Apple to Roll Out Communication Safety Feature in the UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia

BY Anu Joy

Published 21 Apr 2022

Apple will be rolling out Communication Safety in Messages to users in the UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. This feature was introduced in the iOS 15.2 update in the US back in December last year.

Communication Safety in Messages will let parents enable warnings for their children’s iPhones. With this feature turned on, iMessage will automatically scan every photo sent or received by the child, under the age of 13, for nudity. If the app detects nude images, the picture will be blurred before it’s viewed on the device. Additionally, it will warn the user that the photo may be sensitive, and will offer ways to get help.

The iPhone maker assures that “Messages uses on-device machine learning to analyze image attachments and determine if a photo appears to contain nudity. The feature is designed so that Apple doesn’t get access to the photos.” It is available on iOS 15.2 or later, iPadOS 15.2 or later, and macOS Monterey 12.1 or later. Communication Safety is switched off by default.

Communication Safety is completely different from anti-Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) functionality that Apple is planning to release in the future. CSAM scanning proved to be highly controversial as concerns regarding privacy and security surfaced. Following the backlash, Apple delayed the launch of its CSAM features, including scanning of iCloud Photos and images received in iMessage for content pertaining to child sexual abuse.

Apple notes that the it will continue to provide end-to-end encryption of the messages. The company added, “The feature is designed so that no indication of the detection of nudity ever leaves the device. Apple does not get access to the messages, and no notifications are sent to the parent or anyone else.” This was not the case when the iPhone maker had first announced the functionality. The initial version would send alerts to parents if minors sent or received such messages. This option has been axed from the feature likely due to the controversy it stirred up.

[Via The Guardian]