Apple brass should wake up: Examining the personal contents of users’ iPhones is a mistake

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.

iPhone backdoor

Tae Kim for Bloomberg Opinion:

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.


          1. Once they announced their intent to conduct warrantless searches of customer devices and share that information without permission, they permanently lost me as both a customer and advocate.

            This malice of intent betrays all of us who helped make them successful with our support. I may take the old Mac Plus I used to write software in the 1980’s to the dump. Privacy is the one thing that had going for them as their code base started to unravel post Jobs.

            Telling us they’re engaging in warrantless search “for the children” is balderdash. Such a system would also search children’s photos share their information.

            Tim Crook should resign for the goid of the shareholders.

      1. I agree that Apple must be stopped. What an outrage. Warrantless searches of private customer data is the last straw.

        Wonder if I should re-flash my Mac Plus and classic 128K Mac ROMs to display the Linux Tux logo instead of the “smiling Mac”?

        The “hey they just said they were going to betray us, maybe we can talk them out of it” approach won’t cut it for many of us.

  1. Apple’s reputation for privacy has been decimated. And it’s over something that won’t see the light of day! That takes serious skill. Yet the damage is done, and like a bad piece of congressional legislation that won’t die, we’ll have to forever be on the lookout for the possible resurrection of this pervasive technology down the road.

    Thanks a lot, Tim!

  2. I’d already become concerned when they insisted on pulling up random photos “for you” in the photo app with no way to switch it off. With their announcement of their intent to conduct warrant-less searches of my personal information, they lost me not only as a customer, but as an advocate.

    This marks the first time since 1985 that I recommend against buying any Apple products or services. With the loss of Steve Jobs we knew the Apple code base would likely unravel a bit, but never in a million years would I have guessed they’d betray us on privacy.

  3. TIm.. come out and openly admit to the blunder and apologize.
    Use every PR resources you have to mitigate the damage already done!

    And Fire Those who even thought of a stupid idea like this…let alone carry it this far….. an idea that has done nothing but heavily damage Apples integrity and commitment to PRIVACY … and an idea that will have zero effect on whats it pretends to solve! It will be dead on arrival as anyone can circumvent it by using other platforms… …Yet it will completely destroy Apples Mantra… a Mantra we were willing to pay a premium for!
    You Backdoor disguised as Virtue is nothing more that total betrayal of those who believed in Apple and invested in Apple’s Platform and Shares!


    1. IMO there is no way Apple recovers from this unless Cook steps down (and the board). Privacy was the one good thing they had going after Jobs died and their code base started to unravel.

      I for one will never buy or recommend Apple products or services again (caveat I may buy replacement components on eBay to preserve my investment, but at least one device is already running Linux, more to follow).

        1. Spot on MDN!

          I’m fighting the urge to take my old Mac Plus (that I used to write software for Mac) to the dump.

          Hopefully I can harness my frustration into something productive. As I spend time moving gigabytes* of personal data away from iCloud (download, and store encrypted elsewhere) I’m studying how I can help get Tizen (Samsung’s Android interoperable Linux distro) booting on iOS 15 compatible hardware. Having a Samsung logo booting on a zero day iPhone 13/14 would be very gratifying.

  4. You all realize that google, Microsoft, and ANY other company is 100x worse with privacy? Like there is none. But keep bashing apple for scanning photos in ICLOUD. Bunch of morons here

    1. Wrong, like everything Apple dose their back door will be the best and most efficient. Apple customers are by far more attached across a ecosystem. So the “effectiveness: of Apple’s back door will be best in class. At least with Google the end user has the hope that they bsckdoors will break because of crappy code. Apple’s implementation will be second to none you moron

      1. “like everything Apple does their back door will be the best…”

        Wait, whaaat? Have you tried typing on their disastrous MacBook “butterfly” keyboard? It’s absolute junk. And their code base has been getting buggier and buggier with each passing month since Jobs died. How many engineers do you think can they alienate before even the non-techs realize what junk their software has become?

        Maybe Tim Crook thinks this is a suicide cult and they’ll all be “joining Steve on the Mothership”? I hope not, but it would explain the rash of ill-advised decisions. SMH.

  5. The CCP owns Apple. The back door is their feature request. Apple reason is just an excuse. It’s counter to Apple’s DNA.

    Unfortunately Apple can’t undo this, they could have secretly rolled this feature out but in their heart of hearts Apple knew it was wrong and internally at Apple I’m sure there is lots of hand ringing. But now the damage is done. I guess they thought they could turn this betrayal into a marketing/PR win by saying it’s for the children, but they gravely underestimated the importance and value of privacy. Tim Cook has destroyed the single most important aspect of Steve Job’s Apple. Jobs was the most active defender of privacy rights and made it THE core value of Apple. Tim has destroyed that value forevermore. Short of Tim Cook leaving, nothing can undo this. Tim sold out the soul of Apple for CCP blood money.

  6. I keep seeing all these glowing reports of Apple stock price and rosy predictions of iPhone 13 sales, but I don’t see it. This is the kind of stink that slowly works it’s way out from the tech savvy to the average user. Somehow, the word just gets out that this or that is uncool and people begin to avoid it. I have seen it happen many times. Example: Will people subconsciously begin to hesitate taking pictures with an iPhone on the off-chance that something innocent could be flagged? It could happen. How will businesses feel about this surveillance tech on their employees phones? Apple’s foray into the enterprise will face new obstacles and questions. I think Apple’s problems with this are just beginning. MDN is right — only total renunciation and public apology can mitigate some of the damage. It is the smart and responsible business decision. My guess is that if it does not happen, the CCP, and maybe elements from US intelligence agencies, have far more power here than we have realized. If that’s the case, we have bigger problems than we thought.

  7. Also consider how Apple will be shunned by the younger users. Once word is out that iPhone is a “snitch” then no kid will want to be caught dead with a Snitch phone. Cool factor is everything with this demographic. Snap is number one with the younger generation for a reason.

    Not saying it’s morally right but it’s the law of the high school jungle

    1. Apple has claimed this was “for the children”. Apparently they haven’t thought of the legal ramifications of searching the content on minor’s phones without a warrant, and sharing it.

      Apple was already starting to creep me out before they admitted to warrant-less searches of our photos. Now I know why.

      On the plus side, I’m finally getting off my duff and migrating to non-WokeTech Internet backup options, and have spent the week figuring out which Open Source encryption options will allow me to store personal data on services like Google, iCloud, and AWS “clouds” without giving them access.

  8. Jay Riley wrote: “… (I) have spent the week figuring out which Open Source encryption options will allow me to store personal data on services like Google, iCloud, and AWS “clouds” without giving them access.

    Jay when you get to it, I’d be grateful to know what you discover. I would like to see the alternative methods and I’d like to know what I can personally do to nullify this planned “back-door”. At some point I will have to upgrade my iOS, and would look forward to a “fix” or patch for iOS.

    I’m not even sure if a jailbreak is in the works, let alone if it’s a good idea.

    Thanks 🙂



  9. I was already disgusted with apple and there business practices. As an example I looked into there wireless charging that is a joke anyways now this good bye apple I will smash my phone and eat the loss before you get anymore of my money. I am tired of these companies telling me how to use the product I purchased with my money..

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