Apple & big tech urged to fight online child sexual abuse with more vigor

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 2020
Attorney General William Barr has urged Apple and other tech giants to fight child sexual-abuse material circulation in a set of voluntary principles, but despite eliminating any mention of encryption, the general sentiment that tech companies should introduce backdoors is still present.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr speaking at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in February
U.S. Attorney General William Barr speaking at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in February


At a gathering alongside representatives from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom on Thursday, Attorney General Barr and the group announced the development of voluntary standards to prevent the distribution of child abuse imagery online.

The principles were created in consultation with industry representatives and will be promoted by the WePROTECT Global Alliance, which counts 97 governments and 25 technology companies including Apple in its membership.

The principles cover a number of areas already being covered by technology firms in various capacities. Giants like Apple, Facebook, and Google have all taken measures to identify abusive material, making it inaccessible, and the reporting of said material to authorities.

Furthermore, companies need to adopt measures to improve child safety online, as well as preventing the use of live-streaming services for abusive purposes. Collaboration between companies is also advised on the matter.

"For the first time, the Five Countries are collaborating with tech companies to protect children against online sexual exploitation," said Barr. "We hope the Voluntary Principles will spur collective action on the part of industry to stop one of the most horrendous crimes impacting some of the most vulnerable members of society."

The Technology Coalition, an organization that works to promote online child safety and to eradicate online child sexual exploitation, welcomed the principles as a demonstration that child exploitation "is a complex global issue." The voluntary principles "provide a vital contribution to focusing efforts on the most important areas of the threat," the group said in a statement, with it working to spread awareness and to "redouble our efforts" to combat the online abuse.

Apple is counted as a member of the Technology Coalition, which has been in existence since 2006. Other group members include Adobe, Dropbox, Facebook, Flickr, GoDaddy, Google, Microsoft, PayPal, Roblox, Snapchat, Twitter, Verizon Media, VSCO, Wattpad, and Yubo.

EARN IT and Encryption

While the announcement did not bring up encryption at all, calls for companies to do more to fight the circulation of abuse images would naturally infer the breaking of security. As it stands, other existing and related measures are already firmly entrenched in the debate as a whole.

The announcement ties in to a bipartisan bill titled the "Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act of 2019," or EARN IT. The draft bill intends to create a set of best practices for tech firms and websites to follow "regarding the prevention of online child exploitation."

The bill would require the creation of a National Commission on Online Child Exploitation Prevention if enacted, which would deal with making the best practices themselves relating to child sexual-abuse material detection and reporting, "and for other purposes." Failure to certify compliance with the best practices could remove immunity protections under Section 230 of the Communications Act, protecting service providers from being sued over content posted by a user, which could lead to criminal prosecutions or civil lawsuits.

It is thought that, in order to appease any request relating to the examining of content set out by the commission, it would effectively require the breaking of encryption. This would include end-to-end encryption, where service operators typically cannot see the contents of messages and files.

"Online child sexual-abuse material, as the bill labels it, is a heinous problem. It's understandable that the co-sponsors of this bill want to address it," said Free Press Action senior policy counsel Gaurav Laroia in a statement. "But the legislation's construct could upset the entire internet ecosystem to combat activities that are already clearly unlawful."

Encryption Debate Continues

Barr's comments are the latest in continued attempts by the US government and others around the world to force tech companies into providing access to encrypted data. The long-running encryption debate has the governments and law enforcement demanding access on the basis of needing to access potentially crucial evidence stored on electronic devices, but are protected by encryption.

The general request made of technology giants like Apple is to provide some sort of mechanism that can grant access to encrypted data, but only for authorized parties. For example, in February the head of the UK's MI5 Sir Andrew Parker said he wanted "exceptional access" to encrypted communications "where there is a legal warrant and a compelling case" to do so.

Arguments by tech companies and critics of the demands are resisting for a number of reasons, but it boils down to the idea that backdoors are not safe at all. By creating a backdoor, while it may only be meant for law enforcement, the same technology could plausibly be abused by bad actors, including hackers or spy agencies, and could even lead to mass surveillance of the population.

"The idea that we can break encryption and safely store a record of everything just for the putative good guys is technically unsound," Laroia asserts. "It's anathema to the privacy rights people must have against not just corporate actors and criminals, but against overly intrusive governments, too."

