iOS 15.2 will add new child Communication Safety in Messages feature
Apple has released the second developer beta of its upcoming iOS 15.2 software update, confirming that its new Communication Safety in Messages feature will be enabled upon release, which includes tools to warn children and their parents when a child receives or sends sexually explicit photos.
Announced earlier in the year, Apple said it was planning several new child safety tools including automatic blurring of explicit images sent in Messages, Child Sexual Abuse Material, CSAM detection when explicit images are detected in a user’s library, and more.
Following a backlash over privacy fears relating to the tools being able to detect known child pornography and related sexual abuse material stored in iCloud Photos, which would be flagged up and reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), Apple announced that it would delay the launch of the new safety features after feedback from customers, advocacy groups, researchers and others.
Apple appears now to be readying at least some of the new safety features for release, with iOS 15.2 adding iMessage warnings that will alert children and parents when a sexually explicit image is sent or received on a device connected to iCloud Family Sharing as well as the automatic blurring of explicit images sent in Messages.
When receiving this type of content, Apple says the photo will be blurred and the child will be warned, presented with helpful resources, and reassured it is okay if they do not want to view this photo. As an additional precaution, the child can also be told that, to make sure they are safe, their parents will get a message if they do view it. Similar protections are available if a child attempts to send sexually explicit photos. The child will be warned before the photo is sent, and the parents can receive a message if the child chooses to send it.
Messages uses on-device machine learning to analyze image attachments and determine if a photo is sexually explicit. The feature is designed so that Apple does not get access to the messages.
Apple is yet to announce when it will release its Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) toolset which will allow the company to detect known CSAM images stored in iCloud Photos.