Organizations deliver petition signatures opposing Apple’s ‘spyware plan’

Apple has announced that it will delay its its controversial CSAM detection system and child safety features. But there’s still a call for the plan to be abandoned entirely.

Apple’s statement

On August 6, Apple previewed new child safety features coming to its various devices later this year. However, on September 3, the tech giant said it was delaying the plan. 

Here’s Apple’s September 3 statement: Last month we announced plans for features intended to help protect children from predators who use communication tools to recruit and exploit them, and limit the spread of Child Sexual Abuse Material. Based on feedback from customers, advocacy groups, researchers and others, we have decided to take additional time over the coming months to collect input and make improvements before releasing these critically important child safety features.

The opposition

In response to Apple’s plan to add surveillance features that will scan photos and messages, a group of civil and human rights organizations have reportedly delivered petitions with more than 59,796 signatures to the company today.

The petitions call on Apple to abandon its plan, “which goes against the company’s purported commitment to privacy and security, and its history of rejecting backdoors to access content on our phones.” Despite Apple’s announcement to postpone its rollout of the scanning features, civil rights organizations say they will continue to oppose the company’s plan until they fully abandon it, because there is no safe way to conduct on-device content scanning.

The groups that circulated the petitions for today’s delivery—Fight for the Future, EFF, OpenMedia, Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (S.T.O.P.), Restore the Fourth, and Daily Kos Liberation League—as well as security technologist Bruce Schneier, highlighted how this would be a precedent-setting move, and say that once Apple opens the (back)door to this level of on-device surveillance, other tech companies may be forced to follow.

“There is no safe way to do what Apple is proposing. Creating more vulnerabilities on our devices will never make any of us safer,” said Caitlin Seeley George (she/her), campaign director at Fight for the Future, in a press release sent to Apple World Today. “Apple is able to propose this kind of surveillance because of its monopoly power and the stranglehold it has on the industry and our devices. But instead of undercutting encryption on devices, Apple should be strengthening it by fully encrypting iCloud and fixing the security issues with iMessage. This is how Apple should use its power to actually do something good for the industry and the world.”

Others weighing in are:

“Matt Hatfield, campaigns director at OpenMedia: “Apple’s decision to embed image surveillance on our phones and iOS devices crosses a dangerous boundary that governments and bad actors will be quick to take advantage of. Any backdoor to our private data will face enormous pressure to be used for purposes besides those Apple intends. If they go through with this, the question is not if it will be misused, but when.”

Joe Mullin, policy analyst at Electronic Frontier Foundation: “Apple’s device scanning isn’t a slippery slope; it’s a complete surveillance system waiting for government pressure to expand it. People, including minors, have the right to communicate privately without backdoors or censorship.”

Alex Marthews from Restore The Fourth: “Opening the client side to surveillance for one purpose, opens it for all purposes. Governments cannot be trusted not to use this backdoor to broadly suppress categories of content they deem harmful.”

The organizations says that today’s petition delivery will be followed by a day of protests at Apple stores across the country on Monday, September 13.

Dennis Sellers
the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the editor/publisher of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.