Privacy Whistleblower Edward Snowden and EFF Slam Apple's Plans to Scan Messages and iCloud Images

Apple's plans to scan users' iCloud Photos library against a database of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) to look for matches and childrens' messages for explicit content has come under fire from privacy whistleblower Edward Snowden and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

appleprivacyad
In a series of tweets, the prominent privacy campaigner and whistleblower Edward Snowden highlighted concerns that Apple is rolling out a form of "mass surveillance to the entire world" and setting a precedent that could allow the company to scan for any other arbitrary content in the future.

Snowden also noted that Apple has historically been an industry-leader in terms of digital privacy, and even refused to unlock an iPhone owned by Syed Farook, one of the shooters in the December 2015 attacks in San Bernardino, California, despite being ordered to do so by the FBI and a federal judge. Apple opposed the order, noting that it would set a "dangerous precedent."

The EFF, an eminent international non-profit digital rights group, has issued an extensive condemnation of Apple's move to scan users' iCloud libraries and messages, saying that it is extremely "disappointed" that a "champion of end-to-end encryption" is undertaking a "shocking about-face for users who have relied on the company's leadership in privacy and security."

Child exploitation is a serious problem, and Apple isn't the first tech company to bend its privacy-protective stance in an attempt to combat it. But that choice will come at a high price for overall user privacy. Apple can explain at length how its technical implementation will preserve privacy and security in its proposed backdoor, but at the end of the day, even a thoroughly documented, carefully thought-out, and narrowly-scoped backdoor is still a backdoor...

It's impossible to build a client-side scanning system that can only be used for sexually explicit images sent or received by children. As a consequence, even a well-intentioned effort to build such a system will break key promises of the messenger's encryption itself and open the door to broader abuses.

All it would take to widen the narrow backdoor that Apple is building is an expansion of the machine learning parameters to look for additional types of content, or a tweak of the configuration flags to scan, not just children's, but anyone's accounts. That's not a slippery slope; that's a fully built system just waiting for external pressure to make the slightest change.

The EFF highlighted how various governments around the world have passed laws that demand surveillance and censorship of content on various platforms, including messaging apps, and that Apple's move to scan messages and ‌iCloud Photos‌ could be legally required to encompass additional materials or easily be widened. "Make no mistake: this is a decrease in privacy for all ‌iCloud Photos‌ users, not an improvement," the EFF cautioned. See the EFF's full article for more information.

The condemnations join the large number of concerns from security researchers and users on social media since Apple's announcement of the changes yesterday, triggering petitions to urge Apple to roll back its plans and affirm its commitment to privacy.

Note: Due to the political or social nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

Greenmeenie Avatar
18 months ago
Hey, nobody is for child porn… but I’m with Snowden on this. Very slippery slope here. And it goes against everything Apple has stood for concerning privacy.
Score: 136 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mazz0 Avatar
18 months ago
Gotta say, I agree with this. I think the slippery slope argument is valid here. In the US and Europe they might just use this for child porn (for now), but once the principle is established it becomes much harder for them to tell the government in China that they can't look for anti-CCP images, for example, and so on.
Score: 98 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Marbles1 Avatar
18 months ago
Awful step by apple. And the 'alert your parents if you view a nude' is some awful overreach but typical of apple's strangely prudish approach.
Score: 92 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Bonte Avatar
18 months ago
It's the first step in total censorship. If Apple can scan for porn, they surely can scan for other crimes and then it's all over.
Score: 79 Votes (Like | Disagree)
IIGS User Avatar
18 months ago

What’s all over? Your crimes?
What you say is a crime today, is someone else's fight for freedom.

No one, I say again, NO ONE is in favor of seeing children exploited, abused, or harmed. At least no on here I would hope. But that is not the point.

The point is, this is indeed a slippery slope. Much akin to Apple saying they will unlock a phone for law enforcement via a "back door". Which, at present it is my understanding they won't because it doesn't exist

Once the mechanism exists, once the door is installed, or the code made part of the basic building blocks of how the machine operates, it's no longer a question of not being able to do it, but when it will be done. At that point, it's incumbent upon the gatekeepers to decide what is and isn't permitted, or acceptable, or legal.

These are decisions made by human beings. Just as humans are capable of horrible evil acts (like exploitation of children) for their own personal reasons, they can be capable for such evil on a political scale.

Today, child exploitation. Tomorrow, someplace where being LGBTQ or pro democracy where Apple does business. Apple has all ready proven they will bow to the whims of foreign governments who threaten to cut off their business (and revenue stream).

When countries like China are jailing dissidents for expressing pro democracy viewpoints (see footnote link), one can only question how long it is before this sort of invasiveness is unleashed for nefarious reasons.

