CARY – Tim Sweeney, the billionaire owner and CEO of Epic Games is blastin Apple’s newly announced neuralMatch feature that scans iPhones for images of child sex abuse, calling the code “government spyware installed by Apple on a presumption of guilt” in a series of Tweets.
It’s the latest criticism of Apple – a former business partner – by Epic’s CEO. His company sued Apple as well as Google last year over antitrust issues.
The authors of the article Sweeney cited – India McKinney and Erica Portnoy – said that Apple’s “choice will come at a high price for overall user privacy” They desribed the move as one that will open a backdoor.
I’ve tried hard to see this from Apple’s point of view. But inescapably, this is government spyware installed by Apple based on a presumption of guilt. Though Apple wrote the code, its function is to scan personal data and report it to government.https://t.co/OrkfOSjvS1
— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) August 7, 2021
In a following Tweet, Sweeney noted “this is entirely different from a content moderation system on a public forum or social medium. Before the operator choses to host the data publicly, they can scan it for whatever they don’t want to host. But this is peoples’ private data.”
Sweeney then argued that this private data was often forced to exist, due to Apple’s requirements to establish an iCloud account, noting in an additional Tweet “Apple’s dark patterns that turn iCloud uploads on by default, and flip it back on when moving to a new phone or switching accounts, exacerbate the problem. Further, in many contexts Apple has forced people to accumulate unwanted data, as with mandatory iCloud email accounts.”
He added: “Though Apple has since changed the signup flow, many were forced to take at-icloud-dot-com email accounts that can’t be deleted without losing everything ever purchased in the Apple ecosystem. That’s iCloud, so will presumably be monitored by police.”
Sweeney concluded the thread of Tweets, in which he warned of a move such as this one as a contributing factor to a future dystopia that may exist “if we tolerate the unchecked growth of private monopolies with unlimited surveillance power increasingly taking on governing roles, yet now unshackled from liberal democratic processes” then added that “Liberty is built on due process and limited government. The existential threat here is an unholy alliance between government the monopolies who control online discourse and everyone’s devices, using the guise of private corporations to circumvent constitutional protections.”
Sweeney took to Twitter earlier this month, as well, to argue that Apple’s fee structure on the App Store was a “tax” and is “far more pernicious.” Epic Games, which Sweeney co-founded, is embroiled in a lawsuit against Apple, filed last year, and in a similar lawsuit with Google.
Sweeney’s comments followed a Tweet from Tesla CEO Elon Musk where Musk weighed in on the case between Epic Games and Apple toward the end of July, noting “Epic is right.”