Apple recently announced it will implement a system that checks photos on iPhones in the USA before they are uploaded to the iCloud to ensure the upload does not match known images of child sexual abuse.
The move has been welcomed by charities and organisations which work to prevent child abuse including the UK’s Internet Watch Foundation, which said it welcomed the tech as it would put ‘child safety at the forefront of new technology’.
However, others have criticised it on civil rights grounds. Jim Killock, of the UK’s Open Rights Group, told the Mail Online it could ‘sooner or later’ open a back door for mass government surveillance of individuals. As if everything we do isn’t already easily monitorable.
This actually sparked a bit of a debate online about what is classified as images of abuse and whether there is a naivety around what pictures are safe to send online. We all have embarrassing baby pictures of us in the bath or playing in a pool, but in the age of social media, it was put to us that there is a danger this could be classified as a form of abuse.
Having spoken to the Isle of Man Constabulary, the answer actually isn’t as black and white as we first thought. While there is unlikely to be legal ramifications, how those pictures are used and who can access them needs to be considered.
A Police spokesman told Gef: ‘The current legislation requires an image to be indecent as defined by the copine scale*, and the circumstances outlined below does not get to this threshold.
‘In the new sexual offences act (not yet live), there is a lower offence of intimate (not indecent) images (to allow prosecution for offences such as up skirting) but for this to be used there must be an element of sexual gratification. There should however in modern times be an awareness of open source media when putting innocent pictures of the children and grandchildren on social media for family and friends to see. However, we should be careful that we are not over directive towards a family sharing pictures amongst themselves – i.e. let’s not let the harmful intent of the few impact the innocent sharing of pictures between family members.’
*The copine scale is used by Police and prosecutors in the UK and Ireland to categorise the severity of images of child sex abuse, the most recent model for this ranges from one to five, with five being the most severe. However, while this is the name used by the police and in court, the actual model followed in England, Wales and the Isle of Man is the SAP scale.