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What's Up With Apple: Criticism From Inside and Out, and More

A team of 14 researchers from Cambridge University on Friday posted a new paper arguing that Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) proposed scanning of photographs to detect child sexual abuse material (CSAM), “neither guarantees efficacious crime prevention nor prevents surveillance.”

When Apple introduced the idea in early August and said it would be available in iOS 15, the uproar from privacy advocates was loud enough to persuade the company to withhold the new feature and “take additional time over the coming months to collect input and make improvements before releasing these critically important child safety features.”

Apple’s proposed technology is known generically as client-side scanning (CSS). That means that an iPhone would have come with a bit of software that would allow Apple to scan photos (and, presumably, other content) and prevent those from being uploaded to iCloud. According to the new report from Cambridge, “Bugs in Our Pockets: The Risks of Client-Side Scanning“:

CSS by its nature creates serious security and privacy risks for all society while the assistance it can provide for law enforcement is at best problematic. There are multiple ways in which client-side scanning can fail, can be evaded, and can be abused.

Plainly put, it is a dangerous technology. Even if deployed initially to scan for child sex-abuse material, content that is clearly illegal, there would be enormous pressure to expand its scope. We would then be hard-pressed to find any way to resist its expansion or to control abuse of the system.

The introduction of scanning on our personal devices—devices that keep information from to-do notes to texts and photos from loved ones—tears at the heart of privacy of individual citizens. Such bulk surveillance can result in a significant chilling effect on freedom of speech and, indeed, on democracy itself.

Another Apple employee has criticized the company’s treatment of women and other underrepresented groups. Cher Scarlett, a software engineer, told the Washington Post, “Apple does not care about its employees. It cares about money. Maybe that’s capitalism, and that’s just the way corporations are. But I can’t live my life further accepting it and not saying something about it.”

In August, Ashley Gjøvik, a senior engineering program manager at Apple, made similar complaints about the company. She had been on paid administrative leave since July after filing complaints alleging sexism, a hostile work environment, sexual harassment, unsafe working conditions and retaliation at the company. She was fired in early September.

Briefly noted:

According to the latest report from Counterpoint Research, Apple captured 40% of the revenue and 75% of the operating profit in the cellphone handset market in the second quarter of this year. Apple’s share of shipments was 13%.

CNBC reported Thursday that Apple’s market cap has dropped by $229 billion since setting a new all-time high in September. Including Apple, there are just 55 U.S.-traded companies with market caps higher than $229 billion.

Apple has hired a new leader to turn the company’s HomePod smart speaker into a hit. Afrooz Family worked at Apple from 2012 to 2016 and left to co-found his own company.