Herr Bischoff

The Disinformation Bias of the Sensationalist

Over the last couple of days a post by a self-styled security researcher is making the rounds in the macOS orbit. Apple is supposedly scanning image data on your local Mac for CSAM and uploading the results to Apple servers — even with all telemetry off and not using any of their services. This person claims that Apple is engaged in what amounts to severely illegal behaviour on a grand scale. It claims a breach of user trust, a massive GDPR violation and a whole shopping list worth of misdeeds. I’m not linking to it.

There’s plenty to criticise about Apple. It’s possible the company collects telemetry data when it shouldn’t, all while blocking attempts by other companies to do the same. Their walled garden that is the App Store isn’t open for public picnics either. Their software quality is severely deteriorating for years. This is all well-documented and needs no exhaustive repeating here.

Collecting telemetry and making unexpected requests is one thing. Straight-forward illegal behaviour while lying to users is something else entirely. Throwing both into the same bowl and declaring them to be one and the same is irresponsible and wrong. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The post contains not only inadequate evidence, it contains none.

In a Mastodon exchange with user R2, they summed the situation up fittingly:

Yeah, I mean I understand why he jumped to that conclusion, but getting outraged at Apple for what is essentially just an assuming-the-worst hunch is pretty silly.


Indeed. It’s silly. Furthermore, it’s pretty clear how people who share this unsubstantiated claim feel about Apple — or any company that doesn’t fit into their narrow mould. It’s sensational, it fits into their preconceived narrative and must therefore be correct. No critical distance whatsoever. No questioning what purpose a blatant violation of established law would serve vs. what the company might have to gain from the supposed stunt.

I can’t shake the feeling that a lot of projection is going on here. That the irrationality many of those biased against any one company ascribe to the so-called “sheep” are, realistically, guilty of themselves. Holding a firm position on a subject can be a good thing. However: once it becomes dogma, it becomes impossible to have any reasonable discourse about it. It turns from opinion to gospel and therefore into a battle for the one, valid truth. We are willing to inextricably link our personality and self-worth to certain positions, even silly and absurd ones. Any deviation from the straight path means defeat and is therefore unthinkable.

With the ever-increasing speed of information flow and ever-decreasing time, capability and willingness to process it, is it any wonder that we quickly put a pattern mask over a new piece of information instead of properly reflecting on it? We need to take the time to form our own opinions and not be afraid to admitting to not having the first clue about something. To say “I don’t know” is powerful. It’s the beginning of wisdom. How else would we strive to learn anything new? If we knew all we’re ever going to need already, what’s the point of being alive?

Standing still, taking a breath and admiring your surroundings is an effective way to ground yourself in the moment. If you’re standing still for too long, you risk becoming lazy and complacent. The fantastic thing about humans is: we have the power to decide.

And what the supposed image scanning claim is concerned, there is a well-known expert who has done the proper research. You may want to check out what he has got to say about whether Apple is scanning our images without consent.


Spoiler: they don’t.