Computer Ethics, Fall 2023

Monday Sept 11

Class 2 Readings

Read the first three sections of Baase chapter 1 and at least the first section of chapter 4, especially:
    Video sharing in §1.2.1
    Cellphone case-study in §1.2.2
    What is intellectual property?: §4.1.1

Before class 2, finish reading chapter 1 and read the first three sections of chapter 4.

Apple's Decision to Kill Its CSAM Photo-Scanning Tool Sparks Fresh Controversy

Child sexual abuse is a serious problem. Is it a sufficient reason to put an end to encrypted messaging?

Here are Apple's main responses, somewhat edited:

... After having consulted extensively with child safety advocates, human rights organizations, privacy and security technologists, and academics, and having considered scanning technology from virtually every angle, we concluded it was not practically possible to implement without ultimately imperiling the security and privacy of our users.

... Scanning every user’s privately stored iCloud content would in our estimation pose serious unintended consequences for our users. ... Scanning every user’s privately stored iCloud data would create new threat vectors for data thieves to find and exploit.

It would also inject the potential for a slippery slope of unintended consequences. Scanning for one type of content, for instance, opens the door for bulk surveillance and could create a desire to search other encrypted messaging systems across content types (such as images, videos, text, or audio) and content categories. How can users be assured that a tool for one type of surveillance has not been reconfigured to surveil for other content such as political activity or religious persecution? ... Also, designing this technology for one government could require applications for other countries across new data types.

Scanning systems are also not foolproof and there is documented evidence from other platforms that innocent parties have been swept into dystopian dragnets that have made them victims when they have done nothing more than share perfectly normal and appropriate pictures of their babies.

Children and Pornography Access

To keep children from accessing online pornography, age verification is necessary. But age verification is very difficult to reconcile with anonymity. So it would be likely that anonymous access would disappear for adults too. That would be a serious privacy risk. Worse, what about sites such as, or (, with some adult-oriented content? Would everyone have to be age-verified for those too? That would mean ones anonymity as a poster to these sites could easily be stripped by a court order.

One approach is to have adults use VPNs, on the theory that you have to have a credit/debit card to set up a VPN. But some minors have these too, and, perhaps more relevant, many adults do not.

England is in the process of requiring age verification for pornography, although they've tried (and mostly failed) to figure out the anonymity thing. Louisiana now requires age verification, and they do not care about anonymity, or even universal adult access.

The UK Online Safety Bill

This combines bans on underage access to "harmful material" with potential bans on any end-to-end encrypted messaging. The bill's description of "harmful material" does appear to extend to sites such as and Any online thread about dieting, for example, would be covered if the thread includes posts acknowledging eating disorders.

The end-to-end-encryption issue, in the so-called "spy clause", is that all messages must be "scanned" for harmful content, especially "child-sexual-abuse material" or CSAM. This scanning must be done before encryption, of course, which basically means that every message is examined by the government before encryption. This would be the end of the use of end-to-end encryption for privacy.

On Sept 6, 2023, Lord Parkinson of Ofcom, the UK government communications regulator, said

if the appropriate technology doesn’t exist which meets those requirements, then Ofcom will not be able to use clause 122 to require its use.

This has been read as a victory for opponents of the Spy Clause, but the law itself does not change, and the government could later change its mind. The technology does exist to force all "providers" of secure messaging to scan the message before sending it. While that effectively breaks end-to-end encryption, it doesn't mean the government will care.

Start with Two Justifications of Copyright (link at top of file)

Ethical Theories

Deontological approaches to copyright

Fair Use and Music Sampling