Apple said it would take more time to collect feedback and improve proposed child safety features, after the criticism of the system on privacy and other grounds both inside and outside the company.
Apple’s promise last month to scan US customer phones and computers for child sex abuse images sparked a global backlash from a wide range of rights groups, with employees also criticising the plan internally.
Critics argued the feature could be exploited by repressive governments looking to find other material for censorship or arrests and would also be impossible for outside researchers to check whether Apple was only checking a small set of on-device content.
“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,” the company said in a statement.
Apple has been defending the plan for weeks, and had already offered a series of explanations and documents to show that the risks of false detections were low.
It had planned to rollout the feature for iPhones, iPads, and Mac with software updates later this year in the United States.
Australian eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant expressed disappointment in Apple’s decision.
“Apple totally caved on doing the right thing,” she tweeted on Saturday morning.
“A chance at real industry leadership is now failed leadership.
“Having spent more than 22 years inside the tech industry, I observed that revenue, reputation and regulation tends to dictate these decisions. Regulation, here we come!”
Additional reporting by iTnews