Apple has been a strong proponent of encryption, and has been at the center of many arguments about backdoors, such as during the FBI investigation into the Pensacola shooting. The FBI and Barr have requested Apple unlocks the iPhone at the center of the investigation, with Barr further asserting Apple didn't provide "substantive assistance," Apple rejected the calls and responded it had already provided a considerable amount of data to the investigation.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    seanismorrisseanismorris Posts: 1,624member
    How do you do this without reading every email, analyzing every word typed and image (or video) sent and received?  Tracked every destination browsed...

    The greatest resource is still the human resource.  How about better pay for teachers (with smaller class sizes) and training to recognize these things?

    Technology is great, but it isn't the answer to every problem.
    StrangeDaysOferrob53jony0
  • Reply 2 of 17
    crowleycrowley Posts: 7,446member
    How do you do this without reading every email, analyzing every word typed and image (or video) sent and received?  Tracked every destination browsed...

    The greatest resource is still the human resource.  How about better pay for teachers (with smaller class sizes) and training to recognize these things?

    Technology is great, but it isn't the answer to every problem.
    How about doing both?  Technology is an excellent answer to a lot of problems, especially when technology has been an enabler of those problems.  On the other hand, whataboutism is an excellent route to circular arguments and ultimately doing nothing.
    montrosemacs
  • Reply 3 of 17
    seanismorrisseanismorris Posts: 1,624member
    crowley said:
    How do you do this without reading every email, analyzing every word typed and image (or video) sent and received?  Tracked every destination browsed...

    The greatest resource is still the human resource.  How about better pay for teachers (with smaller class sizes) and training to recognize these things?

    Technology is great, but it isn't the answer to every problem.
    How about doing both?  Technology is an excellent answer to a lot of problems, especially when technology has been an enabler of those problems.  On the other hand, whataboutism is an excellent route to circular arguments and ultimately doing nothing.
    Because 1 of those 2 things are impossible in a free country?  Not to mention the only technological solution is backdoors into everything, and they’re impossible to secure...  

    How long do you think it would take before a politician used the backdoors to snoop on rivals?

    Supposedly there are “leakers” in the White House.  Want to bet the President would use the opportunity to snoop on all the journalists at the Washington Post (etc)?

     Are a “loyal” enough citizen?  Asking questions in that future might be problematic...


    mwhitemailmeoffersStrangeDaysrob53gilly33jeffharrisGeorgeBMacjony0FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 4 of 17
    EsquireCatsEsquireCats Posts: 1,106member
    crowley said:
    How do you do this without reading every email, analyzing every word typed and image (or video) sent and received?  Tracked every destination browsed...

    The greatest resource is still the human resource.  How about better pay for teachers (with smaller class sizes) and training to recognize these things?

    Technology is great, but it isn't the answer to every problem.
    How about doing both?  Technology is an excellent answer to a lot of problems, especially when technology has been an enabler of those problems.  On the other hand, whataboutism is an excellent route to circular arguments and ultimately doing nothing.
    I don't disagree that a multi-pronged approach is needed, but this is already happening.
    It's a stretch to suggest that technology is enabling a problem: it's merely yet another channel where an existing problem can occur.

    Hysterical platitudes about "the children" do not form an argument against privacy and encryption. Rather you should have deep concerns when a government official is relying on salience bias to enact legislative changes that affect a wide number of your freedoms.

    • Tech companies already scan for such child pornographic and related imagery in cloud photo libraries, this is done via hashing to maintain the individual's privacy.
    • This government has tried myriad ways to protest encryption as a road block, yet in reality they actually have *easier* investigative access in the digital era than offline in the past. We've also seen that the governments do not disclose every security vulnerability to tech vendors.
    • Pedophiles share imagery on the dark web, ordinary investigative process is the most effective means of uncovering this activity, removing iMessage encryption changes nothing there.
    • People conducting illegal activities do not use commercial chat software, they are aware of their conduct and use other solutions, including simply rolling their own encryption. Criminal networks are sufficiently sophisticated.
    • The perceived gain in investigative abilities is small in comparison to the massive loss of privacy and security. This is why political figures talk about "children" and "terrorism", they need to make the problem seem larger and more urgent to justify their unjustifiable demands.
    • Child sexual abuse: the majority occurs entirely offline by family members or close friends of the family. It is better detected by parents, teachers and nurses/doctors.
    • The online "grooming" of children already occurs on unencrypted chat software.
    It's also rich to go after encryption when we have sites like facebook which make it trivial to give out so much personal information by accident, the largest invader of childrens' privacy online are proud parents.

    edited March 2020 StrangeDaysOferrob53common sense 65jcs2305FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 5 of 17
    gilly33gilly33 Posts: 366member
    crowley said:
    How do you do this without reading every email, analyzing every word typed and image (or video) sent and received?  Tracked every destination browsed...

