Internal Apple Photomiller9to5mac: Apple has released a memo on the state of its new Photo scanning feature and how it will protect children. In its latest communication, which was sent out to employees on Friday and obtained by Buzzfeed, Apple says it is aware that “some people are worried about their privacy” but points out that some misunderstanding may be responsible for this concern. The memo goes on to say that the company needs to do this in order “to protect children from serious exploitation”.
The feature, which is part of the latest Photos update for Mac and Windows, saves copies of your child’s photos with a watermark on them. These are stored in iCloud containers called “Favourites”. Parents can then share these images with other people through services like Apple’s new Sharing Panel. Some people have expressed concerns about the company storing these images, as well as new features that automatically scan for faces in pictures and suggest which ones to put into an ‘album’. The feature, which scans in the background, can take 20 minutes to complete.
Apple generated considerable controversy last month when it was discovered that a child’s face was detected and a ‘suggested album’ was automatically created without the child ever being tagged in the photo. The awkward reality of this came to light when Apple removed any mention of the feature after a few days but the images were still scattered across devices, services and services. In light of this incident, Apple appears to be trying to assuage any doubts.
“We know that some parents are deeply concerned about potential privacy implications of the Photos feature in iOS 6. There is no back door, script, or other capability that gives rise to this concern,” noted Apple’s memo to employees. “We’ve designed the feature with a number of protections to limit access and protect children from serious exploitation.”
Apple says its Photo scanning feature must be activated in the settings panel. In settings, you toggle on the ‘unlock iCloud photos’ and then set a password for who can view your photos. These steps are all intended to protect children and not “exposed” data, so the company is attempting to clarify concerns by pointing out that it has taken every step to be sure there are no back doors and user “misunderstandings”.
“When could it have happened?” Apple asked. “When a face appears in a photo.” In the days after the feature was introduced, Apple revised its “tell us if you give us your photos” prompt to point out that it can only scan for faces in images and that it would not be saving these images without user input.
The encryption on photos is handled through third-party applications, which means that privacy is protected even when pictures are accessed through other apps like Dropbox or Google Drive. When Apple scans through your images it does not retain copies of them.