Apple’s dangerous path –

Hello friends and welcome again Week in review.

Last week, we explored some of the truly peculiar movements of the NFT market. This week, we’re talking about something that’s a little more influential on the current state of the web – Apple’s NeuralHash kerfuffle.

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big deal

Over the past month, Apple has done an extraordinary job of avoiding something it would normally do – the company did what was a completely unforced error.

In early August — seemingly out of nowhere** — the company announced that by the end of the year they would be rolling out a technology called NeuralHash, which actively scans the libraries of all iCloud Photos users, using image hashes. Searches for images that match known child sexual abuse material (CSAM). For obvious reasons, could not opt ​​out of on-device scanning.

The announcement was not coordinated with other major consumer tech giants, with Apple alone pushing the announcement.

Researchers and advocacy groups had an almost unilateral negative reaction to the effort, raising concerns that it could create new abuse channels for actors such as the government to locate information on devices they consider objectionable. As my colleague Zach noted in a recent story, “The Electronic Frontier Foundation said this week it received more than 25,000 signatures from consumers. On top of that, nearly 100 policy and rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union also called on Apple to abandon plans to roll out the technology.

(The announcement also reportedly generated some controversy inside Apple.)

The issue – of course – was not that Apple was looking at ways that prevented the spread of CSAM while making as few device security concessions as possible. The issue was that Apple was unilaterally making massive choices that would affect billions of customers (while pushing competitors toward similar solutions), and doing so without outside public input about the potential impact or necessary safeguards. Had been.

A long story short, last month researchers found that Apple’s NeuralHash wasn’t as airtight as expected, and the company announced Friday that it will take additional time to gather input and make improvements before releasing these in the coming months. There is a delay in the rollout for Critically important child safety features. “

Having spent many years in tech media, I would say that the only reason I would release the news on a Friday morning before a long weekend is to make sure the announcement is read and seen by as few people as possible, and it’s clear why they want so. This is a major embarrassment for Apple, and thus with any delayed rollout, it is a sign that their internal teams were not adequately prepared and equipped to measure the scope of the issue they were dealing with. There was a lack of ideological diversity. This isn’t really a dig at Apple’s team building, as it is a dig at Apple trying to solve this kind of problem inside the Apple Park Vacuum while following its annual iOS release schedule.

illustration of key on cloud icon

image credit: Bryce Durbin / /

Apple is looking to make privacy a major selling point for the iOS ecosystem, and as a result of this production, has pushed the development of privacy-focused features toward the same privacy that surface-level design changes command. In June, Apple announced iCloud+ and raised some eyebrows when they shared that some of the new privacy-focused features would be available only to iPhone users who paid for additional subscription services.

You obviously can’t harness public opinion for every product update, but perhaps the comprehensive and trail-blazing security and privacy features should be treated a little differently than the average product update. Apple’s lack of engagement with research and advocacy groups on NeuralHash was serious and certainly raises some questions about whether the company fully respects how the choices they made for iOS affect the wider Internet. We do.

Delaying the feature’s rollout is a good thing, but let’s all hope they take that time to reflect more broadly.

** Although the announcement came as a surprise to many, Apple’s development of this feature was completely out of nowhere. Those at the helm of Apple likely felt that the winds of global tech regulation are moving toward an outright ban of certain methods of encryption in some of its biggest markets.

Back in October of 2020, United States AG Bill Barr joined representatives from the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, India, and Japan in signing a letter stating that the implementation of encryption technology poses “significant challenges to public security”. including” major concerns. To the most vulnerable members of our society such as sexually abused children.” The letter effectively called on companies in the tech industry to be creative in how they tackle the problem.

other things

Here are the news that caught my eye exclusively this week:

LinkedIn kills stories
You might be shocked to hear that LinkedIn even had a product like Stories on their platform, but if you already knew they were testing Stories, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the testing didn’t go through either. Well. The company announced this week that they would be suspending the feature at the end of the month. tear out.

FAA answers questions about Branson’s flight to Virgin Galactic
While all appeared to float for Richard Branson’s spaceflight last month, the FAA has some questions about why the flight seemed so far off an unexpectedly clear path. The FAA is withholding the company from further launches until they know what the deal is.

Apple buys a classical music streaming service
While Spotify makes news for spending a sizable amount every month or two to get a popular podcast, Apple seems to be eyeing a different market for Apple Music, announcing this week that they The Apple Music team is bringing classical music streaming service Primephonic on. .

TikTok’s parent company buys VR startup
It’s no huge secret that ByteDance and Facebook have been trying to duplicate each other’s success at times, but many probably weren’t expecting TikTok’s parent company to stray into the virtual reality game. The Chinese company bought startup Pico which makes consumer VR headsets for China and enterprise VR products for North American customers.

Twitter tests anti-abuse ‘safety mode’
The same features that make Twitter an incredibly good product for some users can also make the experience terrible for others, the realization that Twitter has been too slow to build. Their latest solution is more personalized user control, which Twitter is testing with a new “security mode” that combines algorithmic intelligence with new user input.

extra things

Here are some of my favorite reads from our Extra Crunch subscription service this week:

Our Favorite Startups from YC’s Demo Day, Part 1
“Y Combinator kicked off its fourth virtual demo day today, revealing the first part of its nearly 400-company batch. The presentation, YC’s largest to date, provides a snapshot of where innovation is headed, from simple seashells to a Clearco for creators…. “

…part 2
“…Yesterday, the team covered the first part of this batch as well as startups with one-minute pitches that stood out to us. We even did a podcast about it! Today, we do it all again Here’s our full list of all the startups that went on record today, and below, you’ll find our votes for the second day’s best Y Combinator pitches. The ones that churned out a few hundred pitches a day. As people, we have to say ‘Oh wait, what is this?’

All the reasons to launch a credit card
“… if your company hasn’t found a way to launch a debit or credit card yet, we have good news: It’s easier than ever to do so and make real money. Just know that if If you do, you have a lot of competition and actual customer usage will probably depend on how sticky your service is and how valuable the rewards you offer to your most active users…”

Thanks for reading, and again, if you’re reading this on the site, you may get it in your inbox newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny

Lucas Matney

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