Lesson from Apple’s Tool for Flagging Child Sexual Abuse


As we all put more of our photos, documents and videos online, how much of that data is ours anymore?

That’s the question many are thinking about due to a change coming to iPhones. The debate has implications for online privacy and government surveillance, highlighting how the storage of our digital data has changed over time, raising concerns about how we should conduct ourselves technologically.

But I’m passing out. Let me withdraw.

Confusion last week Apple had a Software tool for iPhones to flag child sexual abuse cases. This looks good, right? The tool will be included in Apple’s next mobile software update this fall. It works by scanning an iPhone for code linked to a known child pornography database when photos on the device are uploaded to iCloud, Apple’s online storage service. When there are a certain number of matches, an Apple employee reviews the photos before reporting the situation. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

But some cybersecurity experts said the content flagging system is invasive and violates people’s privacy. They warned that Apple has set a precedent that makes it easier for surveillance-heavy countries like China to pass laws that may require the company to use the technology for other purposes, such as scanning political images that are unfit for an authoritarian government.

“They said they had no plans to do worse with this technology, but that sounds naively optimistic at this point,” said Erica Portnoy, a technologist at the nonprofit digital rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation. .

In response to the response, Apple released a document this week Explaining that the new system will not scan people’s private iPhone photo libraries, Dr. Also, matchmaking technology will stop working if humans are present. Disable their iPhone’s photo library A company spokesperson said it stopped backing up images to iCloud.

But no matter how this Apple episode plays out, it’s a reminder of how much our digital data storage has changed. In the past, most of us have stored our digital photos on our personal computer drives and miniature USB sticks. These belong only to us.

We now increasingly store our documents and other information in the “cloud” where large companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft host the data on their server computers. In the process, these companies have gained much more power over our information.

This leads me to something I said earlier: Exit strategy for pull your data from the cloud in case you want to leave. All it takes is some thinking ahead.

Over the last few years, I’ve taken a hybrid approach to storing copies of my data online and offline so I can take advantage of the cloud and maintain independent ownership of my data at the same time. My efforts have resulted in building an online server at home, which is essentially a private cloud.

Here’s how I did it, along with other approaches to a hybrid approach to storing your data.

Most of us are used to automatically backing up our data to Apple’s, Google’s and Microsoft’s online servers. These cloud services are useful and using them ensures regular backups of your data over the internet.

But the best practice is a hybrid one: Keep local copies on physical drives as well, according to Acronis, a data protection firm. It’s nice to have a local backup when you don’t have an internet connection and need instant access to a file.

“It’s shocking that so few people follow a hybrid backup plan,” said Topher Tebow, a senior cybersecurity researcher at Acronis. “The whole point of backup is to ensure continuity of data, and this is not something that can be guaranteed with a single in-place solution.”

To me, having local copies is important for self-confidence. What if I get tired of paying a company’s cloud subscription fees? What if the company’s servers get hacked? Or what if the company changes the product in an unattractive way?

Without a local backup, you can feel locked into a company’s ecosystem; The longer you put someone off, the harder it will be to extract your data if you decide to leave. Yet only 17 percent of consumers adopt the hybrid approach, according to an Acronis survey last year.

Fortunately, creating a local backup is not difficult. The first step is to securely backup all your digital information to another device.

The simplest option for iPhone photos is to back up your pictures to a computer. On a Mac, you plug in your iPhone, open Apple’s Photos app, and import all your photos. On Windows, you use the Windows Photos app to do the same. And if you want to be extra thorough, a backup all your iPhone data With the Finder tool on Mac or with the iTunes app on Windows.

From there, you can create a backup of your computer data to an external drive plugged into your computer. Apps like Apple’s Time Machine for Macs or File History for Windows will take care of that for you.

Now that you have your photos taken from your phone, you can decide what to do from there, such as deleting them from the cloud and moving them to another cloud service. Google Photos. Just remember not to be completely dependent on the next cloud.

There’s also an extreme version of hybrid backup, which is what I do but don’t recommend to everyone. is to establish a pseudo network attached storage deviceis a miniature server that connects to your internet router and provides remote access to your data. It’s like having a private cloud in your home.

Building a server is not for the faint of heart. First, the software is not easy to use. For another, it’s not cheap. an internet-connected storage device such as Synology DS220+, about $300 and hard drives must be purchased separately.

But I found it well worth the investment and time. I plug my phone into my Mac on a weekly basis, which backs up data to my computer and while I sleep, the Mac backs up its data to my mini server.

Not as seamless as a company’s cloud storage, but useful enough – I’m also sick of it pay for multiple subscriptions to cloud services.

Even if you take the hybrid storage approach, will that distract you from Apple’s new content markup tool?

No, said Matthew D. Green, a professor of cryptography at Johns Hopkins University and harshly critical of Apple’s move. There’s no real escape, he said, because some of the technology will be in the phone hardware and there’s nothing we can do to remove it.

The cryptographer said it’s the first time he’s considering switching to a phone that uses Google’s Android software instead. This includes capturing all the photos that Apple has stored in its cloud.

“It will be very painful,” said Mr Green. “I have 20,000 photos going back to 2010. These are the things I can’t stand the thought of losing.”


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