Epic Games CEO warns of Apple 'state surveillance'

Forget your password for iCloud, iTunes, or the App Store? Here's how to reset your Apple ID
Forget your password for iCloud, iTunes, or the App Store? Here's how to reset your Apple ID (Image credit: Joseph Keller/iMore)

What you need to know

  • Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has launched further criticism at Apple's new Child Safety Measures.
  • He said Apple was using "government spyware" and would presumably be "an arm of state surveillance wherever it's required."
  • 48% of Epic Games is owned by Tencent, which is known to aid the CCP with censorship and surveillance of Chinese citizens.

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has launched further criticism of Apple's new Child Safety policies, calling the measures "government spyware".

Taking to Twitter Sweeney wrote:

I've tried hard to see this from Apple's point of view. 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. This is entirely different from a content moderation system on a public forum or social medium. 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 also criticized Apple's iCloud platform which uploads user data by default, making people accumulate "unwanted data." Sweeney also warned that Apple "has to comply with all applicable laws everywhere it does business. So presumably Apple will now be an arm of state surveillance wherever it's required", before noting criticism of Apple's privacy compromises in China. In a play on "think of the children" Sweeney said, "Think of the dystopia they'll grow up in if we tolerate the unchecked growth of private monopolies with unlimited surveillance power increasingly taking on governing roles, yet now unshackled from liberal democratic processes." Sweeney further stated "Liberty is built on due process and limited government. The existential threat here is an unholy alliance between government the monopolies who control online discourse and everyone's devices, using the guise of private corporations to circumvent constitutional protections."

As some replies to his tweets noted, Epic Games is part-owned by Chinese company Tencent, which recently started using facial recognition to stop young children playing video games after their bedtime.. Multiple reports also note that Tencent assists the CCP in government censorship and surveillance of citizens in China. From May 2020, and the Financial Times:

China's social-messaging giant Tencent has been monitoring political content posted by foreign accounts to train its censorship algorithms for domestic users, a new study has found... The research shows how Tencent not only conducts censorship, but also informs and develops its own censorship strategies. In addition, the company is likely to support the government's political research. "If the Chinese government has any need to regulate public opinion, they will certainly use the database of politically sensitive content by WeChat" to learn from, said a Beijing-based professional who has worked closely with the government.

A December WSJ report described Tencent's WeChat platform as "one of the most powerful tools in Beijing's arsenal for monitoring the public, censoring speech and punishing people who voice discontent with the government."

Sweeney's is one of a number of voices calling for Apple to reconsider its plans, with privacy advocates and security experts signing an open letter asking for a halt to new measures that will scan for CSAM content in iCloud photos on user devices in the U.S.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9