The Shadow State: NeuralHash and Apple’s Post-Privacy World

In the last week, Apple unveiled “NeuralHash,” a tool that will hasten our move toward a dystopian post-privacy world. The company informed the world this week that it would be adding the NeuralHash to its network of over a billion iPhones, storage platforms, and other resources. The NeuralHash will allow it to scan images before they are uploaded to iCloud for child pornography. The user will then be disabled and reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

As with Facebook’s campaign for people to embrace censorship by calling it “content modification”, Apple has repackaged perpetual monitoring as “perceptual hashing.” Not surprising, these pitches for eroding expectations of speech or privacy are presented as as harmless, even reassuring. After all, the only people who need to worry are those with images constituting child porn. Of course, that determination will be made by a bot who will present people for review using algorithms looking for Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM). Microsoft, Google, Facebook and others are already sharing digital fingerprints of known child sexual abuse images.

The controversy over Apple’s new system raises not just privacy concerns but broader concerns over the shifting of power from the government to corporate figures. In critical areas, United States is moving from a democracy to a corporatocracy where critical rights and privileges are effectively controlled by a small number of CEOs. The founding fathers of that corporatocracy are figures like Jack Dorsey (Twitter), Tim Cook (Apple), and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook). It is an alternative government created by acclamation rather than any constitution. From free speech to Covid mandates, many on the left, including the Biden Administration, have called for policies to be carried out by corporations like a type of shadow state. At the same time, companies like Facebook have been running commercials for months to try to convince people to embrace corporate censorship over their own speech. Yet, in this brave new world of corporate governance, nothing quite prepared many of us for

Apple will now use its phones to actively spy on over a billion users to see if any have photos that may be CSAM in order to report them. Imagine the post-privacy world unfolding literally before us. People will have no choice if they have an iPhone in allowing a corporation to monitor their photos. Then, when they use their phones on social media, Twitter and Facebook will censor any views that they object to on subject ranging from Covid to gender identification to Hunter Biden’s laptop to election fraud to even criticism of governments.

At the same time, the Biden White House has decided that it does not want to deal with the legal or political challenges of seeking to impose a national vaccine mandate. Instead, President Biden has called on corporations to carry out the mandate.

The Democratic embracing of corporate governance is a matter of simple convenience. Corporations now overwhelmingly support the left on key political issues, and some seem to have virtually written off roughly half of the country that voted for Donald Trump. More importantly, Democrats cannot limit speech, impose national vaccine mandates, or deny privacy through the government. However, surrogate corporations can since the First Amendment and other constitutional provisions address government not corporate abuses. Much of the Constitution then becomes largely relevant – your rights are entirely protected except from the main source of their denial.

What is really maddening is that companies like Facebook and Apple do not simply want us to yield core rights to them but to love them for it. After all, the cheerful hip figures on the Facebook censorship commercial like “Joshan” only want you to “change” to allow your “blending of the real world and the internet world.” Then there is Apple which simply tells you to
Think Different” with all of the other worthy netizens at the “Genius bar.”

In this new world, free speech itself is a danger rather than the very thing that defines us. Privacy is a shield used by those who want to harm children. “Changing” with Joshan means learning to love corporate monitoring and “modifications.”

Carrying around your own personal surveillance device is not the only thing that you will lose in Apple’s Orwellian NeuralHash. In the end, the powers of both corporations and the government will be enhanced by our modified selves. Under the controlling standard of the “Katz” test, our privacy is protected from warrantless surveillance by our “expectations of privacy.” When such expectations exist, the government generally must obtain a warrant after showing probable cause that a crime is or has been committed. However, as our expectations fall, the government can engage in more warrantless surveillance. As it engages in more warrantless surveillance, our expectation fall further. Well, you get the idea.

We are increasingly living in a fishbowl society where monitoring (that would have once outraged Americans) is treated as part of life. When we leave our homes were are monitored on the road or at the 7-11 buying coffee. We are monitored on the streets and in our workplaces. We are monitored all the way home in the evening. Now, once at home our images will be monitored and our communications are “modified” according to what corporations want us to see and say.

