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Friday, August 6, 2021

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Apple iOS: World Police

In my 2003 essay “The Digital Imprimatur”, I forecast that “Protecting the Children” would be the initial wedge used to subvert privacy and free speech on the Internet, warning that “Whenever a politician starts talking about ‘the children,’ keep one eye on your wallet and the other on your liberty.”

Well, here we go again, with something far more pernicious: snooping on files stored on a personal device to which people entrust vast quantities of intensely personal information. Once the infrastructure is in place and state media have silenced the whacko-birds denouncing this infringement of liberty, they'll move on to other items on the check list I enumerated in “The Digital Imprimatur”: hate speech and the “unholy trinity” of terrorists, drug dealers, and money launderers. Then the turn will come for “spreaders of misinformation”, “vaccine and climate change deniers”, “conspiracy theorists”, and other instances of wrongthink and circulation of “hate facts”. This is the holy grail of which oppressive snooper states have dreamed for decades: you can be assured that aspiring commissars in China, Russia, the United States, the European Union, and every crap-hole despotism bent on protecting Fearless Leader from dissent and mockery are already drawing their plans on how best to exploit this capability.

Note one absolutely crucial point in this. They aren't just scanning files posted on a public server or even (hideously pernicious enough) those in an individual user's private “cloud” archive. This scanning of content is done on the client (i.e. individual privately-owned mobile device) side, and without the user's knowledge or ability to disable it. This means that the very same technology, once deployed, will have the ability to see content sent and received even by messaging applications with end-to-end encryption, since they are running at a level in which the content appears in the clear on the sending and/or destination device.

In a sane world, this should be the coffin nail in Apple's already shrinking share of the mobile device market. But ours is not a sane world. Watch for coercive governments to mandate equivalent technology in all mobile operating systems and prohibit open source “ghost phones” which permit their “owners” to disable it.

Posted at August 6, 2021 13:15