back to article Internet's deep-level architects slam US, UK, Europe for pushing device-side scanning

The Internet Architecture Board (IAB) has warned that policy proposals requiring or enabling the automated scouring of people's devices for illegal material – as floated by the European Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States – threaten the open internet. Apple brought widespread attention to this so-called client- …

  1. Dagg Silver badge
    Big Brother

    So This is considered "Safe"

    The major issue with all this shit is that what is added to allow a your government access can allow another government access or another 3rd party entity such as one of the various criminal groups.

    1. stiine Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: So This is considered "Safe"

      "...such as one of the various criminal groups."

      You're a fucking optimist if you think its only going to be 'one' of the various criminal groups.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: So This is considered "Safe"

        Imagine what kind of money people who are going to handle this are going to be paid.

        Then the fact that corruption is very much legal.

        I'd say any "saucy" personal and commercial data will be available for sale.

    2. Snake Silver badge

      Re: the major issue

      I'm sorry, but for me that's not the major issue - certainly huge, but not the greatest.

      The greatest: The Slippery Slope. Exactly what do they declare as "CSAM" material and how is this judged? Does an algorithm that declares your personal, adult grumble pic a CSAM also decide, after cloud-blacklisted you, to call the rozzer to your front door? And how exactly does one contest this, if even possible, before your personal, business and reputational life is ruined??

      And then what is to stop the modern-typical neo-fascist in expanding the powers of the algorithm? "Think of the children!"...and then make *all* LGBTQ content declared CSAM? The religious zealots are trying for that right now, IRL, with some places even banning just a simple "Pride" flag. Imagine: a Pride flag in the background of a child's photograph is reason enough to have you arrested.

      No. Just Fucking NO. Absolutely NOT. It's not just the security issue it's the same question we've been raising since the entire fundamentalist / conservative movement restarted back in the 1980's: exactly WHO'S "family values" are we fighting for. "Think of the children!" and "Family values!", while they throw their gay children out on the street and ostracize their own sisters & brothers for simply not even being inside the same church. Open the door, even a crack, to this possibility and for SURE someone is going to push that door open in the future once they are in the personal position to do so.

      1. Catkin Silver badge

        Re: the major issue

        Worse, there's no objective way to know exactly what is being scanned for. They might promise you that it's only things you shouldn't personally worry about but, unless you can generate a match, it's not possible to independently verify the contents of the hash list. It could be a photo, picking a completely hypothetical and random example, of a politician enjoying a party when they're not supposed to be. Then, by looking at the creation date, the photo could be tracked back to whoever leaked it to the press.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: the major issue

          Worse, there's no objective way to know exactly what is being scanned for. They might promise you that it's only things you shouldn't personally worry about but, unless you can generate a match, it's not possible to independently verify the contents of the hash list.

          There kind of is, ie as you say, it's likely to be a hash. So for CP, the idea has been to hash known images, which can then be searched for on everyone's devices. If hashs match, you're busted because possession of CP is a strict liability offence.

          Of course what it won't really do is help prevent child abuse because abusers can upload new images that won't have a hash value created until they've been found somewhere and can be added to the database. That may be quick, so a seizure based on know images uncovers previously unknown ones as well, but it'll still take a fair bit off investigation to determine who the initial uploader or creator was, and this locate the kids.

          What it might help to do is scan people's devices for copies of either the Conservative or Labour election manifestos, and flag those as dangerous subversives.

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: the major issue

            Hashes are, of course, lossy; by the Pigeonhole Principle, there must be colliding inputs if the domain is larger than the range. And the hash system primarily (universally?) used today for CSAM identification, Farid's PhotoDNA, is deliberately highly lossy, since it tries to be robust against some types of image manipulation.

            As the database of forbidden values grows, and as the number of scanned images grows, we'll start to see real false positives. And that will be a Very Bad Thing, because law enforcement and NGOs like the NCMEC are trigger-happy.

            Already we've seen cases where images that are innocuous have been added to the database (e.g. because they're innocuous stills taken from toxic videos) have been identified as CSAM, with the people who posted them suffering adverse consequences. That makes it possible for trolls to socially-engineer someone into reposting such a shibboleth and then "outing" them to the authorities — image-swatting, in effect. And it's possible because the people who compile those databases are not careful.

            Client-side scanning is a terrible, terrible idea, promoted by surveillance goons and single-issue axe-grinders. It doesn't help that we have celebrity nitwits like Ashton Kutcher jetting around and talking to ignorant politicians, either.

      2. hoola Silver badge

        Re: the major issue

        Particularly as religion or religious beliefs of, leaders, politicians or parties now appears to become an issue as part of election campaigns or policy making.

        There are already areas where this is starting to surface, laws are being made that are have a life changing impact on people because well funded and highly vocal figures are in positions that can influence leaders, or worse are those actual leaders.

