The Electronic Frontier Foundation has eschewed Apple’s plan to delay a controversial backdoor to scan users’ photo libraries, ostensibly for Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM), but which could easily be bastardized to scan for political images, words, etc.
Apple announced today that it would “take additional time over the coming months to collect input and make improvements” to a program that will weaken privacy and security on iPhones and other products. EFF is pleased Apple is now listening to the concerns of customers, researchers, civil liberties organizations, human rights activists, LGBTQ people, youth representatives, and other groups, about the dangers posed by its phone scanning tools. But the company must go further than just listening, and drop its plans to put a backdoor into its encryption entirely.
The features Apple announced a month ago, intending to help protect children, would create an infrastructure that is all too easy to redirect to greater surveillance and censorship. These features would create an enormous danger to iPhone users’ privacy and security, offering authoritarian governments a new mass surveillance system to spy on citizens. They also put already vulnerable kids at risk, especially LGBTQ youth, and create serious potential for danger to children in abusive households.
The responses to Apple’s plans have been damning: over 90 organizations across the globe have urged the company not to implement them, for fear that they would lead to the censoring of protected speech, threaten the privacy and security of people around the world, and have disastrous consequences for many children. This week, EFF’s petition to Apple demanding they abandon their plans reached 25,000 signatures. This is in addition to other petitions by groups such as Fight for the Future and OpenMedia, totalling well over 50,000 signatures. The enormous coalition that has spoken out will continue to demand that user phones—both their messages and their photos—be protected, and that the company maintain its promise to provide real privacy to its users.
MacDailyNews Take: Originally, Apple would use one database of hashes from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
Then, after outcry, Apple changed that to “two or more child safety organizations operating in separate sovereign jurisdictions.”
Of course, Apple’s multi-country “safeguard” is no safeguard at all.
The Five Eyes (FVEY) is an intelligence alliance comprising the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. These countries are parties to the multilateral UKUSA Agreement, a treaty for joint cooperation in signals intelligence.
The FVEY further expanded their surveillance capabilities during the course of the “war on terror,” with much emphasis placed on monitoring the World Wide Web. The former NSA contractor Edward Snowden described the Five Eyes as a “supra-national intelligence organization that does not answer to the known laws of its own countries.”
Documents leaked by Snowden in 2013 revealed that the FVEY has been spying on one another’s citizens and sharing the collected information with each other in order to circumvent restrictive domestic regulations on surveillance of citizens.
Apple’s claim to scan only for CSAM was intended to be a trojan horse, introduced via the hackneyed Think of the Children™ ruse, that would be bastardized in secret for all sorts of surveillance under the guise of “safety” in the future.
Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. — Benjamin Franklin
The fact that Apple ever considered this travesty in the first place, much less announced and tried to implement it in the fashion they did, has damaged the company’s reputation for protecting user privacy immensely; perhaps irreparably.
Hopefully, if Apple has any sense whatsoever, is not hopelessly compromised, and can resist whatever pressure forced them into this ill-considered abject disloyalty to customers who value their privacy and security, the company will end this disastrous scheme promptly and double-down on privacy by finally and immediately enabling end-to-end encryption of iCloud backups as a company which claims to be a champion of privacy would have done many years ago.