Civil rights groups worldwide ask Apple to drop CSAM plans

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More than 80 civil rights groups have sent an open letter to Apple, asking the company to abandon its child safety plans in Messages and Photos, fearing expansion of the technology by governments.

Following the German government's description of Apple's Child Sexual Abuse Material plans as surveillance, 85 organizations around the world have joined the protest. Groups including 28 US-based ones, have written to CEO Tim Cook.

"Though these capabilities are intended to protect children and to reduce the spread of child sexual abuse material (CSAM)," says the full letter, "we are concerned that they will be used to censor protected speech, threaten the privacy and security of people around the world, and have disastrous consequences for many children."

"Once this capability is built into Apple products, the company and its competitors will face enormous pressure — and potentially legal requirements — from governments around the world to scan photos not just for CSAM, but also for other images a government finds objectionable," it continues.

"Those images may be of human rights abuses, political protests, images companies have tagged as 'terrorist' or violent extremist content, or even unflattering images of the very politicians who will pressure the company to scan for them," says the letter.

"And that pressure could extend to all images stored on the device, not just those uploaded to iCloud. Thus, Apple will have laid the foundation for censorship, surveillance and persecution on a global basis."

Signatories on the letter have separately been promoting its criticisms, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The letter concludes by urging Apple to abandon the new features. It also urges "Apple to more regularly consult with civil society groups," in future.

Apple has not responded to the letter. However, Apple's Craig Federighi has previously said that the company's child protection message was "jumbled," and "misunderstood."