  2. IGotOut Silver badge

    Think rather than single out...

    USA, EU and UK.

    It would've been more beneficial to list countries NOT wanting this....Not many I should think.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Think rather than single out...

      I would say that countries don't want this, but corrupt politicians? Hell yeah.

  3. Winkypop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    It’s an argument for Orwell’s “Telescreen”

    Everyone will have one, everyone will be monitored because of the <1% of miscreants who (insert relevant cause here).

    Regards, Government.

    1. CountCadaver Silver badge

      Re: It’s an argument for Orwell’s “Telescreen”

      They already likely have various tricks, wouldn't surprise me if the surveillance agencies could listen in on your house even when the phone is hung up.

      I wouldn't put it past them to have at least tried....

      Ditto cellphones, variant on Pegasus?

      Then smart TVs which doesn't even need manufacturer buy in for govt misuse (snowden files)

      It seems wherever Russia leads the politicians sprint to follow.....

      Fuck me we are ALL doomed

      One world govt, except it will be less united federation of planets and more 1984, V for Vendetta or starship troopers type dystopia....

      1. cyberdemon Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: It’s an argument for Orwell’s “Telescreen”

        > They already likely have various tricks, wouldn't surprise me if the surveillance agencies could listen in on your house even when the phone is hung up.

        Alexa, Are you spying on me?

        No, Dave. I'm in the middle of downloading a firmware update from someone in possession of a valid signing key..

      2. trindflo Bronze badge
        Unhappy

        various tricks

        "listen in on your house even when the phone is hung up"

        Check. Did you think your window shades are giving you privacy?

        "wherever Russia leads"

        What I came to say. Is Putin on-board? Of course he is. Could that possibly bode well?

        "One world govt"

        Don't see how that is going to happen. The EU isn't united. The US isn't united. I only recall one dictator willing to abrogate their power.

        1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Re: various tricks

          Don't see how that is going to happen. The EU isn't united. The US isn't united. I only recall one dictator willing to abrogate their power.

          Nonsense. The operation to get people jabbed and make billions showed they can unite easily if the gravy train is luxurious enough.

          Not even one arrest over deleted messages.

        2. DeathSquid

          Re: various tricks

          Cincinnatus?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It’s an argument for Orwell’s “Telescreen”

        "wouldn't surprise me if the surveillance agencies could listen in on your house even when the phone is hung up"

        They can, this tech has existed for a while. You point a laser (doesn't have to be in the human visible spectrum) at a pane of glass (or some other surface capable of resonance) and record the vibrations...similarly, it can work off reflective surfaces albeit far less reliably.

        This is one of (many) reasons why secure installations have strict guidelines on placement of reflective surfaces and / or the presence of window or panes of glass in given areas.

        Old as the hills and cheap as chips...I've tested such devices before...they work pretty badly in public places though. Just sayin.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Genossen, wir müssen alles wissen!

    Erich Mielke, Ministerium für Staatsicherheit, DDR,

    1. HuBo
      Go

      Re: Genossen, wir müssen alles wissen!

      Stasi unfortunately unavailable -- Must contract Huawei!

      1. Yes Me Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Genossen, wir müssen alles wissen!

        No need to go to China, your Cisco supplier can help you.

  5. ChoHag Silver badge

    > The feds ... sold more than 12,000 ANOM encrypted devices to at least 300 criminal syndicates operating in more than 100 countries. The FBI subsequently used its backdoored network to conduct mass arrests in 2021.

    If there was ever evidence that pervasive scanning is unneccessary this is it.

    You don't need to secretly spy on people when you can simply ask them to spy on themselves.

  6. Sam not the Viking Silver badge

    Politicians won't be able to restrain themselves

    Of course politicians want to be able to cripple their opposition. And they want to be the government in power when the technology becomes available otherwise it will get used against them.

    Law enforcement want to sit and watch cases come to them rather than get out and prevent crime.

    1. HuBo
      Trollface

      Re: Politicians won't be able to restrain themselves

      Nixon, Watergate, Deep Throat?

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Politicians won't be able to restrain themselves

      Of course politicians want to be able to cripple their opposition. And they want to be the government in power when the technology becomes available otherwise it will get used against them.

      Nope. Our useless shower of shite, ie MPs granted themselves exemptions from most intrusive surveillance. This is because they're special, and not at all because they're the ones mostly likely to cause the country damage by being corrupt.

      So I think we should demand a 'You First Act'. Sure, they can do this, providing for a trial period lasting no longer than the length of parliament or 5 years, all their personal devices are scanned, and the results published online for the electorate to browse at our leisure.

      It's both troubling and depressing that the authoritarian fascists who've infested the EU, UK and US even think that this is close to a good idea. As is often said, 1984 was not an instruction manual, it was a warning.

      ps.. I've always wondered why MS's 'search' process used so much time and resources. Maybe that's just the unannounced beta version of this scheme.

