Epic Games CEO slams Apple ‘government spyware’: Report

San Francisco: Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has attacked Apple over its iCloud Photos and messages child safety initiatives, putting forward the idea of it being a way for governments to conduct surveillance.

As part of the outpouring of criticism against Apple, Sweeney took to Twitter to complain about Apple’s initiative, reports AppleInsider.

“I’ve tried hard to see this from Apple’s point of view,” Sweeney wrote on Twitter.

“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 the government,” he added.

On Thursday, Apple launched a suite of tools to help protect children online and to reduce the spread of child sexual abuse material (CSAM).

As part of the tools, the initiative would introduce features to iMessage, Siri and Search, as well as a mechanism for scanning iCloud Photos for known CSM imagery.

“This is entirely different from a content moderation system on a public forum or social medium,” the CEO continued.

“Before the operator chooses to host the data publicly, they can scan it for whatever they don’t want to host. But this is peoples’ private data,” Sweeney added.

According to the report, Sweeney’s accusations on personal data scanning are somewhat at odds with how Apple’s system works.

Rather than actually looking at the image itself, the scanning system compares mathematical hashes of files stored on the Cloud.

The hashes generated from the files are checked against known CSAM image hashes, and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) is informed of the flagged accounts, the report said.

Furthermore, the scanning only applies to iCloud Photos, and that images stored only on the device with iCloud Photos turned off cannot be examined in such a way, it added.