Alarm Bells Go Off as Apple Announces Mandatory Software to Scan Users' Phones, Send Any Potentially Incriminating Evidence to Outsiders


Tech giant Apple is facing a torrent of criticism after announcing plans to install software on its new iPhones and iPads that will scan for child pornography and then report offenders to law enforcement.

Security analysts say the move opens up a dangerous gateway to facilitate corporate abuse and government overreach to violate people’s civil liberties, including their privacy rights.

“We want to help protect children from predators who use communication tools to recruit and exploit them, and limit the spread of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM),” Apple announced on its website on Thursday.

The new features will be rolled out later this year in iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches and Apple desktop computers.

In addition to giving parents more oversight of their children’s electronic devices, Apple will be able to analyze image attachments to determine if a photo is sexually explicit.

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“This will enable Apple to report these instances to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children,” the company said. “Siri and Search will also intervene when users try to search for CSAM-related topics.”

While Apple claimed that its new software won’t scan users’ private photos and messages, many security experts were alarmed at the potential for abuse — even though the goal, catching pedophiles, is commendable.

Ross Anderson, a professor of security engineering at the University of Cambridge, told the Financial Times that it is “an absolutely appalling idea, because it is going to lead to distributed bulk surveillance of … our phones and laptops.”

While the new software is designed to catch child sex abuse, it could easily be adapted to spy on private citizens for other purposes.

Matthew Green, a computer science professor at the Johns Hopkins University who specializes in privacy-preserving cryptographic protocols, said Apple’s new enhancement “is a really bad idea.”

“These tools will allow Apple to scan your iPhone photos for photos that match a specific perceptual hash, and report them to Apple servers if too many appear,” he tweeted.

Green warned that this technology could eventually “be a key ingredient in adding surveillance to encrypted messaging systems.”

He pointed out that “the ability to add scanning systems like this to E2E [end-to-end] messaging systems has been a major ‘ask’ by law enforcement the world over.”

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The implication is that authoritarian dictatorships such as those in communist China and Iran could abuse this technology to further oppress private citizens and political dissenters.

Alec Muffett, a security researcher who previously worked at Facebook, said Apple’s latest foray into violating user privacy is a “tectonic” shift toward a “huge and regressive step for individual privacy.”

“Apple are walking back privacy to enable ‘1984,’” Muffett told the Financial Times.

Are you concerned about potential abuse of this technology?

Tech policy adviser Heather Burns said she’s concerned about Apple giving parents “God-mode surveillance and technical controls” over their children’s iPhones and iPads, “when it’s parents who are just as likely to be the perpetrators and abusers.”

She said she is familiar with many a drug-addicted, abusive parent “who batters her child senseless during regular hours” and then puts on an Oscar-worthy performance that fools teachers and social workers.

As it is, tech giants such as Twitter and Facebook have unfettered, unilateral power to suspend or ban users on the basis of random algorithms and arbitrary claims that someone has violated their terms of service.

Given the cozy relationship and apparent collusion between the social media giants and the Biden administration, it’s logical to wonder if Apple technology could be weaponized to target conservatives.

This is something that iPhone users should carefully consider before upgrading their expensive smartphones for the umpteenth time. History has shown time and time again that once you give away your rights, it’s extremely difficult to take them back.

Want proof? Look at the staggering array of personal liberties Americans ceded to the government amid the coronavirus fearmongering.

Is it any wonder that authoritarian bureaucrats don’t want to give up an ounce of their newfound power?

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