Apple Announces iCloud Photo Scanning

Aug 6, 2021 • Extra Ordinary

Apple, from 9to5Mac:

Before an image is stored in iCloud Photos, an on-device matching process is performed for that image against the unreadable set of known CSAM hashes. This matching process is powered by a cryptographic technology called private set intersection, which determines if there is a match without revealing the result. Private set intersection (PSI) allows Apple to learn if an image hash matches the known CSAM image hashes, without learning anything about image hashes that do not match. PSI also prevents the user from learning whether there was a match.

For the children.

They made a system wherein they can potentially find and catch sexual predators in a way that does not require them to have an open door to spy on everyone’s photo libraries. I would bet my car that Google’s approach to the same problem will be server-side, but you knew already that I don’t very much like Google.

Credit where credit is due—I know just enough about computer science to understand that cryptography is extraordinarily complex. Apple’s on-device approach is way more complicated than it has to be. It would be so much easier to create a scheduled script to search through every photo in their data centers without telling anyone this is happening without all of this complicated private set intersection and image hashing, but Apple does not want that tool to exist.

I suspect they are implementing this system on their own terms in their own way that respects the privacy of their users because Apple is scared of the US government legislating their way into requiring Apple to build a system that does not.

All things considered, I would rather this system not exist in the first place. Finding sexual abuse material is a noble cause, no doubt. But if a certain administration were still in power, it would not be far-fetched to say they would want Apple to expand this program with less noble intentions.

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