This is scary stuff. Apple is wrong on this. One hundred percent wrong. People (good people, with liberal with a small "l" ideals will suffer and die because of this). I have no doubt.

They say it could never happen here. Wherever "here" is. Well, it can and probably will happen wherever you are. This is one bigger step towards a high tech dystopia.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-58022072
Score: 72 Votes (Like | Disagree)
DanTSX Avatar
18 months ago

What’s all over? Your crimes?
We’re all criminals now. Wake up.
Score: 47 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

privacy matters apple ad

German Politician Asks Apple CEO Tim Cook to Abandon CSAM Scanning Plans

Wednesday August 18, 2021 6:11 am PDT by
Member of the German parliament, Manuel Höferlin, who serves as the chairman of the Digital Agenda committee in Germany, has penned a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, pleading Apple to abandon its plan to scan iPhone users' photo libraries for CSAM (child sexual abuse material) images later this year. In the two-page letter (via iFun), Höferlin said that he first applauds Apple's efforts to...
ios15 mail privacy feature

watchOS 8.5 Fixes Mail Privacy Protection Loophole That Could Expose IP Addresses

Tuesday March 15, 2022 6:42 am PDT by
watchOS 8.5 fixes a security vulnerability in the Mail app that could leak a user's IP address when downloading remote content, security researchers have found. Last year, it emerged that Apple's Mail Privacy Protection feature was undermined by a lack of Apple Watch support. Mail Privacy Protection was a new feature introduced with iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey that hides your IP...
Child Safety Feature Purple

Apple's Proposed Phone-Scanning Child Safety Features 'Invasive, Ineffective, and Dangerous,' Say Cybersecurity Researchers in New Study

Friday October 15, 2021 12:23 am PDT by
More than a dozen prominent cybersecurity experts hit out at Apple on Thursday for relying on "dangerous technology" in its controversial plan to detect child sexual abuse images on iPhones (via The New York Times). The damning criticism came in a new 46-page study by researchers that looked at plans by Apple and the European Union to monitor people's phones for illicit material, and called...
eff logo lockup cleaned

EFF Pressures Apple to Completely Abandon Controversial Child Safety Features

Monday September 6, 2021 3:18 am PDT by
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has said it is "pleased" with Apple's decision to delay the launch of of its controversial child safety features, but now it wants Apple to go further and completely abandon the rollout. Apple on Friday said it was delaying the planned features to "take additional time over the coming months to collect input and making improvements," following negative...
iphone communication safety feature

Apple Introducing New Child Safety Features, Including Scanning Users' Photo Libraries for Known Sexual Abuse Material

Thursday August 5, 2021 12:00 pm PDT by
Apple today previewed new child safety features that will be coming to its platforms with software updates later this year. The company said the features will be available in the U.S. only at launch and will be expanded to other regions over time. Communication Safety First, the Messages app on the iPhone, iPad, and Mac will be getting a new Communication Safety feature to warn children...
Facebook Feature

Facebook's New 'Privacy Center' Will Help Educate Users on Data Collection and Privacy Options

Friday January 7, 2022 8:41 am PST by
Facebook today announced a new "Privacy Center" section on its website on the desktop. This new area will offer users a "new place to learn more about our approach to privacy across our apps and technologies" and "provides helpful information about five common privacy topics," Meta announced today in a press release. The new Privacy Center, rolling out to a small pool of Facebook users in...
Google Logo Feature Slack

Google Launching Privacy Sandbox to Limit Ad Tracking on Android, Calls 'Blunt Approaches' Like Apple's 'Ineffective'

Wednesday February 16, 2022 7:50 am PST by
Google has announced plans to strengthen user privacy on Android with a new initiative that will put an end to cross-app tracking on Android over the next two years, making it more difficult for advertisers to track users across other apps. In a blog post, Google announced a multi-year project named "Privacy Sandbox" that introduces "more private advertising solutions" for mobile apps. The...
s960 2MS Home Office sign 960x640

UK Government Readies Anti-Encryption Publicity Campaign to 'Keep Children Safe' Online

Monday January 17, 2022 4:26 am PST by
The British Government is reportedly preparing a publicity attack on end-to-end encryption in an effort to mobilize public opinion against the technology by framing it as a child safety issue, with its main aim being to derail Facebook's plan to end-to-end encrypt its Messenger platform. According to Rolling Stone, the Home Office has hired the M&C Saatchi advertising agency to plan the...

