Today, facing massive backlash Apple announced that it would delay the release of its plan to enable on-device photo and message scanning on millions of people’s devices, as part of a misguided effort to address CSAM. Apple’s "spyPhone" proposal has been roundly condemned by security experts, human rights groups, LGBTQ+ organizations, and civil rights leaders.
This is our statement on the announcement, which can be attributed to Evan Greer (she/her), Director, Fight for the Future:
Apple’s plan to conduct on-device scanning of photos and messages is one of the most dangerous proposals from any tech company in modern history. Technologically, this is the equivalent of installing malware on millions of people’s devices –– malware that can be easily abused to do enormous harm. Authoritarian governments already lean on Apple to censor and spy on their residents to squash dissent. This technology would make such surveillance essentially unavoidable on Apple products, and potentially every product if the industry were to follow Apple’s lead.
There is no overstating the threat that Apple’s proposal poses to privacy, security, democracy, and freedom. It would open the door to a future without human rights, privacy, or basic freedom –– a world where we can’t trust the devices that we use to communicate –– a world that’s not safer for children or anyone else. That’s why there has been overwhelming backlash to this proposal from security experts, civil liberties advocates, racial justice groups, and international human rights experts.
It’s encouraging that the backlash has forced Apple to delay this reckless and dangerous surveillance plan, but the reality is that there is no safe way to do what they are proposing. Apple’s current proposal will make vulnerable children less safe, not more safe. They should shelve it permanently. Instead of undercutting encryption, they should be expanding it to protect more people, including children, by encrypting iCloud and addressing security vulnerabilities in iMessage.
"Apple would never have had the power to do this in the first place without their historically unprecedented control over the software users run on their own devices. We continue to believe that this is the root cause of the Apple problem, and must be addressed by forcing Apple to allow users to choose how their devices operate by choosing what software they run, including at the OS level. You can’t be a privacy company and a monopoly. Period.