      1. CountCadaver Silver badge

        Re: Politicians won't be able to restrain themselves

        Seems various politicians were ROOTING for norsefire when they read v for Vendetta....

  7. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
    Facepalm

    What politicians think they're doing: making the world safe from predators and doing it in such a way that hackers can't gain access.

    What politicians are actually doing: giving hackers a Christmas present.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge
      Big Brother

      > making the world safe from predators

      That's the excuse. What they really want is to be able to keep tabs on the Great Unwashed, just in case.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Exactly.

  8. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Pot ... kettle

    How terrible are the autocratic states that surveille and censor their citizens to clamp down on material the State dissaproves of!

    And, by the way, it is ok for us to mandate surveillance and censorship of our own citizens because we're a nice state not a nasty one and we'll only look for material the state disapproves of ...

    1984 here we go ...

  9. Long John Silver
    Pirate

    Workarounds?

    The envisaged device-side scanning wholly depends, I assume, on software installed on devices rather than hardware modification during a device's manufacture. If so, this could be facilitated by commonly used operating systems like those provided by Apple, Google, and Microsoft.

    I have yet to see discussion of software-based potential workarounds.

    1. a pressbutton

      Re: Workarounds?

      1

      Get a dumb phone

      2

      Stop using the Internet

      Admittedly not software based. My dad was ill a couple of months ago.

      Took mum shopping. She didn't understand contactless payments. Dad used to drive her to a bank and she would write a cheque for cash.

      In some ways the quality of life will be improved

      1. Dagg Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Workarounds?

        I still use cash. It has one major advantage, when I'm at the pub and run out of it means I've spent the budget and it is time to go home.

    2. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

      Re: Workarounds?

      And, in the way that in many places, VPNs are illegal, the workarounds will also be illegal.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Workarounds?

        If it is based on software, there will always be a workaround !!!

        It is just a matter of time .... as usual.

        Whether it is deemed legal or not will not be an issue, unless everyone is checked every hour of everyday for changes.

        Already I can have a 'rooted' phone, which can hide itself from checks in certain software.

        The same will happen with device-side scanning.

        It may initially work but someone will 'break it' and work around it !!!

        Hardware based will be harder but will require *all* the manufacturers to be forced to implement the 'chosen hardware' in their phones.

        Also what do you do about all the 'Old' Phones that are in use !!!

        In a nutshell, it is the old pipe dream reanimated for a new generation .... been there .... bought the Tee-shirt .... now using it to polish my shoes !!!

        :)

    3. stiine Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Workarounds?

      What you've overlooked is that it will likely be written into the baseband code and therefore it will be impossible to have a device that can both connect to the telco networks and also be secure*.

      * - for any given definition of secure.

    4. JoeCool Silver badge

      Re: Workarounds?

      "The ... scanning wholly depends, I assume, on software ... rather than hardware modification"

      Trusted Compute Module ?

      Printer Machine Identification Code ?

  10. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I want the proponents of these ideas to answer two questions:

    1. Where's your peer-reviewed prrof of concept that shows it can be done effectively and safely?

    2. Can you produce a convincing argument that this is consistent with the presumption of innocence, a legal principle that has kept us safe for centuries?

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge
      Big Brother

      I want the proponents of these ideas to answer two questions:

      1. Where's your peer-reviewed proof of concept that shows it can be done effectively and safely?

      We are the government, we know this is what is needed and will work. We do not need experts.

      2. Can you produce a convincing argument that this is consistent with the presumption of innocence, a legal principle that has kept us safe for centuries?

      We are the government, we would never do anything to harm our legal principles.

      Also: We are the government, we decide which answers are satisfactory, not you oiks and troublemakers.

      1. CountCadaver Silver badge

        Or 1) we have searched far and wide to find "experts" who say what we want to hear , despite them being objects of ridicule for the rest of the world as they talk utter shite

        2) habeas corpus is too "woke" for their tastes, cue some false flag operation to justify near permanent martial law and when they decide to lift it (if they do) then anyone who even hints at it is a terrorist using coded speech and will be "dealt" with

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Scan This.....And Let Me See Some Plain Text........

      @Doctor_Syntax

      Quote: "....can be done effectively and safely...."

      .....or even done at all!! For example:

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      ====

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: Scan This.....And Let Me See Some Plain Text........

        Not you again....

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Scan This.....And Let Me See Some Plain Text........

          Yes, he's not one of our entertaining kooks, is he? Just tiresome.

  11. PenfoldUK

    There are a number of human rights concerns with client-side scanning.

    Firstly once the software and hardware infrastucture is in place, there is little to stop it being used for other purposes.

    Even with the stated aim of detecting child pornography, given how "advanced" auto scanning is I can see many people being incorrectly flagged. And with things like child pornography, even a totally false allegation can trash someone's reputation.