The response from the left today is that none of this is a problem because corporations are not controlled by the Constitution. After all, if you want a phone that does not spy on you, invent one and compete with Apple with your own global network. Simple.

The current limited function of the NeuralHash is simply the decision of Apple. However, it is a new technology that can be expanded to other images and could potentially be used by the government. I recently testified in Congress about the rapid loss of privacy due to the government’s use of national security letters and other devices to search the iCloud and to obtain “metadata.” This includes the use of secret orders to corporations to spy on journalists during the Obama, Trump, and Biden Administrations. We already have ample powers to investigate and prosecute child pornography but this function will now be taken up by the corporatocracy which is not directly controlled any more than by Fourth Amendment than the First Amendment.

Like authoritarian governments, authoritarian corporations always have an appealing reason for limiting freedoms. Fighting terrorism or child porn or “misinformation” often leave free speech or privacy as mere abstractions. After all, the idea is to “Think Different” about privacy. Indeed, you have to think differently from the original Apple when many of us bought its first computer. Back then Apple was portrayed in its famous “1984” Mac commercial as literally smashing the authoritarian conformity of Big Brother. Now, conformity is good.  After all, as Orwell himself wrote in 1984, “One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.”

233 thoughts on “The Shadow State: NeuralHash and Apple’s Post-Privacy World”

  1. ::In critical areas, United States is moving from a democracy to a corporatocracy where critical rights and privileges are effectively controlled by a small number of CEOs.”

    A ;little late on this call, Turley. We’ve been a corporatocracy ever since corporations realized the founders had no way of predicting how much power they’d grab and so left gaps in the Constitution wide enough for them to drive trucks through. Actually, literally, to drive trucks through. But you already know this right, Jon? I mean the best defense of the practice has always been to dive into minutiae, splitting hairs through the use of false concerns over things like free speech. Free speech equals more speech! More speech for everyone! More speech for corporations!


  2. Thunderous applause, Professor!

    I’m reading Sowell’s Knowledge and Decisions at present, and he talks about this very thing: the change in locus of decision-making, from the smallest unit with the most local and perfect knowledge about the situation, to the largest units, despite their need to rely on others for knowledge and the lack of personal consequences they face when they’re wrong. A fascinating trend… until you’re watching it happen all around you and you realize you can’t escape.

    1. From ‘The Sun’ editorial posted by S. Meyer:

      “America’s own intelligence is now predicting that Kabul will fall within 90 days. If it does, everything we have fought for will be lost. Twenty years. Two trillion dollars. Tens of thousands of lives, 2,000 of them Americans. And for the third time in three generations — Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan — the world will learn that it is more dangerous to be an ally of America than an enemy, that America cannot be trusted to see a fight through.”

      “Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan”

      Three wars that were pointless from the get-go.

      1. “Costs of the Afghanistan war, in lives and dollars”


        “Number of times lawmakers on Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee addressed costs of Vietnam War, during that conflict: 42

        “Number of times lawmakers in same subcommittee have mentioned costs of Afghanistan and Iraq wars, through mid-summer 2021: 5.

        Number of times lawmakers on Senate Finance Committee have mentioned costs of Afghanistan and Iraq wars since Sept. 11, 2001, through mid-summer 2021: 1.”

        — AP

        1. Important twitter message sent just now by a good man, Sen. Tom Cotton:

          “If you’re an American stranded in Afghanistan, or know one who is, please contact my office immediately:

          (501) 223-9081 or

          The situation is dire, but we’ll do everything in our power to help keep you informed and to help get you out.”

