Pro-privacy protestors nationwide rally to tell Apple: “Don’t scan our iPhones!”

This week in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, New York, and other cities across the U.S., activists rallied in front of Apple stores demanding that the company fully cancel its plan to introduce surveillance software into its devices. In addition to protests at stores organized by EFF and Fight for the Future, EFF also took the message directly to Apple’s headquarters by flying a banner above the campus during its annual iPhone launch event.

EFF flies "Apple: Dont scan our iPhones!" banner over Apple Park in Cupertino, California
EFF flies “Apple: Don’t scan our iPhones!” banner over Apple Park in Cupertino, California (phot0: EFF)

Jason Kelly for Electronic Frontier Foundation:

The last time EFF held a protest at an Apple store, in 2016, it was to support the company’s strong stance in protecting encryption. That year, Apple challenged the FBI’s request to install a backdoor into its operating system. This year, in early August, Apple stunned its many supporters by announcing a set of upcoming features, intended to help protect children, that would create an infrastructure that could easily be redirected to greater surveillance and censorship. These features would pose enormous danger to iPhone users’ privacy and security, offering authoritarian governments a new mass surveillance system to spy on citizens.

After public pushback in August, Apple announced earlier this month that its scanning program would be delayed. Protestors this week rallied to urge Apple to abandon its program and commit to protecting user privacy and security. Speakers included EFF Activist Joe Mullin and Executive Director Cindy Cohn.

Mullin told the crowd at the San Francisco protest how essential it was that Apple continue its commitment to protecting users: “From San Francisco to Dubai, Apple told the whole world that iPhone is all about privacy,” said Mullin. “But faced with government pressure, they caved. Now 60,000 users have signed a petition telling Apple they refuse to be betrayed.”

Holding signs that read “Don’t Scan My Phone” and “No Spy Phone,” protestors chanted “No 1984, no, Apple—no backdoor!” and “2-4-6-8, stand with users, not the state; 3-5-7-9, privacy is not a crime!”

Pro-privacy protestors hold signs saying "Apple: Don't scan our iPhones!" at Apple Stores nationwide (photo: EFF)
Pro-privacy protestors hold signs saying “Apple: Don’t scan our iPhones!” at Apple Stores nationwide (photo: EFF)

Apple has said that it will take additional time over the coming months to collect input about its child protection features. Later this month, EFF ​​hopes to begin that conversation with a public event that will bring together representatives from diverse constituencies who rely on encrypted platforms. Discussion will focus on the ramifications of these decisions, what we would like to see changed about the products, and protective principles for initiatives that aim to police private digital spaces. We hope Apple and other tech companies will join us as well. You can find out more soon about this upcoming event by visiting our events page.

MacDailyNews Take: The EEF is collecting signatures for a petition which states:

The “child safety” changes Apple plans to install on iOS 15 and macOS Monterey undermine user privacy, and break the promise of end-to-end encryption.

I urge Apple to reconsider these systems. Continuous scanning of images won’t make kids safer, and may well put more of them in danger. Installing the photo-scanning software on our phones will spur governments around the world to ask for more surveillance and censorship abilities than they already have.

Users need to speak up say this violation of our privacy is wrong.

Sign the EFF petition and tell Apple to stop its plan to scan our computers and devices here.


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.MacDailyNews, September 4, 2021

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12 Comments

  1. Tim Cook works for the CCP. Communists don’t give a shit about street protests. They are willing to make skid marks out of protesters with their tanks. Tim works for these people.

  2. Pro-privacy protestors at the FAA tell Americans: “Don’t record the throbbing throngs of thousands illegals at our southern border waiting to be arrested!”

    P.S. No masks, proof of vaccination or COVID test needed for entry. ALL are welcome! (except the press)

    1. “Very few”? Just wait. It only takes a KEY few to set the trend for the many. Witness MDN. Apple is blindly dancing on the precipice of terrible public perception and in grave danger of falling into a marketing abyss. Many former raving fans are now wary and waiting before they buy.

  3. What those pictures don’t show is those of us who have doggedly supported Apple over the years and who are protesting by resolving never to buy another Apple product again. Ever.

    I’m enjoying watching Apple stock prices slide as download source code and configure tools to help make it easier for people to run Android and other open source on their Apple devices.

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