— Internet News

The Lesson to Learn From Apple’s Tool to Flag Child Sex Abuse

As we all put more photos, documents, and videos online, how much of that data no longer belongs to us? That’s the question many are now pondering because of a change coming to iPhones. The debate has implications for online privacy and government surveillance. It underlines how the storage of our digital data has changed over time, raising concerns about how we should conduct ourselves technologically.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up.

The unrest began last week when Apple introduced a software tool for iPhones to flag cases of child sex abuse. That seems reasonable, right? This fall, the device will be included in Apple’s next mobile software update. It scans an iPhone for code linked to a database of known child pornography when photos from the device are uploaded to iCloud, Apple’s online storage service. Once there are a certain number of matches, an Apple employee reviews the photos before informing the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Child Sex Abuse

But some cybersecurity experts countered that the content-flagging system was invasive and infringed on people’s privacy. They warned that Apple was creating a precedent that made it simple for surveillance-heavy countries like China to pass laws requiring the company to use the technology for other purposes, such as scanning for political images unfavorable to an authoritarian government.

“They’ve said they don’t have any plans to do worse things with this technology, but this just feels, at this point, naïvely optimistic,” said Erica Portnoy, a technologist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the digital rights nonprofit. In response to the backlash, Apple published a document explaining that the new system will not scan people’s private iPhone photo libraries this week. Also, a company spokesman said that the matching technology would cease to work if people disable their iPhone’s photo library from backing up images to iCloud.

But no matter how this Apple episode plays out, it reminds us how much our digital data storage has changed. In the past, most of us stored our digital photos on our computer drives and miniature USB sticks. Those belonged to us alone.

We increasingly store our documents and other information in “the cloud,” where big companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft host the data on their server computers. Those companies gained much more power over our information in the process.

That leads me to something I have said: It’s wise to have an exit strategy for pulling your data from the cloud if you want to leave. All it takes is a little forethought.

Over the last few years, I’ve embraced a hybrid approach of storing copies of my data online and offline, so I can reap the benefits of the cloud and retain independent ownership of my data. My efforts culminated in creating an online home server, essentially a private cloud.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button