Apple is about to announce a new technology for scanning individual users’ iPhones for banned content. While it will be billed as a tool for detecting child abuse imagery, its potential for misuse is vast based on details entering the public domain.
The neural network-based tool will scan individual users’ iDevices for child sexual abuse material (CSAM), respected cryptography professor Matthew Green told The Register today.
Rather than using age-old hash-matching technology, however, Apple’s new tool – due to be announced today along with a technical whitepaper, we are told – will use machine learning techniques to identify images of abused children.
[…]Indiscriminately scanning end-user devices for CSAM is a new step in the ongoing global fight against this type of criminal content. In the UK the Internet Watch Foundation’s hash list of prohibited content is shared with ISPs who then block the material at source. Using machine learning to intrusively scan end user devices is new, however – and may shake public confidence in Apple’s privacy-focused marketing.
Governments in the West and authoritarion regions alike will be delighted by this initiative, Green feared. What’s to stop China (or some other censorious regime such as Russia or the UK) from feeding images of wanted fugitives into this technology and using that to physically locate them?
“Apple will hold the unencrypted database of photos (really the training data for the neural matching function) and your phone will hold the photos themselves. The two will communicate to scan the photos on your phone. Alerts will be sent to Apple if *multiple* photos in your library match, it can’t just be a single one.”
The privacy-busting scanning tech will be deployed against America-based iThing users first, with the idea being to gradually expand it around the world as time passes. Green said it would be initially deployed against photos backed up in iCloud before expanding to full handset scanning.
Wow, no matter what the pretext (and the pretext of sex offenders is very very often the very first step they take on a much longer road, because hey, who can be against bringing sex offenders to justice, right?) Apple has just basically said that they think they have the right to read whatever they like on your phone. Nothing privacy! So what will be next? Your emails? Text messages? Location history (again)?
As a user, you actually bought this hardware – anyone you don’t explicitly give consent to (and that means not being coerced by limiting functionality, eg) should stay out of it!