Edward Snowden, writing on Substack:
If you’re an enterprising pedophile with a basement full of CSAM-tainted iPhones, Apple welcomes you to entirely exempt yourself from these scans by simply flipping the “Disable iCloud Photos” switch, a bypass which reveals that this system was never designed to protect children, as they would have you believe, but rather to protect their brand. As long as you keep that material off their servers, and so keep Apple out of the headlines, Apple doesn’t care.
So what happens when, in a few years at the latest, a politician points that out, and—in order to protect the children—bills are passed in the legislature to prohibit this “Disable” bypass, effectively compelling Apple to scan photos that _aren’t_ backed up to iCloud? What happens when a party in India demands they start scanning for memes associated with a separatist movement? What happens when the UK demands they scan for a library of terrorist imagery? How long do we have left before the iPhone in your pocket begins quietly filing reports about encountering “extremist” political material, or about your presence at a “civil disturbance”? Or simply about your iPhone’s possession of a video clip that contains, or maybe-or-maybe-not contains, a blurry image of a passer-by who resembles, according to an algorithm, “a person of interest”?
If Apple demonstrates the capability and willingness to continuously, remotely search every phone for evidence of one particular type of crime, these are questions for which they will have no answer. And yet an answer will come—and it will come from the worst lawmakers of the worst governments.
This is not a slippery slope. It’s a cliff.
This is a bit of a long quote, but it really gets to the heart of my issues with this new “feature” — while Apple is defending what this currently is, we’re criticizing what this could very easily become. And the only thing Apple can really do to reassure us is to say “trust us”. But that’s not good enough.
Now that this system exists, governments can force Apple’s hand — leaving them with no choice but to implement the newly required changes or abandon the market. And we’ve already seen what Apple is will to do before they’ll abandon a market.