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Experts call Apple’s CSAM scheme ‘a dangerous technology’


Apple’s decision to postpone introduction of its controversial client-side scanning (CSS) CSAM-detection system looks like an even better idea amid news governments already want to use the controversial tools for other forms of surveillance.

A ‘dangerous technology’

In a new report, an influential group of 14 internationally reputed security researchers have said such plans represent a “dangerous technology” that expands state surveillance powers. They warn the client-side scanning system, if used “would be much more privacy invasive than previous proposals to weaken encryption. Rather than reading the content of encrypted communications, CSS gives law enforcement the ability to remotely search not just communications, but information stored on user devices.”

These voices join a chorus of similar voices, including civil liberties campaigners, privacy advocates, and tech industry critics who have already warned that the plans threaten basic human rights.

While the system Apple announced seemed well-intentioned, its use of on-device scanning against image databases in the form of numerical hash data had many concerned. After all, if a device can be scanned for one thing, it can easily be extended to search for other things.

Turns out, some governments are working on precisely that. The New York Times reports the latest findings from a group of cybersecurity researchers who have been examining proposals of this kind from before Apple’s announcement.

European Union wants CSS

The researchers say they began looking into the technology prior to Apple’s announcement in response to moves by European Union (EU) leaders to insist on such a system. The researchers think a proposal to mandate such photo scanning in the EU could come as soon as this year, and would extent beyond CSAM to also include scanning for evidence of organized crime and terrorist activity.

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