Are Apple’s Child Abuse Tools Bad for Your Privacy?


Law enforcement, child safety groups, abuse survivors, and some computer scientists praised the moves. The head of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children described it as a “game changer” in statements provided by Apple, while David Forsyth, head of computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said technology will catch up with children. exploiters and “harmless users should experience minimal or no loss of privacy.”

But other computer scientists, privacy groups, and civil liberties lawyers quickly denounced the approach.

Other tech companies, such as Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, also scan users’ photos to look for child sexual abuse, but only on images that reside on companies’ computer servers. In Apple’s case, most of the scanning happens directly on people’s iPhones. (Apple said it will scan photos users choose to upload to the iCloud storage service, but the scan continues on the phone.)

For many technologists, Apple has opened a Pandora’s box. The tool will be the first technology built into a phone’s operating system that can look at a person’s private data and report it to law enforcement. Privacy groups and security experts are concerned that governments looking for criminals, adversaries or other targets could find many ways to use such a system.

“As we understand it now, I’m not too concerned about the abuse of Apple’s proprietary app,” said Alex Stamos, a Stanford University researcher who previously led Facebook’s cybersecurity efforts. “The problem is, they opened the door to a surveillance class that had never been opened before.”

If governments had previously asked Apple to analyze people’s photos, the company could have said it couldn’t. Now that it has built a system that can do this, Apple must argue that it won’t.

“I think Apple is trying to do this as responsibly as possible, but the real problem is that they are doing it,” said Ms Galperin. “When you install a system that can be for any database, you will be prompted to point the system to a database.”


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