top of page

The End of Privacy: How AI and NPUs are Making E2E Encryption Obsolete

The End of Privacy

In a stunning revelation that might feel like a dystopian prophecy coming true, end-to-end encryption (E2E) is being rendered obsolete by emerging technology. As we stand on the precipice of 2024, the very bedrock of digital privacy is under siege, not through the cracking of complex encryption algorithms, but through a pre-encryption surveillance model enabled by cutting-edge AI and neural processing units (NPUs). This seismic shift in technology will redefine our understanding of privacy, security, and the lengths to which surveillance can reach.

Neural Processing Units, or NPUs, are specialized AI chips designed to handle complex computations locally on devices. Found in all new iOS devices (Apple Neural Engine), Google’s Tensor chip, and Microsoft's newly announced Co-Pilot Plus PCs, these chips mark the next leap in device capability. By the end of 2024, NPUs will be ubiquitous across all major operating systems, including iOS, macOS, Windows, and Android, effectively embedding AI processing power into the very fabric of our daily digital interactions.

While NPUs promise enhanced performance and new features, they also carry the potential for unprecedented surveillance capabilities. The AI embedded within these chips can perform real-time image and text analysis, effectively turning every device into a powerful surveillance tool. This capability has already been demonstrated by Apple’s neural engine, which can scan and analyze photos on devices to detect specific content without the need for cloud-based processing.

E2E encryption has been the gold standard for securing communications, ensuring that only the communicating parties can read the messages. However, the advent of pre-encryption scanning changes the game entirely. By intercepting and analyzing data before it is encrypted, NPUs can bypass traditional E2E encryption methods. This means that messages sent via secure apps like Signal, Telegram, and WhatsApp could be compromised before they even leave the sender's device.

The San Bernardino case in 2015 serves as a chilling precursor to this development. When Apple refused to break into the iPhone of a terrorist, it highlighted the tension between privacy and security. The solution proposed by surveillance agencies then, and now becoming a reality, is to scan content pre-encryption. Essentially, if an AI can see what you type or capture screenshots of your activities, E2E encryption becomes meaningless.

This move towards AI-driven surveillance is not limited to Apple. Microsoft’s Windows 11, equipped with Snapdragon X Elite chips, takes this further with features like keylogging and continuous screenshotting of user activities. These data points are then analyzed by the NPU, creating a comprehensive record of user behavior. While this might be marketed as a feature to enhance user experience or security, the potential for abuse is staggering.

Moreover, the synchronization of these efforts across major tech companies and governments is alarming. Legislation in the UK, and attempts in the EU and US, aim to make local device scanning a standard practice under the guise of protecting children from illegal content. This coordinated approach suggests a premeditated strategy to embed surveillance deeply into the infrastructure of modern computing devices.

So, where does this leave the average user? The reality is stark: the days of relying on conventional E2E encryption for absolute privacy are numbered. The infrastructure for pre-encryption surveillance is in place, and soon, the command and control structures will follow. While Linux remains a potential refuge, its security is only guaranteed if both communicating parties use safe hardware and operating systems—a rare scenario in the smartphone-dominated world.

For those unwilling to accept this erosion of privacy, new solutions must be devised. These could include hardware-based encryption devices that operate offline, ensuring that no unencrypted text is exposed on compromised systems. However, such measures will undoubtedly be cumbersome and not widely adopted, leaving the majority of users vulnerable to surveillance.

As we transition into this new era of AI-driven surveillance, it is crucial to remain vigilant and informed. The integration of NPUs into our devices symbolizes a significant shift in the balance between privacy and security. While these technologies offer remarkable capabilities, they also pose severe risks to our fundamental right to privacy.

Join communities that advocate for digital privacy and explore tools designed to protect your identity and data. Engaging in discussions and staying informed are essential steps in navigating this complex and evolving landscape.


bottom of page