CODE RED: Apple Is About to Spy on You

Apple is going to spy on you.

On August 5th Apple announced a new roll-out of technology that will run on Apple devices, from Macs to iPhones. It’s called “Expanded Protection for Children.” Sounds like a terrific, noble and well-intentioned effort – right?

I’m a “throw away the key” proponent when it comes to child exploitation and child porn. In fact, I’d be fine with a bullet to the brain of those vipers. But the problem lies, not in the stated intentions of Apple, rather in the potential results. Apple’s mindless new algorithm might be the end of privacy on its platforms, opening a backdoor that would apparently and without end, monitor iCloud for exploitive or “objectionable” photos and would then alert authorities.

Well-intended, yes, but who (or what) at Apple decides what is considered “objectionable”? I’ve asked Siri for directions, and it sometimes gets it wrong. Give a task to any machine, and it will, at some point, get it wrong.

When my eldest was about 2 years old, he walked into the family room with nothing on but a top hat covering most of his face — and nothing covering his privates. I snapped a photo, which I still have. My guess is, if that photo was saved in iCloud, that photo would be flagged and the rest of my photos would be reviewed.

An extreme example? Apple assures us it knows better. Trust in Apple. What other photos would Apple’s cadre of 23-year-olds then be tasked with looking at? Which of my saved photos would be reviewed? Would that “nude” photo of my 2-year-old then be sent to “authorities”? I’m guessing, yes.

But this plan by Apple is also scaring tech experts and civil libertarians alike. The Electronic Frontier Foundation said:

Apple is opening the door to broader abuses.

The Center for Democracy and Technology’s director, Greg Nojeim said:

“Apple is replacing its industry-standard end-to-end encrypted messaging system with an infrastructure for surveillance and censorship, which will be vulnerable to abuse and scope-creep not only in the U.S., but around the world.”

He urged the company to “abandon these changes.”

Recall when a terrorist named Syed Farook murdered 14 people in San Bernardino and, when the FBI asked Apple to unlock Farook’s encrypted iPhone, Apple refused. Although Farook was, without a doubt a terrorist, and unlocking his phone would help law enforcement, Apple still refused to help.

Apple’s excuse? “Privacy.” Even terrorists have a right to privacy, Apple said. A terrorist holding an AK-47 won’t get flagged. Privacy for Apple is subjective. But if you took a photo of your baby bathing in a bathtub, Apple might be looking at that photo and all the rest of your photos, too.

Child exploitation is the worst of crimes. But if your baby’s in a tub? Apple is going to spy on you.