After WhatsApp, Fortnite game-maker Epic's CEO slams Apple's iPhone child sexual abuse photos move, calls it 'spyware'

First WhatsApp CEO and now Fortnite game founder has blasted Apple's iPhone move to search for child sexual abuse photos on users accounts.
| Updated on Aug 10 2021, 12:07 AM IST
Both WhatsApp and Fortnite founder say Apple iPhone search for child sexual abuse photos will enable governments to carry out surveillance.
Both WhatsApp and Fortnite founder say Apple iPhone search for child sexual abuse photos will enable governments to carry out surveillance. (REUTERS)

Apple has revealed that it may look into users iPhones and check for child abuse photos when they are being uploaded onto iCloud in an attempt to wipe out this

horrific online crime. However, while the attempt to address this issue has been on the agenda of all tech majors, this move by Apple has been blasted by others as it is likely to cause more problems for them. The first to react was WhatsApp Head Will Cathcart and then Fortnite-gamemaker Epic Games CEO Tin Sweeney.

Also read: Looking for a smartphone? Check Mobile Finder here.

What has Apple done? Apple has launched various tools to reduce the spread of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) on Thursday. This will introduce changes in iMessage, Siri and Search, that would enable scanning iCloud Photos for known CSAM imagery and thereby help protect children online.

First to launch an attack on Apple was WhatsApp Head Will Cathcart. Mincing no words he slammed Apple over this move and he even rolled out Apple chief Tim Cook's letter to customers saying the iPhone maker would never allow any outside agency to look into what is on users gadgets. Now, Apple was doing the opposite, he indicated.

WhatsApp has been facing governmental pressure to decrypt its fully encrypted messaging system so that governments can see what users are sending in an effort to end extremist activities and hold people causing social conflicts to task. WhatsApp has said no to such efforts, but clearly Apple is looking at being more flexible even though it is saying, that it would never allow anything except child abuse photos to be analysed. Apple move is likely to make governments to bring more pressure to bear on WhatsApp to follow suit.

However, after WhatsApp, it was the turn of the popular Fortnite online gamemaker Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney to step forward and fire a full broadside at Apple. Sweeney said Apple's move on child safety initiatives would open the way for governments to conduct surveillance.

Sweeney took to Twitter and said, "I've tried hard to see this from Apple's point of view. But inescapably, this is government spyware installed by Apple based on a presumption of guilt. Though Apple wrote the code, its function is to scan personal data and report it to the government".

"But this is peoples' private data," Sweeney protested in his Twitter thread.

Sweeney even dissected the Apple system in his tweet, "Apple's dark patterns that turn iCloud uploads on by default, and flip it back on when moving to a new phone or switching accounts, exacerbate the problem. Further, in many contexts Apple has forced people to accumulate unwanted data, as with mandatory iCloud email accounts."

He added, "Though Apple has since changed the signup flow, many were forced to take at-icloud-dot-com email accounts that can't be deleted without losing everything ever purchased in the Apple ecosystem. That's iCloud, so will presumably be monitored by police."

Sweeney went to the extent of tweeting something even more damning, "So presumably Apple will now be an arm of state surveillance wherever it's required. That's already played out in China:"

Sweeney also accused Apple of manipulating public sentiment and presuming people guilty, "Calls for "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear from this surveillance" and "think of the children" will reach a fever pitch, seeking to manipulate public sentiment at this critical time, gaining support for a system presuming guilt and lacking due process."

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First Published Date: 09 Aug, 06:02 PM IST
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