A few months ago, Apple announced new Child Safety features that 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. One of those features, Messages Communication Safety for children, has been enabled in iOS 15.2 beta that was released today.
Messages Communication Safety feature currently in beta testing
The new system is designed to analyze sent and received images of accounts of Minors (12 years or younger) to identify sexually explicit content and prevent the minors from viewing them by blurring the images, displaying a warning, and presenting helpful resources.
When Communication Safety was first announced, the tech giant said a child under the age of 13 chose to view a sexually-explicit image, their parent(s) would be notified. However, after receiving feedback, Apple has removed this feature. The notification option was removed because it could be harmful to a child if they are suffering from parental violence or abuse.
The Messages Communication Safety analysis system works on-device with the app analyzing image attachments. The feature does take away users’ end-to-end encryption privacy protection and the detection of any nudity does not leave the device.
After widespread backlash and criticism, in September the tech giant decided to delay its child protection features based on feedback from customers, advocacy groups, researchers, and others. Apple took additional time to collect input and make improvements before releasing this critically important feature.
In addition to Communication Safety, later this year the tech giant plans to expand Siri and Search with resources that will aid children and parents in avoiding harmful situations online. For example, Apple will display information on how to file a statement to report child exploitation if a user asks Siri.
Messages Communication Safety is currently available in beta so we do not know when it will be released to the general public. iOS 15.2 beta also allows users to access and use Hide My Email directly from the Mail app and designate people as legacy contacts for their accounts. In Safari 15 and 15.1, sync storage for Safari Web Extensions is no longer being written into the local storage area.