Open Letter Criticizing Plan Attracts 5K Signatures

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  • An open letter signed by 5,000 asked Apple to rethink photo scans for child sexual abuse material.
  • The scanning “threatens to undermine fundamental privacy protections,” the letter said.
  • WhatsApp chief Will Cathcart and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden voiced concern.

An open letter asking Apple to rethink its rollout of photo scanning to identify child sexual abuse material has been signed by about 5,000 organizations and individuals.

“While child exploitation is a serious problem, and while efforts to combat it are almost unquestionably well-intentioned, Apple’s proposal introduces a backdoor that threatens to undermine fundamental privacy protections for all users of Apple products,” the letter said.

Apple on Thursday said it would later this year begin scanning photos for child sexual abuse material (CSAM.) The scans would create data hashes of the photos that would be compared to CSAM databases held by anti-abuse organizations, according to Apple.

“Before an image is stored in iCloud Photos, an on-device matching process is performed for that image against the known CSAM hashes,” Apple said. 

The Electronic Frontier Foundation on Thursday published a blog opposing the update, calling it a “backdoor” that could be used to spy on Apple users. Parts of that blog were excerpted on the open letter’s website, appleprivacyletter.com.

The letter was posted on Friday, and by Sunday morning it had been signed by about 5,000 individuals and organizations. The list of co-signers was a who’s-who of privacy advocates and orgs, including Freedom of the Press Foundation, where NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is a board member and president. 

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