          Meanwhile, our president is AWOL. Where’s Biden hidin’? Don’t interrupt your vacation or anything….sir. (I threw up just writing that)

          1. “Statement by President Joe Biden on Afghanistan”

            AUGUST 14, 2021



            “When I came to office, I inherited a deal cut by my predecessor—which he invited the Taliban to discuss at Camp David on the eve of 9/11 of 2019—that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021 deadline on U.S. Forces. Shortly before he left office, he also drew U.S. Forces down to a bare minimum of 2,500. Therefore, when I became President, I faced a choice—follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our Forces and our allies’ Forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict. I was the fourth President to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan—two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth.”

            1. Joe Biden is a liar and a coward. As well as an idiot who has gotten every major foreign policy decision WRONG over his entire political career.

              “I inherited a deal cut by my predecessor”

              “I faced a choice to follow through on the deal…or….”
              You tore up every other deal cut by your predecessor, like the remain in Mexico policy, and others. Stop lying and own *your decision* to not handle this the right way you demented feckless fool.

              Donald Trump would never have let this happen. Never.

              1. Actually Trump horrified the Pentagon when after he lost in November he put the idea out there that America immediately withdraw troops from around the world, not just Afghanistan.


                  1. Not altogether in disagreement with you on that. Still, the idea that this is something uniquely Biden is wildly false, and also quite laughable.


                    1. “No one in the history of modern politics has been more wrong, more often than Joe Biden.”

                    2. Biden has “been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” ___Robert Gates

                      Who would want Biden to break his record?

                    3. “White House press secretary Jen Psaki appears to have begun her vacation on Sunday as the Taliban continues seizing Afghanistan.

                      An email sent to Psaki by Breitbart News was returned with an auto-reply message noting that the White House press secretary is on vacation between August 15th through the 22nd.

                      The email auto-reply message asks reporters to reach out with questions to deputy press secretaries Karine Jean-Pierre, Christopher Meagher, or Andrew Bates.

                      It is unclear if Psaki has canceled her vacation after her boss, President Joe Biden, faces the biggest foreign policy disaster of his presidency.”


            2. “It took Biden less than 7 days in office to undo the “previous guy’s” terms on border security, keystone XL, WHO, Paris Accord, Nordstream 2, illegal immigration, border wall, ICE, CBP, but 7 months later and Biden promising this wouldn’t happen and it’s all Trump’s fault now?” @rising_serpent

            3. Biden is such a liar. It is his weakness that is making this happen in the fashion it has. What have they been doing since January? Same thing in the Middle East, war on his watch.

              The man is an old senile fool who in his earlier years was just a fool. He represents the best of the Democratic Party.

            4. “I inherited . . .”

              Notice the dishonesty and deflection in Biden’s statement: Withdrawing from Afghanistan is the right thing to do. But blame Trump for any bad consequences of that withdrawal.

          2. Med Jet Horizon offers extraction insurance. I wonder if any in Kabul have it.

          3. “Meanwhile, our president is AWOL.”

            While his Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, declares victory: “This is not Saigon. We went to Afghanistan 20 years ago with one mission, and that mission was to deal with the folks who attacked us on 9/11 and we succeeded in that mission.”

            What type of person calls despots and terrorists “folks”?!

        2. No more blank check wars. Unfortunately, there will be more blank check wars.


      2. “Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan”

        Three wars that were pointless from the get-go. — Anon

        … Two trillion dollars. …

        Pointless? All wars are bankers’ wars.

  3. Gee how fast can this go sideways…well honestly we ALL KNEW from the get go anything like this is a deep state tool …for the children…yeah sure right buddy. The collusion with the deep state and the left nut apparatchiks has stained apple…it showed it’s true colors and those colors are ever more recognizable with such tripe they posit like “neuralhash”. Might as well call it “for the people hash”…oh wait that’s the other dystopian left winger vomit.

  4. Interesting is how so many that quote Orwell’s “1984” do not understand Who Orwell was warning us about. Orwell fictionalized the Who’s leaked plans for their plundering and destruction of us, and merged those plans together with his experiences with that Who in Spain to form his “1984.” That’s why “1984” grows ever more prophetic each passing year–“1984” is based on actual plans my a viral parasite eating us alive from within our midst.

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