and others, we have decided to take additional time over the coming months to collect input and make improvements before releasing these critically important child safety features.
We covered the initial announcement in “FAQ about Apple’s Expanded Protections for Children” (7 August 2021) and Apple’s subsequent mea culpa and explanations in “New CSAM Detection Details Emerge Following Craig Federighi Interview” (13 August 2021).
As I noted in the second article, Apple thoroughly botched the initial announcement and follow-up, so it’s unsurprising to see the company delay in order to collect input and improve the technology. The question is why it took so long for Apple to do so—the company has plenty of experience with removing technologies from forthcoming upgrades, as with the recent delay for SharePlay.
My guess is that Apple plans to refine both the technology and its messaging over the next few months and reintroduce it sometime next year. I would hope that announcement comes with a much better story about how effective the technology will be in reducing the spread of CSAM, preventing revictimization, and resisting government-level subversion. That may help the media do a better job of analyzing and reporting the second time around—even if Apple bungled the initial announcement, much of the overheated media coverage was based on inaccuracies and misunderstandings about how Apple said the technology would work.
The other possibility is that the entire effort is now tainted, making this “delay” just a face-saving way for Apple to drop the technology like the hot potato it became. Would there be a massive public outcry if 2022’s Worldwide Developer Conference came and went with no mention of CSAM detection in iOS 16?