The man behind one of the greatest leaks in the US, Edward Snowden, has issued a warning about the upcoming Apple feature.
In 2013, Snowden leaked classified documents showing the extent of the US government spying on its own citizens.
His warning about Apple comes after the tech giant indicated that it will scan all photos linked from iPhones to the Cloud for child pornography (in the US for now) – with images cross-checked against a database from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Apple has indicated that users who do not want their phones to be scanned can switch off the linkage to the Cloud.
In his personal Substack account, Snowden warned that Apple had chosen a dangerous path with their scheme to access users’ photos, and that governments will manipulate the rule to give them greater access to data they claim they need access to – such as a phone owner’s presence at a protest.
This announcement by Apple is seen by industry experts and privacy activists as a shift by a company that has taken a stand against privacy violations by the tech industry. A leading privacy organisation Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) had this to say about the announcement:
“To say that we are disappointed by Apple’s plans is an understatement. Apple has historically been a champion of end-to-end encryption, for all of the same reasons that EFF has articulated time and time again. Apple’s compromise on end-to-end encryption may appease government agencies in the US and abroad, but it is a shocking about-face for users who have relied on the company’s leadership in privacy and security.”
Apple has indicated that changes will roll out this year as part of updates to its operating software for iPhones, Macs and Apple Watches.
Snowden has highlighted that this move by Apple will open “Pandora’s Box”. According to him, this is just the beginning of something that will be difficult for Apple to control.
Snowden says he fears governments will abuse the system by compelling Apple to expand the on-device CSAM (child sexual abuse material) feature, or mandate that it be active by all users at all times.
Arguments concerning mission creep have also been central to criticism of Apple’s plans since the effort was announced earlier this month.