Apple’s iCloud Photo-Scanning Tech Explained

So that’s what all of this is about, I think, is that Apple is about to actually take a good step for privacy, which is that they’re going to end-to-end encrypt iCloud, but to do that, they had to carve out this really technically complex exception for child sexual abuse materials. And if I were Apple’s PR team, I would have made this whole child sexual abuse materials thing a footnote to the announcement that I’m end-to-end encrypting iCloud, but it seems like for some reason they rolled it out in the other order and wanted to I think maybe show governments around the world, or at least the US government, look, we’ve created a way to spot these terrible abusive materials, even when we encrypt iCloud. So now we’re going to do it. Now you can’t complain when we switch on that really strong encryption for all of our cloud storage.

MC: Andy, thank you for walking us through all of that. It is crystal clear to me now how all of this works and I’m sure all the listeners feel the same way.

AG: Perfect.

MC: Let’s take a break. And when we come back, we’ll do our recommendations.


MC: All right, welcome back. This is the last part of our show, where we go through our recommendations for things that our listeners might enjoy. Andy, you are our guest, so you get to go first. What is your recommendation?

AG: Well, I hope it’s OK. I actually have two recommendations. I have a highbrow recommendation and I have a lowbrow recommendation. My highbrow recommendation is a book I just read by Patrick Radden Keefe of The New Yorker. It’s called Empire of Pain, and it’s this truly like amazing, very fat volume that is the entire history of the Sackler family. This family that’s basically created the opioid epidemic. I think it’s fair to say it by running this small pharmaceutical company, Purdue Pharma, and just absolutely popularizing the use of Oxycontin in America. And as they even describe it kind of like raining pills on everyone in the country and getting millions of people addicted to this incredibly harmful drug. And it’s just a wonderfully reported and told epic book. That’s kind of like succession, that is to show succession, but over multiple generations and with this incredible underlying, like, very high impact historical value.

MC: Ah, very cool.

AG: My lowbrow recommendation. I know Lauren is a Peloton fan, I believe, or at least a Peloton critic, reviewer. I don’t know.

LG: Cult member.

AG: Cult member, yeah. I have like my own janky Peloton-type setup where I put my bike on a trainer and then I like watch very violent movies on an iPad. And I recently watched Mortal Kombat, the new Mortal Kombat in this setup and it was just kind of exquisitely gross. And there was just like a minimum of talking between people hitting each other and tearing each other’s limbs off and spines out and things. So, yeah. That’s my second recommendation.

LG: Who needs Cody Rigsby when you have Mortal Combat?

MC: Is Cody one of the Peloton people?

LG: Obviously.

MC: Obviously, yes.

LG: I love that, Andy.

MC: That’s great. Lauren, what’s your recommendation?

LG: My recommendation is an incredible story by Vauhini Vara in Believer Magazine. This week, it’s called “Ghosts.” We’ll link to it in the show notes. And she basically contacted OpenAI, which we’ve written about in WIRED a bunch before, and OpenAI has developed this machine learning model called GPT-3 that has gotten a lot of attention lately. And basically what it allows you to do is you plug in some texts and it spits out text for you, it writes things for you in a very human-like way. And Vauhini’s story is that her sister died when they were young, when they were both in high school. And she writes about despite being, you know, a professional writer, how she’s never really been able to write honestly about her sister’s death and how traumatic it was for her. And so what she did is she used GPT-3 to like start sections of the story.

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