Apple recently unveiled new child safety features which give the company power to analyze iMessages for sexually explicit images, scan iCloud Photos to detect CSAM content, and update Siri and Search to warn, intervene and guide children when searching for CSAM related topics.
In a recent questions-and-answers session held with reporters about its new child safety features, the Cupertino tech giant confirmed it would be open to extending the features to third-party apps in the future.
Apple could extend child safety features to third-party apps
The upcoming Communication Safety in Messages will introduce new protection tools to warn children when receiving and sending sexually explicit photos. The feature will also notify parents when a child views or sends such material. An on-device machine learning system will scan shared media in messages to detect and blur sexually explicit photos. In addition, the child will be “warned, presented with helpful resources, and reassured it is okay if they do not want to view this photo.”
In the Q&A session, Apple said that it does not have anything to share in terms of an official announcement. However, the tech giant revealed that bringing child safety features to third-party apps would be a desirable goal. Currently, we do not know how that would work. Apple could possibly come out with an API that developers could choose to implement in their apps.
It is also possible that Apple’s CSAM detection system could be used for third-party apps that upload photos elsewhere than iCloud Photos like Google Photos.
The Cupertino tech giant did not provide an idea as to when the child safety features could become available to third-party app developers since it still has to complete testing and deployment of the functionality on its own platform. Apple said it would need to ensure the effectiveness of the features before it plans on expanding them.
Keeping in mind the backlash from companies like WhatsApp against Apple’s new CSAM photo scanning feature, it seems unlikely that third-party apps will be keen on adopting the functionality for their own apps.
In addition to WhatsApp, many companies, technologists, academics, and policy advocates have come out against the plan. In an open letter, which has garnered more than 4,000 signatures, the tech giant has been asked to “reconsider its technology rollout.”