Apple announced recently that they will begin scanning iPhone and iPad photos in search of sexually explicit images that involve children, which will then be reported to authorities.
Apple stated on its website, “This will enable Apple to report these instances to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).” NCMEC works as a reporting center for child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and collaborates with multiple law enforcement agencies in the U.S."
Apple claims that the way it detects CSAM is “designed with user privacy in mind,” and it is not directly accessing iCloud users’ photos, but rather utilizing a device-local, hash-based lookup and matching system to cross-reference the hashes of user photos with the hashes of known CSAM. If there is a match between a user’s photos and the CSAM database, Apple manually reviews the issue and will then disable the user’s account before sending a report to NCMEC.
That aspect sounds good in itself. However, two major issues come to mind:
- How will their bots differentiate between photos of a naked child being pornographic, and innocent photos I may have of my child in the bathtub? Will the police suddenly show up at my door or my phone be locked down because I wanted a photo of my baby's first bath?
- If Apple can begin scanning for those photos, what else can they search for?
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and other privacy experts have concerns similar to mine. Snowden tweeted, "“No matter how well-intentioned, @Apple is rolling out mass surveillance to the entire world with this. Make no mistake: if they can scan for kiddie porn today, they can scan for anything tomorrow.”
No matter how well-intentioned, @Apple is rolling out mass surveillance to the entire world with this. Make no mistake: if they can scan for kiddie porn today, they can scan for anything tomorrow.
They turned a trillion dollars of devices into iNarcs—*without asking.* https://t.co/wIMWijIjJk
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) August 6, 2021
It's a real slippery slope. Are you willing to give up your privacy?
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