It’s the Principle of the Thing…

“We at Apple believe that privacy is a fundamental human right,”

Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook

I’m sorry Apple, but you have violated my trust, perhaps permanently, and it’s time for us, if not to break up, to at least start living more separate lives. Despite your advertising and messaging that privacy is a right and Apple has our backs against fishing expeditions from the FBI and totalitarian regimes, the unilateral announcement that Apple will now start scanning for prohibited content, ON MY DEVICE!, has totally broken my trust in your promises.

Apple’s about face (or perhaps unmasking), is no different than saying, “X is bad, we all agree it is bad, therefore anything we do to detect and stop X is good. Why are you complaining? It’s not as if you support X, DO YOU?”. It is one thing to scan my content that exists in your cloud as other cloud providers do. This is a service where they own the servers and they can set the rules for what they are used for. Anyone who had any expectation that this was not occurring already was naive or technically unsophisticated.

However, to hijack my device and use it to scan for what today is universally considered repugnant and illegal (child porn), but which tomorrow can be used to scan for anything that some government considers equally repugnant or illegal (Trump supporters, the US flag, “tank man”), is a violation of my rights as the owner of the device. If not, then Tim Cook and I have very different interpretations of what the word “privacy” means.

This is no different than saying, “Let us come into your home unannounced to rifle through all of your photos albums. What! You object!? What are you, some closet child porn owning molester!”. You think this is improbable? Are you so clueless that you don’t know that this is already occurring in authoritarian governments around the world today?

And don’t think that this is anything new or is somehow different because it is an electronic device. In case you have forgotten the history of the American Revolution, the 4th Amendment in the US Bill of Rights was added specifically to address the abuses of the British solders and government in raiding the homes of the colonists to search for prohibited materials.

Until a better alternative comes along (and believe me, Android is NOT the better alternative), my default stance regarding Apple devices and services is that they do not put the privacy of my information first. Where alternatives exist I will be discussing in further articles how to switch to them and take greater control of your privacy.

I’m sure that others will jump in at this point and say, “Ha! You think that the government can’t get whatever they want from anyone they want to get it from?!” Of course they can. Guantanamo, waterboarding and torture have shown that anyone can be forced to admit to anything, and likewise any device is suspect if a government can get their hands on it.

However, it is all a matter of scale. While any one person or small group can be monitored and intimidated, the larger the group the quicker the surveillance regime falls apart. This is why totalitarian governments depend on turning the population on each other and encouraging them to spy on each other (“If you see something, say something”). They do the work of the government for them.

So, it is now obvious Apple and I don’t see eye to eye on this matter, and they have lost my trust. So, in other words, “Sorry, but we need to break up. No, it’s not me, it’s you”.

3 thoughts on “It’s the Principle of the Thing…

  1. Nicely put.

    With all due respect, I disagree with the propriety of cloud providers scanning non-public user content. Content that is publicly posted is one question, private data stored in cloud storage is another thing altogether.

    There is a long legal history concerning non-owned premises. Law enforcement whim does not, if I recall,give them carte blanche, without a warrant, to search a hotel room or for that matter, an rental apartment. The same is true for a rented vehicle.

    The same should be true for hosted and cloud services. Hosting on a cloud provider does not void HIPPA and other regulations.The information stored in a user’s account is their property, not the property of the hosting company or cloud provider. If it were otherwise, those with obligations to their clients and customers, e.g., attorneys, accountants, healthcare providers, among others, would never be able to use these services for fear of privacy breach.

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    1. Bob, if users were to read the terms of service when they sign up for these (which almost no one does), they would know that they are giving up most of their rights to privacy. As for the history of police actions, I’m afraid the gap between what should be done re privacy rights and what actually occurs as documented in news reports daily is wide and growing wider.

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  2. I think most service providers (not just cloud, but mobile phone, and to a lesser degree, ISPs/IPPs) understand your device to be on a long-term lease (because the devices are keyed to use THEIR services, more or less exclusively), and because your data are traversing THEIR networks, they can be held legally liable (there was a whole lot of heat about this a couple decades ago, when the law as written made YOU personally legally liable for any spam/phishing/etc email you RECEIVED without soliciting it) for anything you have downloaded, uploaded, or could potentially upload through their devices and services.

    In the state I live, state inspectors have an unwarranted (or is that a standing-warrant?) right to look through your rental apartment to determine “safe living conditions”, but they’re more the landlord’s advocate than yours. If you have more than a bed and a dresser in the bedroom (nothing on the floor, no bookcases, no anything else), it’s considered “clutter” and can get you evicted.

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