Buting ,Williams & Stilling ,S.C. | A Criminal Defense Law Firm

Call Today for a FREE Consultation


Apple announces plan to scan your iPhone for child pornography

by | Aug 9, 2021 | Sex Crimes

It’s tempting to set aside the privacy rights of people who may be involved in child pornography. Most people have no sympathy for that type of criminal offense, and many people feel that policing child pornography should be aggressive.

The problem with doing so is that they’re our rights, too. When we denigrate the rights of the unpopular, we risk diminishing all of our rights. And there are often fundamentally important reasons for those rights to exist.

That’s why it is so troubling that Apple Inc. plans to use an artificial intelligence tool to scan all U.S. iPhones for images of child sexual abuse. If the AI tool determines an image is of child sexual abuse, it will forward the file to a human reviewer. If the human confirms the conclusion, the account will be disabled, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) will be notified.

The company also announced that it will use the AI to scan users’ encrypted messages for any sexually explicit content, although the detection system is meant to target only child pornography.

Finally, Apple’s messaging app will begin using on-device machine learning to discover and blur sexually explicit photos on kids’ phones and then warn their parents. And, this software will be standing by to “intervene” when users search for topics related to child pornography.

Innocent people will be surveilled and accused

There are a number of good reasons to oppose these moves. First, it is almost certain that innocent people will be caught up in this and wrongfully accused of possessing child pornography.

For one thing, the system is not likely to be better than other human systems meant to identify child pornography. Therefore, it will probably wrongly accuse people of having child pornography when what they have is innocent images of children bathing or otherwise without clothes. Even police and prosecutors sometimes mistake these innocent images for child pornography even though the children depicted are not being exploited and the images are not sexual.

The database at NCMEC already contains so many perfectly legal images that were mistakenly added to it that the organization warns police that images registered in the database are only “suspected” and must be examined independently by police to determine whether they are actually illegal child pornography. Under Apple’s plan, many more legal images could be wrongly added to the database, leading to improper search warrants and arrests of innocent people.

Another worry is that law enforcement or some governments might begin to require Apple to scan for other things they object to. That kind of mission creep is quite foreseeable. Once Apple has the ability to break end-to-end encryption for one reason, law enforcement and governments will undoubtedly ask or require the company to break it for other reasons, including the identification and surveillance of dissidents.

Ultimately, this opens your phone to government spying, in addition to Apple’s own surveillance. Once Apple has created a “backdoor” through encryption, recent history of private and government hacking has shown that backdoor can and will be used by others.

These new tools threaten all of our rights.

Practice Areas

“I just want to say thank you for the outstanding work you have done for him and let you know how much we appreciate the time and attention you gave to his case. We are obviously overjoyed by today’s dismissal!” (Child pornography case dismissed after motion to suppress was granted)”

“After having had time to exhale, we thank each one of you and all the others who contributed to the exemplary Supreme Court presentation. We are proud of your efforts on our behalf and, equally important, on behalf of the many present and future defendants statewide.” (Client’s comment after Supreme Court oral argument)

“Thank you. Thank you. I am so pleased to hear that we won. It doesn’t seem that it was even a close call. I appreciate your efforts.” (Oconto County defendant after Buting, Williams & Stilling got his prison sentence overturned in the court of appeals) ”

“Your time and advice was appreciated more than words can express at a time when we really needed someone to guide us.” (Client)

“The outcome was amazing, one unavailable even under identical circumstances in probably 98 percent of federal courtrooms around the country. Separate and apart from the outcome, though, I am supremely impressed by your efforts on your client’s behalf. Your comments in support of the requested sentence were perfect in tone and, having now reviewed the extensive sentencing memorandum you filed, your work in that regard was exemplary as well. Your client was certainly fortunate to have you as his attorney.” (Local federal court attorney present at a sentencing)

“I can’t thank you enough, not only for all of the tireless work that you and your staff put into my case, but for telling me what I needed to hear, at a time when I absolutely had to hear it. I consider myself blessed for everything turning out the way it did, especially since I blindly picked you out of a phone book! You helped me, my family and friends in many more ways than the money ever could.” (Child pornography client)

“I think you will find that in any circles where Kathy’s name is raised, people will always respond positively and identify her as an extremely hardworking, knowledgeable and ethical lawyer who is timely and effective with any endeavor she takes on. These circles would include colleagues, friends, prosecutors, judges, professors and others who have crossed paths with Kathy. They would also include the many lawyers like me who have referred numerous cases to Kathy, invariably with positive feedback from the clients regarding her knowledge of their case, empathy, professionalism and fair-mindedness in addressing their concerns.” (Fellow attorney)

“Thank you for giving [our son] back to us. Wonderful work!” (Family of client accused of armed robbery after charges were dismissed)

“Yes, His perfect time and perfect place, you were a part of this plan. I almost didn’t hire you, but I took a step of faith trusting Him and look what happened? Praise God. Our Lord put you in your vocation for a reason, continue to help those He brings your way. May He bless you in ALL you do!” (Client who was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault in a northwestern Wisconsin county. He was released from prison after attorneys got his conviction reversed.)

“I really cannot thank you enough for your past help. You really know your stuff. It is actually funny when I think about my other past attorney’s knowledge and then when I talk with you. It’s like night and day. You’re like a walking book of knowledge with a purpose-driven life. Thanks.” (Brown County client of attorney Buting)

“A year later and I still believe your defense is the single best example of lawyering I have ever seen.” (Television reporter commenting on attorney Buting’s defense of Steven Avery)

“You have a certain brilliance that makes me sure that when you talk, it is good information and I am in good hands. You tell it to me like it is even when the things you say are not always the things that I would like to hear. You keep it REAL!!!” (Brown County client)

“Thank you, thank you, thank you! I feel like this was one of the biggest blessings that happened in my life. I put this along with my children being born healthy and when I survived that horrific shooting. I appreciate everything you have done for me. I couldn’t ask for better lawyers. I want to say thank you to everybody at your firm. I owe you more than the fee you so rightfully deserve. … You gave me back hope. Thank you, man! Out of my 36 years … I have never seen such kindness before. I don’t know what I did to deserve this; I’m very thankful nonetheless. Thank you for giving me hope again. Thank you for your generosity. There are still some really good people around.” (Federal criminal appeal client)

“There is no other attorney I’ve ever even heard of I’d rather have as chief counsel and leader of my defense/appeals than Jerome Buting. You’re the best. Period.” (Dane County client)

“Your advice and counsel were greatly appreciated. We appreciate you taking the time on your Sunday and evenings to help us. We are SO happy about the results! Thanks again.” (Waukesha County client)

“Thank you again … for everything. Five and one-half years of commitment, so many ups and downs and an outcome like that. You did a GREAT job.” (Waukesha County felony drug offense client)