    The greatest resource is still the human resource.  How about better pay for teachers (with smaller class sizes) and training to recognize these things?

    Technology is great, but it isn't the answer to every problem.
    How about doing both?  Technology is an excellent answer to a lot of problems, especially when technology has been an enabler of those problems.  On the other hand, whataboutism is an excellent route to circular arguments and ultimately doing nothing.
    I don't disagree that a multi-pronged approach is needed, but this is already happening.
    It's a stretch to suggest that technology is enabling a problem: it's merely yet another channel where an existing problem can occur.

    Hysterical platitudes about "the children" do not form an argument against privacy and encryption. Rather you should have deep concerns when a government official is relying on salience bias to enact legislative changes that affect a wide number of your freedoms.

    • Tech companies already scan for such child pornographic and related imagery in cloud photo libraries, this is done via hashing to maintain the individual's privacy.
    • This government has tried myriad ways to protest encryption as a road block, yet in reality they actually have *easier* investigative access in the digital era than offline in the past. We've also seen that the governments do not disclose every security vulnerability to tech vendors.
    • Pedophiles share imagery on the dark web, ordinary investigative process is the most effective means of uncovering this activity, removing iMessage encryption changes nothing there.
    • People conducting illegal activities do not use commercial chat software, they are aware of their conduct and use other solutions, including simply rolling their own encryption. Criminal networks are sufficiently sophisticated.
    • The perceived gain in investigative abilities is small in comparison to the massive loss of privacy and security. This is why political figures talk about "children" and "terrorism", they need to make the problem seem larger and more urgent to justify their unjustifiable demands.
    • Child sexual abuse: the majority occurs entirely offline by family members or close friends of the family. It is better detected by parents, teachers and nurses/doctors.
    • The online "grooming" of children already occurs on unencrypted chat software.
    It's also rich to go after encryption when we have sites like facebook which make it trivial to give out so much personal information by accident, the largest invader of childrens' privacy online are proud parents.

    Well said. All sounds great from the AG et al but I don’t trust this guy and the Washington agenda. That’s it. You said it far better than I can. 
  • Reply 6 of 17
    Barr already made his choice to act as a personal attorney for the White House. He doesn't have any credibility for issues like this. People already know he has no interest in serving the public. 
    jeffharriseriamjhGeorgeBMacBeatsthtjony0FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 7 of 17
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 8,996member
    This has now become standard procedure for the right as they pursue their agendas:  "If you can't get what you want legally going through the front door, try the back door."

    A similar situation is being heard by the Supreme Court now:   They are trying to shut down abortion clinics with claims of being concerned about women's safety by demanding that their physicians jump through hoops -- like getting admitting privileges to hospitals they don't use.

    Back door approaches to bypass the Constitution, laws and democracy.
    jony0
  • Reply 8 of 17
    Barr is a criminal working for his sexual predator boss. 

    He can take a flying leap, no matter what the subject.
    GeorgeBMacthtjony0
  • Reply 9 of 17
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,812member
    crowley said:
    How do you do this without reading every email, analyzing every word typed and image (or video) sent and received?  Tracked every destination browsed...

    The greatest resource is still the human resource.  How about better pay for teachers (with smaller class sizes) and training to recognize these things?

    Technology is great, but it isn't the answer to every problem.
    How about doing both?  Technology is an excellent answer to a lot of problems, especially when technology has been an enabler of those problems.  On the other hand, whataboutism is an excellent route to circular arguments and ultimately doing nothing.
    Because 1 of those 2 things are impossible in a free country?  Not to mention the only technological solution is backdoors into everything, and they’re impossible to secure...  

    How long do you think it would take before a politician used the backdoors to snoop on rivals?

    Supposedly there are “leakers” in the White House.  Want to bet the President would use the opportunity to snoop on all the journalists at the Washington Post (etc)?

     Are a “loyal” enough citizen?  Asking questions in that future might be problematic...


    Apple already scans for child porn in emails and uploaded cloud data and reports any instances to law enforcement. So does Google. Some of this is not a huge leap.

    Breaking messaging encryption might be a much bigger deal (there's indications other countries have devised a way of accessing those encrypted messages, ie China almost certainly and perhaps Russia) and even if not becomes a bit of a slippery slope. Where do you stop? I would suggest before this becomes law. 
    edited March 2020 jony0
  • Reply 10 of 17
    BeatsBeats Posts: 1,920member
    crowley said:
    How do you do this without reading every email, analyzing every word typed and image (or video) sent and received?  Tracked every destination browsed...

