Technology

What's Up With Apple: Privacy in Germany, iPhone App for Blind Users, and More

A German parliamentary committee reportedly has written to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) CEO Tim Cook asking him to reconsider releasing its image scanning feature. Apple announced two weeks ago that it will include a feature in the next iPhone iOS release that will scan images uploaded to iCloud for child sexual abuse material (CSAM).

The plan and the feature have attracted negative comments from privacy advocates like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and politicians of both major U.S. political parties. Now the Bundestag Committee on the Digital Agenda has weighed in against Apple’s plans.

According to Heise Online, the committee’s chairperson, Manuel Höferlin, said in his letter to Cook that the CSAM scanning feature is the “greatest breach of the dam for the confidentiality of communication that we have seen since the invention of the Internet”:

Apple is treading a “dangerous path” and undermining “secure and confidential communication” … Apple must refrain from implementing the function–both to avoid “foreseeable problems” for the company and to protect the modern information society.” [via Google Translate]

App developer Kpaw announced Tuesday that it will discontinue its iPhone keyboard app for blind users, FlickType, because “Apple has thrown us obstacle after obstacle for years while we try to provide an app to improve people’s lives.”

FlickType works with Apple’s VoiceOver feature that speaks a key’s name when a user selects it. A similar product for the Apple Watch will continue to be available.

The app’s developer, Kosta Eleftheriou, has run afoul of Apple before. In April, he reported finding scam apps at the App Store that offer free trials and fake reviews and that sell for seriously high prices. According to a report in Ars Technica, Eleftheriou, “recently filed a lawsuit alleging that Apple used its control over iPhone app distribution to induce him to sell FlickType to Apple at a discount.” He refused.

In a notice for app developers Tuesday, Apple announced that it had disabled the development versions of the SharePlay feature it had planned to include with the coming iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and tvOS 15 software releases. SharePlay gives people the ability to watch videos or play music together at the same time while simultaneously having a video chat with their friends.