Apple has been looking to examine images in iCloud towards child abuse. The the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children database is being used as a baseline and personal images are being scanned with facial recognition tools.
Besides Apple, Google and Facebook also are doing the same thing. Kowtowing to law enforcement is corporate suicide. Recall 23andMe who shared DNA data with the FBI. So much for privacy.
The United States has not been shy about seeking access to encrypted communications, pressuring the companies to make it easier to obtain data with warrants and to voluntarily turn over data. However, the U.S. faces serious constitutional issues if it wanted to pass a law that required warrantless screening and reporting of content. Even if conducted by a private party, a search ordered by the government is subject to the Fourth Amendment’s protections. Any “warrant” issued for suspicionless mass surveillance would be an unconstitutional general warrant. As the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained, “Search warrants . . . are fundamentally offensive to the underlying principles of the Fourth Amendment when they are so bountiful and expansive in their language that they constitute a virtual, all-encompassing dragnet[.]” With this new program, Apple has failed to hold a strong policy line against U.S. laws undermining encryption, but there remains a constitutional backstop to some of the worst excesses. But U.S constitutional protection may not necessarily be replicated in every country.
Apple said it would manually review abusive photos from a user’s device only if the algorithm found a certain number of them. The company also said it can adjust the algorithm over time. This stands in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Apple said it isn’t breaking end-to-end encryption with a new feature in the Messages app that analyzes photos sent to or from a child’s iPhone for explicit material, nor will the company gain access to user messages. Asked on the briefing if the new tools mean the company will add end-to-end encryption to iCloud storage backups, Apple said it wouldn’t comment on future plans. End-to-end encryption, the most stringent form of privacy, lets only the sender and receiver see a message sent between them.
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.
Apple could be pressured by foreign governments to, for example, repurpose the system to quash political speech by asking Apple to flag photos of protests or political memes. Skeptics aren’t worried about how the system works today and aren’t defending people who collect known images of child exploitation. They’re worried about how it might develop in the coming years.
Take the example of India, where recently passed rules include dangerous requirements for platforms to identify the origins of messages and pre-screen content. New laws in Ethiopia requiring content takedowns of “misinformation” in 24 hours may apply to messaging services. And many other countries—often those with authoritarian governments—have passed similar laws.
No surprise that authoritarian countries demand companies provide access and control to encrypted messages, often the last best hope for dissidents to organize and communicate. For example, Citizen Lab’s research shows that—right now—China’s unencrypted WeChat service already surveils images and files shared by users, and uses them to train censorship algorithms.
The United Kingdom’s Investigatory Powers Act also places demands on encrypted systems. The parliament considered the IPA and a company could be compelled to distribute an update in order to facilitate the execution of an equipment interference warrant, and ordered to refrain from notifying their customers.
Here in Canada privacy is a Charter Right and any steps in any way to touch any image, message or other data is a violation of the Charter. If the RCMP, FBI, CIA, et al, want to find missing children, do not invade the privacy of mobile phones. There are other techniques outside of insulting everyone’s right to privacy.
Posting this on Reddit resulted it being removed. Democracy dies in darkness, only in a free open discussion can any debate take place. Censorship smacks of dictatorships. The world does not need another Hitler or Stalin.