The Global Encryption Coalition wrote an open letter to Apple, calling on the company to abandon its recently announced plans to build surveillance capabilities into iPhones, iPads and other Apple products. On August 5, 2021, Apple announced that it will be installing surveillance software that will conduct on-device scanning in Messages and photos. As the coalition’s letter explains, although the new features are designed to protect children and reduce the spread of child sexual abuse material (CSAM), they will create new risks for children and could be used to censor speech and threaten the privacy and security of people around the world. In particular:
- The scan and alert feature in Messages could result in alerts that threaten the safety and wellbeing of some young people, and LGBTQ+ youths with unsympathetic parents are particularly at risk.
- Once the CSAM hash scanning for photos is built into Apple products, the company will face enormous pressure, and possibly legal requirements, from governments around the world to scan for all sorts of images that the governments find objectionable.
The breadth of the international coalition joining the letter demonstrates the extent to which Apple’s plans open the door to threats to human rights across the globe.