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Letter to Apple Asking to Halt Implementation of Child Safety Scanning Features Gains More than 5000 Signatures

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More than 5000 organizations and individuals have signed an open letter directed to Apple, asking the company to halt its proposed “Expanded Protections for Children” scanning features. The letter addresses the belief that the scanning technology threatens “fundamental privacy protections for all users of Apple products,” via TechMeme.

Last week, Apple announced that it would be introducing the Expanded Protections for Children on iOS and macOS. The technology used within this system continuously monitors photos that are saved and shared on these devices. Once implemented, users will be notified if they have received sexually explicit content via the Messages app while Family Sharing is enabled. Additionally, Apple’s tools will enable it to scan Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) images on iCloud.

Organizations and individuals have now begun raising their concerns about whether the new system interferes with the base user’s privacy. An open letter was then published to GitHub and has amassed quite a number of signatures and statements.

Via the letter, it’s noted that non-profit digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation has stated:

“It’s impossible to build a client-side scanning system that can only be used for sexually explicit images sent or received by children. As a consequence, even a well-intentioned effort to build such a system will break key promises of the messenger’s encryption itself and open the door to broader abuses […] That’s not a slippery slope; that’s a fully built system just waiting for external pressure to make the slightest change.”

Additionally, Executive Director of the Open Privacy Research Society, Sarah Jamie Lewis, has said that:

“If Apple are successful in introducing this, how long do you think it will be before the same is expected of other providers? Before walled-garden prohibit apps that don’t do it? Before it is enshrined in law? How long do you think it will be before the database is expanded to include “terrorist” content”? “harmful-but-legal” content”? state-specific censorship?”

The open letter has gained the signatures of organizations such as Cryptomator, MacDailyNews, The New York Public Library, Privacy Foundation, and WebTorrent. It’s also being supported by thousands of individual and user signatures. Apple has stated that the Expanded Protections for Children will first debut in the US before rolling out to other countries and regions.

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