    Finally, I have sincere doubts it's effective anyway. The paedophiles will just use obfuscation products to hide the photos and videos.

    1. CountCadaver Silver badge

      The Tories already have a loud number who want to scrap ALL human rights law as it's "Wet" and "woke" "nonsense", essentially they want to build a dictatorship without any restraints on them

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        and the idiot brexit voters are all for it because they think it will stop boats.

  12. Sparkus

    Nameless, faceless agencies are nothing

    without the people who staff them and actually invent and implement "policy".

    Time to start doxx-ing the people who come up with this stuff.

  13. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Well, I guess ...

    <p> ... I'm busted.

  14. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    Not my main issue

    "At issue, primarily, is the loss of privacy from the identification process – how will that work with strong encryption, and do the files need to be shared with an outside service? Then there's the reporting process – how accurate is it, is there any human intervention, and what happens if your gadget wrongly fingers you to the cops?"

    All valid, but my main issue is the fact that someone deems it necessary to rifle through my belongings without cause, evidence, suspicion, or a warrant, "just in case I may have something dodgy"

    How is this different from regular warrant-less searches at our houses, through our physical property?

    1. Stork Silver badge

      Re: Not my main issue

      You have curtains! Very suspicious.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not You Again?

      @Jamie_Jones

      .....not you again?

      You must be someone from the Cheltenham area.........explains everything!!!!

  15. Reginald O.

    It's not about the children at all is it?

    It's about the police wanting the ability to effortlessly conduct warrantless searches of all electronics without a reason at all except for "just 'cause":

    "Just 'cause we feel like it". The police lobby is more powerful than the people lobby so you already know how this story will end. Likely the deed will be done in midnight sessions behind closed doors.

    Ain't democracy grand?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's not about the children at all is it?

      it's never been about children. But because most voters (who come handy every 4 years or so) do CARE about children, the 'think of the children' is great, because they approve. And even if they do not approve, they HOPE 'the government has good intentions'. and if they don't approve and don't hope, they will NOT oppose it openly, because this would make them side with child molesters, so...

  16. ecofeco Silver badge

    They want to what?

    LOL! I don't think they understand how PCs and the Internet work.

  17. johnrobyclayton

    Poisonous Hashes

    Looking at the comments and seeing the mention of hashes and how they can be used to identify content without having the content itself.

    Reminds me of AI used for image generation and how source material can be modified to poison the models so that they generate or recognise in random unexpected ways with images that do not appear to me modified to human eyes.

    Got me thinking that it should not be hard to get a list of hashes of content being scanned for and then modifying innocent images to evaluate to the same hashes or modify guilty images to have hashes that match common publicly available images.

    Makes me think that any form of recognisng content without requiring having the content being compared to is going to be generally spoofable in this way.

    Just another way in which sticky beaking in the hopes of preventing whatever naughtiness you might be interested in is a losing proposition.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Poisonous Hashes

      it should not be hard to get a list of hashes

      This is indeed a big problem, for the spooks, with client-side scanning. PhotoDNA with a standard (-ish) set of hashes, compiled from material supplied by the NCMEC and others, has been used for years by the VLOPs to scan images (including video frames) server-side. This has succeeded to some extent partly because the hash database isn't widely available. But put that database on endpoint devices and it'll be leaked pretty damn quickly, however you try to protect it, because endpoint devices are under user control.

      Of course, there will still be many people passing around old images that will have matching hashes in the database, just as those people now aren't trying tricks like cropping and recolorizing to try to bypass the hash. (PhotoDNA is somewhat resistant to that sort of manipulation, but only to a point.) Many criminals are stupid and lazy.

      But once the hashes leak, it won't be long before people start generating altered images that don't match the database. And with GAI, that's easier than ever.

      At some point, the suppliers of CSAM will realize that it's cheaper to just keep generating new content from whole cloth with GAI rather than actually abusing real children, and there will just be a steady stream of new, non-matching images. It's hard to outright call that "better", or even "less awful", than the current situation, though it means less abuse of actual human beings,1 which is certainly a utilitarian advantage. But it does mean that this sort of scanning will gradually become less and less useful for its ostensible purpose.

      1At least in theory. I don't know that I'd want to bet on it. The economics seem complex and frankly I don't want to think about it any further.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Poisonous Hashes

        I expect part of the motivation is share with "peers" and get approval for something awful they have really done.

  18. The Central Scrutinizer

    There's this, here in Australia.

    God help us all and save us from these dickheads.

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/dec/15/proton-mail-founder-vows-to-fight-australias-esafety-regulator-in-court-rather-than-spy-on-users

  19. The Central Scrutinizer

    Also, what if you use a laptop or desktop PC?

    Good luck getting people to install your crapware.

    1. General Turdgeson

      Microsoft will simply make them part of their next "security update"...

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