As if the scanning of messages and photos for government defined “bad” content was not enough, it has now been revealed that Apple (and to be fair, the other major cloud email providers), have also been scanning email attachments of those who use their services for CSAM content.
As with the other violations of user privacy, the issue is not the content, but the method. With repugnant “kiddie porn” being the definition of bad today, tomorrow it could be pictures from protests, political symbols, or anything else that a government could deem as objectionable. And for those who say that can’t happen — it is already happening today in China, as well as other totalitarian governments.
Digital privacy is binary — you either have it or you don’t, and with every erosion of digital privacy such that these changes bring, the jinni becomes harder to stuff back into the bottle.
When these governments say, “Use our database of images, or we will ban your products”, I’m afraid Apple’s protestations that they will always be the protector of our privacy (except for what they themselves already deem objectionable) rings hollow.
So, what to do about this latest finding? Stop using the cloud-based email services of Apple, Google and others, and switch to a provider that has no or limited access to your email content. Protonmail and Tutanota both provide encrypted email services to help protect the information you send, and when you exchange email with another user on the same service, the information is encrypted end to end. Of course, when you use one of these services to send email to someone with an Apple or Google address, all bets are off.
The bottom line is that no solution is perfect, but we should not let perfect be the enemy of good, nor should we roll over and give up our privacy rights simply because it “requires work” and thought. Unfortunately, as has been shown by people giving away their passwords for candy bars on the street, the majority will simply comply due to apathy or ignorance. However, this does not mean that you have to be one of them.
If you do care about this massive overreach by Apple, speak up! Show that you care by signing the open letter of protest at https://appleprivacyletter.com and take action to protect your digital identify and life today, before you find out that you have no life left to protect.