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    Available Expert - Queen’s expert speaks to Apple’s plans to scan US iPhones for child sexual abuse images

    Monday, August 9, 2021

    Queen’s expert Tommy Cooke (Surveillance Studies) is available to speak to Apple’s plans to scan photo libraries stored on iPhones in the US for known images of child sexual abuse. Dr. Cooke can speak to the potential ramifications this could have on privacy. 

    Apple’s tool, called neuralMatch, will scan images before they are uploaded to the company’s iCloud Photos online storage, comparing them against a database of known child abuse imagery. If a strong enough match is flagged, then Apple staff will be able to manually review the reported images, and, if child abuse is confirmed, the user’s account will be disabled and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) will be notified. 

    Apple has been under government pressure for years to allow for increased surveillance of encrypted data. 

    "Apple's move should pause us for a moment to ask: where are the digital boundaries of privacy? The answer is not so clear. Earlier this year, Apple announced a radical change in its privacy policy, allowing users to track and interrupt third-parties from collecting sensitive data. To Apple, our privacy thus reaches out 'into the wild,' effectively cutting companies off from our devices. And yet, Apple's latest announcement has the potential to do the opposite: it invites automated image detection processes into our devices themselves and compares measurements in our photos to composites in the cloud,” says Dr. Cooke. “This is an unprecedentedly invasive move that is fraught with potential oversights, misuses, assumptions, and errors that may dramatically redraw the boundaries of our privacy—reeling them right back into your iPhone's photo library, effectively punching a hole in them along the way."

    To arrange an interview, please contact Media Relations Officer Victoria Klassen (Victoria.klassen@queensu.ca) at Queen’s University News and Media Services Department in Kingston, Ont., Canada.   

    Follow Queen’s News and Media Services on Twitter: http://twitter.com/QueensuMedia.

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