Apple has announced that it will not search iCloud data for material related to child sexual abuse and other illegal acts, in a reversal of its previous policy. Furthermore, it has confirmed that it will be expanding the end-to-end encryption found in iMessage to iCloud Backups, Photos, and Notes.

Apple's detection system was designed to help combat the proliferation of child sexual abuse material online. The system worked by using iPhones to detect and flag when at least 30 suspected child sexual abuse images are uploaded to an iCloud account, enabling Apple to investigate and notify the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children if an illegal activity was found.

The tech giant's plan to automatically search user data for illegal material sparked outrage from experts and security-minded users who said it amounted to an invasion of privacy and questioned if the company's automated systems would be able to correctly identify child sexual abuse content.

In light of the heavy backlash, Apple reportedly decided to disengage from the issue entirely, leaving the question of illegally stored digital material to law enforcement and the courts. This decision will surely please those concerned about their privacy, but it remains to be seen how effective this approach will be in tackling the problem of illegal content being stored on digital platforms.

"After extensive consultation with experts to gather feedback on child protection initiatives we proposed last year, we are deepening our investment in the Communication Safety feature that we first made available in December 2021," Apple told Wired.

The company also stated that they are committed to helping protect young people online and will continue to work with governments, and child advocates and make the internet a safer place for everyone.

Apple is stepping up its security measures, offering end-to-end encryption for iCloud, and extending protections to backup data and photos. Instead of searching data, it will provide a suite of features on its browsers and search functions allowing parents to set safety measures and users to report any illegal material.

The company most famously refused to decrypt the iPhone of the accused San Bernardino shooter in 2016, sparking a lengthy legal battle with the FBI. Courts ultimately ruled that Apple could not be compelled to violate its security without customer consent; however, in the San Bernardino case, the FBI got the phone's password from another source, making Apple's refusal irrelevant.