Hillicon Valley — Apple delays features to detect sexual exploitation

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Today is Friday. Welcome to Hillicon Valley, detailing all you need to know about tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

Apple pulled in headlines today by announcing that it would push back its new child sexual exploitation detection features. Two of the three features, previewed last month, drew swift backlash from privacy advocates over fear that they would functionally create a backdoor that could be exploited down the line. The decision to delay the changes indefinitely points to the difficulty Apple has been having lately maintaining its pro-privacy image.

Follow The Hill’s cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@millsrodrigo) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage.

***NOTE: Hillicon Valley will not publish Monday, Sept. 6 due to the Labor Day holiday. We will return Tuesday, Sept. 7.***

Let’s jump in.

Apple walks it back 

Apple announced Friday that it will delay a suite of features aimed at limiting the spread of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) that had raised serious privacy concerns. 

“Based on feedback from customers, advocacy groups, researchers and others, we have decided to take additional time over the coming months to collect input and make improvements before releasing these critically important child safety features,” Apple said in a statement to The Hill.

Two out of the three features had brought significant criticism. 

How it works: One would alert parents if their children were sending or receiving sexually explicit images. The other would scan photos in a user’s iCloud for CSAM and report any infringing images to Apple moderators. 

Apple would then report detected material to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a national clearinghouse that works with law enforcement.

The company had said the cloud scanning feature was “designed with user privacy in mind.” The feature would use a database of known CSAM image hashes and check for matches before photos are uploaded.

Pushback: Critics said that the image scanning capability could function as a backdoor for new surveillance and censorship.

Read more about the decision here.

BUMBLE LENDS A HAND

The women-led dating site Bumble announced this week that it is creating a relief fund to support reproductive rights following enactment of the new Texas abortion law.

The nation’s most restrictive abortion law, known in Texas by its bill number S.B.8, took effect on Wednesday after the Supreme Court declined to intervene.

“Bumble is women-founded and women-led, and from day one we’ve stood up for the most vulnerable. We’ll keep fighting against regressive laws like #SB8,” the Austin-based company said in a tweet.

The money will go toward partner organizations dedicated to protecting reproductive rights, a company spokesperson said, according to USA Today. The company added that there is no target amount for the fund as it will reportedly be ongoing.

Read more here.

JAN. 6 RECORDS REQUEST CONTROVERSY

A public interest group is calling for an ethics investigation into House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyCharlotte Observer calls for GOP to censure Cawthorn over ‘bloodshed’ remark Cheney elevated as vice chair of Jan. 6 committee Hillicon Valley — Industry groups want more time to report cybersecurity incidents MORE (R-Calif.) after he told communications companies that the GOP “will not forget” if they turn phone and email records over to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

The complaint from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) argues that both McCarthy and Rep. Marjorie Taylor GreeneMarjorie Taylor GreeneGOP efforts to downplay danger of Capitol riot increase The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene says she’s meeting with Trump ‘soon’ in Florida MORE (R-Ga.) violated House rules by threatening to retaliate against companies that comply with legal requests.

The House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol sent letters to 35 tech and communications firms Monday asking for a trove of documents, including for personal communications of those involved with the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6 — a group likely to include lawmakers.

“If these companies comply with the Democrat order to turn over private information, they are in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States,” McCarthy wrote.  

“If companies still choose to violate federal law, a Republican majority will not forget and will stand with Americans to hold them fully accountable under the law,” he said. 

McCarthy did not cite which law prohibits telecommunications companies from complying with the committee’s request.  

Read more.

Q-UILTY

Jacob Chansley, the Capitol rioter known as the “QAnon Shaman,” pleaded guilty on Friday to a single felony charge in connection with the Jan. 6 attack.  

Chansley, 34, pleaded guilty in a Washington, D.C., federal court in a virtual hearing to obstruction of an official proceeding, according to court records. He will be sentenced on Nov. 17. 

Chansley became one of the most recognizable figures from Jan. 6. He is seen in photos parading through the Capitol shirtless, donning a hat with horns with his face painted red, white and blue. In a court filing, authorities said Chansley was among the first 30 rioters that entered the Capitol. 

He allegedly entered the Senate gallery alone at about 2:52 p.m. after confronting a Capitol Police officer. While in the chamber, he scaled the Senate dais where then-Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceBill Clinton fundraises for Terry McAuliffe in upstate New York Trump on Nikki Haley: ‘Every time she criticizes me, she uncriticizes me about 15 minutes later’ As Biden falters, a two-man race for the 2024 GOP nomination begins to take shape MORE was presiding over the 2020 election certification proceedings before his evacuation. 

Six charges were originally brought against Chansley in connection with the riot, including the obstruction charge and felony charge of civil disorder. 

His guilty plea in court Friday was part of a larger deal struck with prosecutors in the case. The other five charges have been dismissed, according to court documents.

Read more.

BITS AND PIECES

An op-ed to chew on: The US military needs a seventh branch: The Cyber Force 

Lighter click: Impeccable vibes

Notable links from around the web: 

Misinformation on Facebook got six times more clicks than factual news during the 2020 election, study says (The Washington Post / Elizabeth Dwoskin) 

The Texas abortion law could force tech to snitch on users (Protocol / Issie Lapowsky) 

US farm loses $9 million in the aftermath of a ransomware attack (The Record / Catalin Cimpanu) 

How Target Got Cozy With the Cops, Turning Black Neighbors Into Suspects (Bloomberg Businessweek / Peter Waldman and Lauren Etter) 

 

One last thing: Stay (cyber) secure this holiday weekend

In case you missed it, the Biden administration is on high alert for cyberattacks over the Labor Day holiday weekend, following recent attacks around earlier holidays this year. 

Anne Neuberger, the deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology, told reporters at the White House Thursday that both the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) were monitoring for cybersecurity concerns, but she stressed that there were no specific threats on the radar. 

“We have no specific threat information or information regarding attacks this weekend, but what we do have is history, and in the past over holiday weekends, attackers have sometimes focused on security operation centers that may be understaffed, or a sense that there are fewer key personnel on duty as they may be on vacation,” Neuberger said. 

Neuberger said that the U.S. intelligence community was monitoring for threats, and that the FBI and CISA are “fully postured and fully prepared” in order to “rapidly” respond to any cybersecurity incidents. 

 

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s technology and cybersecurity pages for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you Friday.

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