Violating user privacy in the name of safety & security

Recently, Apple proudly publicized its user privacy features in its recent iOS 15 preview, however, under all the new glitz & excitement, the are some disturbing features being used in the name of security & safety, which actually run counter to company’s previously touted privacy-first promise. Apple confirmed that it has been scanning emails using image-matching technology on its servers under the pretense of being vigilant about child exploitation. Apple now also confirms that its new technology will scan photos in the users iCloud photo library in addition to the emails and compare them to the database.
Although being alert to possible CSAM is important, how concerned are you guys that BIG TECH companies will use this excuse as a way to circumvent user-privacy (in the name of safety & security) & possibly infringe on customers privacy even further.
Let me know your thoughts.

2 Likes

I’m not very happy with that. Of course, we all are against child abuse, and apple knew how to use a moral narrative that we would accept. I think that the question needs to go through a deeper discussion.

I’m an Apple user, and I’m a bit “stuck” in their ecosystem, especially with the Apple Books and iWorks format that I cannot find a way to read/edit them outside the app that is only available on iOS/mac.

I like their simplicity, portability, and sense of privacy. However, I’m wondering about the future we will face with the big techs and the lack of options.

3 Likes

Apple scans images.
Facebook scans posts.
Google scans Gmail.

When you appreciate that YOU ARE THE PRODUCT that BIG TECH companies sell to advertisers, you can make informed decisions about whether to maintain your accounts with them.

8 Likes

These privacy concerns are what finally prompted me to look into ridding myself of smart technology. Apple was the last tech mega corporation to do even the slightest things to attempt to protect user privacy and user security. As Apple has turned its back on their users, to carry a smartphone is now to carry a passive surveillance device on your person. You are paying a thousand dollars to have your privacy violated.

It is not impossible to exit the ecosystem. The main issue is “purchased” material in Apple’s App Store, Books, Music, and Video. It was easier for me to walk away from their media content when it became clear to me that I didn’t actually own anything I bought from them. These digital rights purchases to consume content via their services can be withdrawn at any time. Some of the more obscure punk rock I had “purchased” via iTunes has disappeared from my library… the same with some movies. Just stop giving them money and find other ways to get stuff you actually own like CDs, Blurays, or something similar (or a DRM-free online store).

8 Likes

With privacy, we are living the metaphor of the boiling frog.

Every day we’re closer to Orwell’s 1984

4 Likes

I must admit I was optimistic seeing the improvements on the privacy front on iOS 14.5… And now this. A real bummer.

I got rid of my Amazon account already. All things Mac are next in line I guess.

4 Likes

@regbarata I think I’ve said it a few times & also wrote a blog about it- that convenience comes at a cost. It’s like @kirkmahoneyphd says, it’s all about what you are willing to accept- if you are willing to acknowledge that BIG TECH will use us as their product- you can then decide whether you are OK with that, or you’re just not willing to pay that price for privacy infringement. It’s up to us. We do have choices.

3 Likes

This quote was actually quite powerful- It made me stop & think. I stopped using Amazon a long time ago- but I still use Audible because I really like audiobooks. However, it IS an AMAZON company & I am paying just to rent these book, because if I EVER want to cancel my account- I can’t listen to those books outside of the Audible ecosystem. So basically, I got some advice from @kirkmahoneyphd & re-purposed an OLD smartphone just for listening to my audiobooks. Removed all the apps, no sim card, just use home wifi to download the book to the device & I can then listen to it.

4 Likes

@pacognitivo :100: agreement :smiley:
Also, another term comes to mind, which kind of explains a lot in society- The Overton Window.

6 Likes

^ More brilliant verbiage for Mudita’s marketing materials!

6 Likes

Edward Snowden on this very subject:
The All-Seeing “i”: Apple Just Declared War on Your Privacy

5 Likes

@nirvana: I expect Alphabet to follow suit with Android phones.

2 Likes

Every Google device is already a passive surveillance device. Google will coordinate where you are with what’s near you and send you ads based upon your location. This can get as specific as you having spent a lot of time near one rack in a department store. So, you saw a cool shirt and you lingered to look at it, but you didn’t buy it, and now you see ads for it on your phone. That pin point location is done using WiFi interference patterns on your device as well as the router in the store. The microphone is always on if a person is using “Okay Google” as well, and that data can be used for marketing purposes as well.

Google is an ad company first and foremost, and anything they can do to target ads and make their conversion rate higher, they will do. It allows them to charge more to companies who wish to advertise.

In the USA, Google has a fairly strong relationship with the State Department ( https://wikileaks.org/google-is-not-what-it-seems/ ). So, if the Administration really wants something done, expect Google to be among the first to implement whatever it is.

5 Likes

Thank you, @bmw42! I am now readier than ever to receive my Mudita Pure.

1 Like

So, if the Administration really wants something done, expect Google to be among the first to implement whatever it is.

It also works the other way: If Google really wants something done, expect the Administration to support whatever it is.

This is an excerpt from The Age of surveillance Capitalism:

The Google Transparency Project analyzed the movement of staff between the Googlesphere (the company plus its affiliates and its law and lobbying firms) and the government (including the White House, Congress, government agencies, federal commissions, and national political campaigns) during the Obama years. It found that by April 2016, 197 individuals had migrated from the government into the Googlesphere, and 61 had moved in the other direction. Among these, 22 White House officials went to work for Google, and 31 Googlesphere executives joined the White House or federal advisory boards with direct relevance to Google’s business

4 Likes

I’m wondering if the European GDPR added some brakes to their behavior in Europe.

@nirvana This is quite disturbing, but really not surprising.

I’m ok with the idea of scanning for images in iCloud against the database of abuse/child exploitation material. I think most people here have no problems with catching such criminals.

The potential for abuse of the technology is quite clear from two avenues, however.

  1. Bad state or criminal actors deciding that images taken in certain locations on certain dates are evidence of criminal behaviour.
    Scenario: human rights protesters in a country with an authoritarian regime take photos of the event, pics go viral, then they can be hunted down via image metadata if the regime declares it criminal. Requiring multiple countries to declare something illegal is trivial and a pointless “safeguard” when everyone has at least one ally.

  2. Planted images by a criminal or state actor with knowledge of zero day exploits and backdoor access. The Stasi could only dream of this technology. Organised crime would be able to blackmail on an increasingly higher level. Hell, so could business who wants legislation passed in their interest and one or two pesky legislators in the way could easily be stitched up.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see how this is rife for abuse.

2 Likes

I have a old iPad that’s stuck at iOS 12.5.4, I guess it’s omitted from this?
Can you avoid this by choosing not to update a more current device is the next question?

Not 100% sure, but I think is supposed to be implemented only from iOS 15, so it doesn’t affect phones and tablets with an older OS, and only on US devices (allegedly… there a sort of a trust issue here)