With protests against iPhone backdoor surveillance at multiple Apple Stores across America set for September 13th, Apple brass should wake up and realize that examining the personal contents of users’ iPhones is a mistake.
After the recent public debate, the concept of scanning someone’s personal device — no matter how ingenious the method — has become repellent. Fight for the Future, a digital rights advocacy group, is organizing protests outside of Apple Stores next week to call for the permanent cancellation of the program, citing privacy concerns.
Then there is the slippery slope argument. Privacy groups are also worried once the technology for fingerprinting CSAM photos is set up, authoritarian governments may ask for surveillance of other types of content on personal devices. These concerns are legitimate. While Apple has explicitly said it would refuse such requests, what happens when there is a court order or legislation that requires it? Once the system is implemented, it opens the door for misuse.
That is why the company should instead just copy the practices of its main technology rivals. Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Microsoft Corp. scan for CSAM photos after they’re uploaded. It’s not a perfect solution. Apple would need to look through more photos instead of a small subset. But it is easier for users to accept the idea that images sent for storage on the internet may get examined for illegal content.
Sometimes companies can be too clever for their own good. The sooner Apple realizes this public relations battle is unwinnable, the better. Otherwise, fear of corporate surveillance may dominate the conversation surrounding iPhones for a long time.
MacDailyNews Take: Apple has currently delayed – but still plans to deploy in some fashion – the ill-conceived scheme to scan users’ photo libraries, ostensibly for Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM), but which could easily be bastardized by authoritarian governments and agencies to scan for political images, words, etc.
Apple brass should cancel this fiasco immediately and apologize to customers for their attempt to renege on their promise to protect users’ privacy.
We encourage everyone who can to join a #nospyphone Apple Retail Store protest on September 13th at 6:00pm local time. More info, and the opportunity to add your name to the following petition here.