The New York Times doubles down on Apple’s Child Safety program

The Grey Lady takes a deep dive into creepy waters with an editorial and an episode of The Daily podcast.

From “Apple’s Illusion of Privacy Is Getting Harder to Sell” on Friday’s op-ed page:

Even iPhone users with nothing to hide could be forgiven for being a little creeped out that Apple will scan their photos and see if they match existing databases of known illegal pornographic images. Privacy experts called the idea a potential back door for governments to request or demand scans for other images or files. Some of Apple’s own employees are reportedly pushing back on the idea.

It’s a good indication that things are headed in the wrong direction when your company’s anti-child-pornography initiative gets panned.

A major reason for the failure of Apple’s defense is that the photo-scanning program confirms a fear many users already harbor: Personal data, even the most sensitive, is effectively out of users’ control, accessible at the flip of a switch.

Apple says, relentlessly, that privacy is the central feature of its iPhones. But as the photo scanning demonstrates, that’s true only until the company changes its mind about its policies.

Cue the podcast: Praise, Concern and Apple’s New Tools Against Child Abuse Imagery (With Kevin Rouse and Jack Nicas)

My take: Headed out to walk the dog with Rouse and Nicas in my AirPods.

13 Comments

  1. Jerry Doyle said:
    I have written all along in this forum that Apple has a problem when it comes to this issue. It reminds me of the same problem confronting Elon Musk where it is time for him to start telling the truth about autonomous driving.

    1
    August 20, 2021
    • Duane Bemister said:
      And the carbon cost of charging.

      1
      August 20, 2021
  2. Fred Stein said:
    It’s more like a storage shed company installing security cameras around their facility.

    It is not like a back door into your house.

    If anyone reads Rouse and Nicas, please tell us if the two understand the issues.

    1
    August 20, 2021
    • Steven Noyes said:
      No, it’s more like a storage company installing camera in the storage sheds or a hotel installing camera in each room.

      0
      August 21, 2021
  3. Gregg Thurman said:
    How do you know a journalist is lying?

    They’re publishing.

    4
    August 20, 2021
      • Robert Stack said:
        It’s useful to point, as PED did (correctly I assume!), that this piece appeared on the op-ed page. As such, I’m sure the NYT would welcome a rebuttal piece from Apple giving their perspective.

        PED’s piece concludes with a quote from the article: “Apple says, relentlessly, that privacy is the central feature of its iPhones. But as the photo scanning demonstrates, that’s true only until the company changes its mind about its policies.”

        It’s pretty hard to argue the truth of that statement, as the govt has completely failed all of us in this area.

        1
        August 20, 2021
  4. Thomas Larkin said:
    Well if the NY Times is going to go down the yellow journalism road, how about this: NY Times in favor of protecting child pornographers, punishing those who ferret them out of their platforms. The difference between yellow click bait journalism, and true journalism, is that true journalism lays out all the facts rather than disregarding the inconvenient ones, and lets the readers decide, rather than telling them what they should think. I think Fred’s security camera analogy is spot on.

    0
    August 20, 2021
  5. Steven Philips said:
    So, Thomas, there IS no “true journalism” anymore?
    Or “true” much of anything. Almost any statement (outside of good science) seems to be shading someone’s agenda.

    0
    August 20, 2021
    • Thomas Larkin said:
      I may be coming from a completely different perspective than you. Doesn’t Apple have a right to know if illegal content is on its servers, and to do what it can to keep it off? And isn’t scanning for illegal images on on its own servers very different from, say, selling your personally identifiable information (including say financial and other private information) to others? Moreover, doesn’t this just represent another evolution of existing technology, all of which can be used for good or bad, ethically or unethically, in the wrong hands? So yeah, I view this as playing to the cheap seats.

      1
      August 20, 2021
  6. Robert Stack said:
    Because we all like to deal with facts on this site, even when our analysis sometimes yields a different perspective, I’d like to point out the following:

    The byline of this op-ed piece reads: “By Greg Bensinger. Mr. Bensinger is a member of the editorial board.”

    It’s notable that the piece is expressly NOT stated as the opinion of the NYT’s editorial board, but is simply authored by one of its members. I think it’s safe to assume that other board members must have disagreed with Bensinger’s perspective, otherwise this would have come out as an “official” NYT editorial and would have been published on a Sunday for added gravitas. So in the interest of fairness, there is no “NYT perspective” offered here, nor are they trying to tell people what to do. The piece appears on the op-ed page – where opinions are expressed – and is clearly labelled as to whose opinion it is.

    So let’s hope that Apple PR/Comms is drafting up a response right now disagreeing with Bensinger’s perspective in a respectful way, and pointing out factual errors where they appear. This should get a thoughtful but quick review and submitted as authored by Tim Cook or any of his able VPs. You can be sure the NYT will publish it. That’s what op-ed pages are for, right?

    The cynical may say: “But this will only generate even more clicks for that worthless fish wrap!”

    And alas that might be at least partially true. But it will better inform the public, at least those members that still read the NYT like I do. (Yes, I agree. Ever since Pogue left their coverage of Apple and all tech has gone downhill.)

    But I do remember a day not so long ago when we used to argue things out in a vigorous (but generally respectful) way on the editorial pages of our major newspapers – the public forums of a bygone era. And we all learned something. This community here on Apple 3.0 generally reminds me of that better era, before too many of us started yelling at each other and calling our fellow citizens stupid.

    3
    August 20, 2021

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