Just a few months more than a year ago, Apple announced CSAM for iOS. It was developed to be a robust and industry leading child abuse image tracking app. It would warn children and their parents about abusive content via Siri and Messages. Apple got totally and thoroughly lambasted in the press for months about this re: invasion of privacy. There was also a lot of heated debate here on TidBITS Talk. So CSAM never got released, and every mention of it was deleted from Apple’s website:
Apple CSAM is alive and well, and headed to the UK and other countries very soon.
That’s only part of what Apple proposed originally. The really controversial stuff — the on board scanning of photos — isn’t part of it.
Not quite. There were two different products announced at once, which people confused, and continue to confuse.
The first is part of parental controls. If a child sends or receives images that the phone’s on-board ML software thinks may be sexual, the child is warned and the parents are notified. It is not processed by any Apple server and alerts/notifications don’t go beyond the family where the controls are enabled.
The second is scanning for well-known instances of CSAM in Apple’s iCloud Photos database. Apple came up with a robust system to try and minimize the privacy impact. It is a pretty impressive system where images are hashed and scored on-device and only specially-encrypted variations of the hashes are uploaded, such that nobody (not even Apple) knows about suspect CSAM until a significant number of images have been uploaded, and even then Apple staff must review (thumbnails of) the images before law enforcement is contacted. A clear advantage over what other cloud storage providers do, especially given the fact that iCloud photos are not encrypted.
But despite the advantages of Apple’s system over what Google, Facebook and others do, there was massive blowback and Apple scrapped that feature. As far as I know it has not been restored.
Just a quick correction: one change that Apple made in this program is that parents are not notified. I believe there were concerns that this may place some children in abusive family relationships potentially in danger.
Apple partnered with the US Center For Missing And Exploited Children to develop CSAM and would have used its database when they went live. But so many legitimate privacy focused organizations such as the EFF went unrelentingly bat s—- about it. Air Tags initially got some blowback about tracking, but complaints and bad press about CSAM were unrelenting.
I think Apple is leery about opening Pandora’s Box once again.
This is a separate initiative; CSAM has been entirely erased from Apple’s communications. Whatever is now in place is comparatively minimal and will not be nearly as effective. AFAIK, Apple hasn’t come up with, or is working on, any plan that would be nearly as comprehensive.
For the benefit of those who didn’t read it last August, I wrote up what I hope is an understandable summary of Apple’s proposed CSAM scanning system, based on Apple’s published documents at the time:
Regardless of your opinion about whether Apple should be doing this, I think it is a pretty good description of what they were proposing.
And that’s all I plan to contribute to this thread because I think we already discussed the subject to death in that original thread, where I have already shared my opinions and others have already responded to them.
I think this has the potential to be a very helpful technology. Young people need some protections even if it means an inconvenience for adults. I am just skeptical of Apple’s motives and follow-through.
Not taking a “side” here but while most or all of the points made are quite valid, my hesitation comes from Apple’s track record of spewing marketing-speak and then delivering something entirely different or changing their minds abruptly and saying nothing (ie. iOS 14 parallel support to iOS 15, just one recent example.)
It is Apple’s lack of transparency and ownership of problems and issues when they arise that places me heavily in the skeptic column.
I don’t want to get into a list of Apple screw-ups here, and to be fair most large corporations (especially in tech) have had their share of major issues and will continue to do so, but the keystone metric in my opinion is how a business handles issues when they inevitably arise.
Apple, unfortunately, has set a significant track record of avoiding even acknowledgment of being notified of an issue. Silence is their top response. This does not even begin to touch the near-denial, reverse blame, claiming the opposite, and just ignoring important issues because it is inconvenient to their spin. To be clear, I am including the Steve Jobs years in this as well, even if perhaps to a lesser degree.
I encourage people in my area to use Sonic as their internet/phone provider not just because they are local, employ people from this region with no out-sourcing to speak of and maintain good business ethics and morals, but because when things go wrong they OWN IT almost every time. Their service status blog voluntarily announces planned and unexpected downtime and outages, updated as they learn more. When a client had a fiber upgrade go sideways (a water pipe got knicked, sending fluid inside the wall) their installer stayed on site until the local water district personnel arrived and had things under control. The company then had the customer submit any and all expenses for remediation and repair, and then paid them with out issue not long after their HQ city experienced massive wildfires, which displaced many families and cut services (some of which Sonic helped restore to the community).
Now, this example is not exactly a good analogy to a massive corporation such as Apple. However, when you are racking up as much profit as Apple boasts, you could shift closer to the days of 800-SOS-APPLE and provide consistent, excellent support. If you (Apple) decide to jump in with both feet to the digital services ocean, and bank much of your current and future profits on that area, don’t start whining or turn your back on customers when they ask for help with significant problems.
OK… that was perhaps an un-helpful rant.
I can’t help but think about how Apple’s innovations in hardware, software and services have literally “changed the world.” In addition to changing computers and software, they’ve literally changed the way we listen to and purchase music, how we communicate with one another, as well as the way they totally disrupted and upended the camera and photography businesses, both still and motion photography. And there’s Apple Watch and how it “changed the world” of timepieces.” And Watch has also become a powerhouse in health, healthcare and fitness, as well as in communications. And there’s stuff like Final Cut Pro, which revolutionized film and television production. Apple stores, which have been around for quite a few years, are still very unique in the computer industry.
And when compared with competing products, Apple’s stuff tends to be longer lasting, be more durable, and supported for much longer time frames. Their quality standards are very high. And they don’t say nothing unless they have something really valuable and outstanding to say. And Apple wouldn’t have been reigning supreme as the world’s most valuable company if they weren’t doing things right.
Compared to other companies, Apple’s “marketing speak” is very minimal, understandable, and effective. Even the names of their products and services…iPhone, Macintosh/Mac, MacBook, iPhone, iPod, Music, Watch, App Store, Apple Store, TV+, AirPods, etc. are clear, simple, catchy and memorable. And they are all unique. And yeah, they do often tease their existing and potential customers by dropping little hints of what they will be delivering, and this has proven to be an extremely successful and profitable strategy. It continues to convince people to spend more on Apple stuff than competitive products. it’s why Apple became the world’s first, second and third trillion $ company.
Let’s focus this tightly on what is happening in the UK. The broader topic has been talked to death already, and I’m going to delete general messages about it here going forward.