    The greatest resource is still the human resource.  How about better pay for teachers (with smaller class sizes) and training to recognize these things?

    Technology is great, but it isn't the answer to every problem.
    How about doing both?  Technology is an excellent answer to a lot of problems, especially when technology has been an enabler of those problems.  On the other hand, whataboutism is an excellent route to circular arguments and ultimately doing nothing.

    This isn't Apples problem. Apple doesn't work for the government or their agendas.

    This goes for every industry. Budweiser's job isn't preventing people from driving drunk, Microsofts job isn't to track down hackers and turn them in, Weiser Locks job isn't to arrest thieves who break into your home, etc.
  • Reply 11 of 17
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 8,996member
    gatorguy said:
    crowley said:
    How do you do this without reading every email, analyzing every word typed and image (or video) sent and received?  Tracked every destination browsed...

    The greatest resource is still the human resource.  How about better pay for teachers (with smaller class sizes) and training to recognize these things?

    Technology is great, but it isn't the answer to every problem.
    How about doing both?  Technology is an excellent answer to a lot of problems, especially when technology has been an enabler of those problems.  On the other hand, whataboutism is an excellent route to circular arguments and ultimately doing nothing.
    Because 1 of those 2 things are impossible in a free country?  Not to mention the only technological solution is backdoors into everything, and they’re impossible to secure...  

    How long do you think it would take before a politician used the backdoors to snoop on rivals?

    Supposedly there are “leakers” in the White House.  Want to bet the President would use the opportunity to snoop on all the journalists at the Washington Post (etc)?

     Are a “loyal” enough citizen?  Asking questions in that future might be problematic...


    Apple already scans for child porn in emails and uploaded cloud data and reports any instances to law enforcement. So does Google. Some of this is not a huge leap.

    Breaking messaging encryption might be a much bigger deal (there's indications other countries have devised a way of accessing those encrypted messages, ie China almost certainly and perhaps Russia) and even if not becomes a bit of a slippery slope. Where do you stop? I would suggest before this becomes law. 

    Reports are that the law to "protect children" is simply a cover for breaking encryption..

    BTW,  the country most involved and evolved in spying on people is neither China nor Russia.
  • Reply 12 of 17
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 8,996member
    This has now become standard procedure for the right as they pursue their agendas:  "If you can't get what you want legally going through the front door, try the back door."

    A similar situation is being heard by the Supreme Court now:   They are trying to shut down abortion clinics with claims of being concerned about women's safety by demanding that their physicians jump through hoops -- like getting admitting privileges to hospitals they don't use.

    Back door approaches to bypass the Constitution, laws and democracy.
    Take your blinders off. The request for back doors started with the previous administration who ran various witch hunts against their political enemies. The ability to spin things for political gain is a tool of ALL political parties, not just the one you disagree with.

    LOL... Only if you believe Trump's shill Bill Barr and the rest of the right wing propaganda machine.

    But, I do get a kick out of Republicans when the get busted.   They always come with the same first grade level excuse of:  "They ALL do it!"   
    FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 13 of 17
    crowleycrowley Posts: 7,446member
    Beats said:
    crowley said:
    How do you do this without reading every email, analyzing every word typed and image (or video) sent and received?  Tracked every destination browsed...

    The greatest resource is still the human resource.  How about better pay for teachers (with smaller class sizes) and training to recognize these things?

    Technology is great, but it isn't the answer to every problem.
    How about doing both?  Technology is an excellent answer to a lot of problems, especially when technology has been an enabler of those problems.  On the other hand, whataboutism is an excellent route to circular arguments and ultimately doing nothing.

    This isn't Apples problem. Apple doesn't work for the government or their agendas.

    This goes for every industry. Budweiser's job isn't preventing people from driving drunk, Microsofts job isn't to track down hackers and turn them in, Weiser Locks job isn't to arrest thieves who break into your home, etc.
    Give me a break.  Apple operates in a society where child sexual abuse is a crime, and facilitating that crime is monstrous.  Budweiser and other drinks companies do face pressure to put money into drink aware and drive safe campaigns.  Microsoft do work track down hackers and tackle cybercrime.  I don't know who Weiser Locks are, but I daresay they have a relationship with law enforcement.
  • Reply 14 of 17
    crowleycrowley Posts: 7,446member

    gatorguy said:
    crowley said:
    How do you do this without reading every email, analyzing every word typed and image (or video) sent and received?  Tracked every destination browsed...

