Apple has made a U-turn with a controversial new child protection function and apparently does not want to bring it out in its originally planned form: The American electronics company announced on Friday that it would take additional time over the next few months and "make improvements" before it is released .

He justified this with "feedback" from customers, researchers and interest groups.

Roland Lindner

Business correspondent in New York.

  • Follow I follow

Apple unveiled several new child protection features almost exactly a month ago as part of an upcoming software update for iPhones, and one of them, designed to stop the spread of child pornography, immediately sparked a heated privacy debate. According to the plans announced at the time, the technology should be able to recognize image material showing the abuse of children on Apple devices. For this purpose, content on the devices is to be compared with a database of known abuse photos from the American child protection organization National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The software is supposed to be active when a user tries to upload photos to Apple's online platform iCloud.

If a certain number of the abuse images in question are found on a device, Apple employees should intervene and look at the photos.

If they confirm that it is child abuse, it should be reported to the child protection organization and the user's account should be blocked.

Child protection organizations welcomed the planned software.

However, critics immediately spoke up, arguing that Apple had created surveillance technology that could be misused for other purposes, for example by authoritarian regimes.

Despite the criticism, Apple initially defended the planned innovations with vehemence and pointed out that the chosen approach guarantees the privacy of its users. In addition, some data protection precautions have been taken, for example by only identifying the photos using a type of numerical code. Apparently, the company was forced to change its position after all. The controversy was a particularly big threat to Apple because the company has made privacy one of its main selling points over the past several years.