Popular Stories

iPhone Measure Height

Newer iPhones Allow You to Measure Someone's Height Instantly — Here's How

Saturday December 3, 2022 10:23 am PST by
iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max, iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, and iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max models feature a LiDAR Scanner next to the rear camera that can be used to measure a person's height instantly in Apple's preinstalled Measure app. To measure a person's height, simply open the Measure app, point your iPhone at the person you want to measure, and make sure they are visible on the screen from...
iOS 16

When Will iOS 16.2 Be Released?

Friday December 2, 2022 2:13 pm PST by
Apple in late October began testing iOS 16.2 and iPadOS 16.2 updates, providing betas to both developers and public beta testers. As of now, we've had four total betas, with the fourth beta having been released earlier this week. iOS 16.2 and iPadOS 16.2 are expected before the end of the year, and we thought we'd try to narrow down the launch timeline. With only four betas released since...
14 vs 16 inch mbp m2 pro and max feature 1

Major RAM Upgrade Coming to Next-Generation MacBook Pro

Friday December 2, 2022 2:03 am PST by
The next-generation MacBook Pro models could feature faster RAM, according to a recent report from a reliable source. MacRumors Forums member "Amethyst," who accurately revealed details about the Mac Studio and Studio Display before those products were announced, recently provided information about Apple's upcoming 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models. The new machines are expected to feature...
General iOS 16 Feature Yellow

iOS 16.2 for iPhone Launching This Month With These 8 New Features

Thursday December 1, 2022 8:44 am PST by
Apple plans to publicly release iOS 16.2 for the iPhone in mid-December, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. The update remains in beta testing for now, with at least eight new features and changes already uncovered so far. iOS 16.2 introduces a number of new features, including Apple's new whiteboard app Freeform, two new Lock Screen widgets for Sleep and Medications, the ability to hide...
apple ar headset concept 1

Kuo: Apple Headset Shipments Potentially Delayed Until Second Half of 2023

Sunday December 4, 2022 7:38 am PST by
Mass shipments of Apple's long-rumored AR/VR headset may be delayed until the second half of 2023 due to unspecified "software-related issues," according to the latest information shared today by tech analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Apple headset render by Ian Zelbo Kuo said mass shipments of components for the headset are still likely to begin in the first half of 2023, but he believes that mass...
Emergency SOS via Satellite iPhone YT

Apple's iPhone 14 Emergency SOS via Satellite Feature Saves Stranded Man in Alaska

Thursday December 1, 2022 4:37 pm PST by
With the launch of iOS 16.1, Apple rolled out a Emergency SOS via Satellite, which is designed to allow iPhone 14 owners to contact emergency services using satellite connectivity when no cellular or WiFi connection is available. The feature was put to the test in Alaska today, when a man became stranded in a rural area. In the early hours of the morning on December 1, Alaska State Troopers ...
iPhone 14 Pro Purple Side Perspective Feature Purple

iPhone 15 Pro Rumored to Have These 5 Exclusive Features

Saturday December 3, 2022 10:55 am PST by
While we're still around nine months away from Apple unveiling the iPhone 15 lineup, rumors already suggest that the higher-end Pro models will have even more exclusive features than usual compared to the standard models next year. There are currently at least five features rumored to be exclusive to iPhone 15 Pro models:A17 chip: iPhone 15 Pro models will be equipped with an A17 Bionic...
top stories 3dec2022

Top Stories: M2 Max Benchmark Leak, iPhone 15 Camera Rumor, and More

Saturday December 3, 2022 6:00 am PST by
With Black Friday and Cyber Week shopping events winding down and the calendar flipping over to December, our attention is starting to turn to 2023 and all of the Apple news we're expecting to see. This week saw an alleged benchmark leak for an "M2 Max" chip expected to make an appearance in upcoming Macs like the MacBook Pro early next year, as well as fresh rumors about the iPhone 15...
android apple fix rcs

Google Again Criticizes Apple for Not Adopting RCS for Messages App: 'Their Texting is Stuck in the 1990s'

Friday December 2, 2022 10:54 am PST by
Google is continuing on with its attempt to convince Apple to adopt the RCS messaging standard, publishing a new "it's time for RCS" blog post. Promoted heavily by Google, RCS or Rich Communication Services is a messaging standard that is designed to replace the current SMS messaging standard. It provides support for higher resolution photos and videos, audio messages, and bigger file sizes, ...
maxresdefault

Can't Get an iPhone 14 Pro? Here's Why You Should Wait for the iPhone 15 Ultra

Monday December 5, 2022 11:44 am PST by
Due to production issues at Apple supplier factories in China, the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max are backordered and basically out of stock at every store. If you were planning to gift or receive an iPhone 14 Pro model for the holidays and didn't already get one, you're basically out of luck because they're gone until late December. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more ...