    The greatest resource is still the human resource.  How about better pay for teachers (with smaller class sizes) and training to recognize these things?

    Technology is great, but it isn't the answer to every problem.
    How about doing both?  Technology is an excellent answer to a lot of problems, especially when technology has been an enabler of those problems.  On the other hand, whataboutism is an excellent route to circular arguments and ultimately doing nothing.
    Because 1 of those 2 things are impossible in a free country?  Not to mention the only technological solution is backdoors into everything, and they’re impossible to secure...  

    How long do you think it would take before a politician used the backdoors to snoop on rivals?

    Supposedly there are “leakers” in the White House.  Want to bet the President would use the opportunity to snoop on all the journalists at the Washington Post (etc)?

     Are a “loyal” enough citizen?  Asking questions in that future might be problematic...


    Apple already scans for child porn in emails and uploaded cloud data and reports any instances to law enforcement. So does Google. Some of this is not a huge leap.

    Breaking messaging encryption might be a much bigger deal (there's indications other countries have devised a way of accessing those encrypted messages, ie China almost certainly and perhaps Russia) and even if not becomes a bit of a slippery slope. Where do you stop? I would suggest before this becomes law. 
    Apple have proven quite effective at moving machine learning on-device.  There's no apparent reason why Apple couldn't proactively use automation to scan images received on a device at the OS level, irrespective of encryption, and raise red flags in a database that is anonymised unless wrongdoing is identified and escalated.
  • Reply 15 of 17
    crowleycrowley Posts: 7,446member


    • Tech companies already scan for such child pornographic and related imagery in cloud photo libraries, this is done via hashing to maintain the individual's privacy.
    • but not in messaging, which is the subject being discussed
    • This government has tried myriad ways to protest encryption as a road block, yet in reality they actually have *easier* investigative access in the digital era than offline in the past. We've also seen that the governments do not disclose every security vulnerability to tech vendors.
    • when have consumers had readily available access to encrpted communications on a global scale before?  Your "easier" is nonsense.
    • Pedophiles share imagery on the dark web, ordinary investigative process is the most effective means of uncovering this activity, removing iMessage encryption changes nothing there.
    • Some do, many don't.  You don't stop prosecuting easy to find crimes because there are hard to find crimes out there.
    • People conducting illegal activities do not use commercial chat software, they are aware of their conduct and use other solutions, including simply rolling their own encryption. Criminal networks are sufficiently sophisticated.
    • Some are, many aren't.  https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-50404812
    • The perceived gain in investigative abilities is small in comparison to the massive loss of privacy and security. This is why political figures talk about "children" and "terrorism", they need to make the problem seem larger and more urgent to justify their unjustifiable demands.
    • The scale of child abuse imagery is immense.  Millions of cases.  Your diminuations will need a lot more proof of harm of privacy when compared with the harm already being facilitated.
    • Child sexual abuse: the majority occurs entirely offline by family members or close friends of the family. It is better detected by parents, teachers and nurses/doctors.
    • A thing that is notably hard to spot, is better spotted by those who are frequently under many different pressures already, and lack any expertise, resources or training in what they should be spotting.  Nice idea, I look forward to it never happening.
    • The online "grooming" of children already occurs on unencrypted chat software.
    • Glad you recognise it, since it prooves several of your earlier points to be moot, or actively wrong.  But again, one solution does not fit all, the problem is multi-layered, and the solution will need to be as well. 
    It's also rich to go after encryption when we have sites like facebook which make it trivial to give out so much personal information by accident, the largest invader of childrens' privacy online are proud parents.
    Hardly comparable, and very insulting to compare proud parents sharing baby photographs with child abusers.


  • Reply 16 of 17
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 8,996member
    This is only peripherally related to the story -- but it is, I think, relevant:
    The backdrop of this story is the justice department using child abuse as a cover to enable them to bypass privacy protections.

    And,  NBC News published this story about the ramifications of bypassing those Constitutionally mandated protections:
    In this story, police attempted to use an exercise app on a user's Android phone to link him to a crime -- simply because the app showed him passing near the site of a crime scene.  Essentially they scooped up mass amounts of location information from probably hundreds of smart phones in order to finger the criminal in a crime that had happened almost a year earlier.   This is the stuff of BigBrother watching your every move:

    Google tracked his bike ride past a burglarized home. That made him a suspect.




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