Coming Soon to iPhones: Communication Safety Features
In Apple’s latest developer beta (a preview version of an update that is coming soon to iPads and iPhones) of iOS 15.2, the first use of the new “Communication safety in Messages” for children is available.
This feature was announced this summer, and is designed to ensure that children are warned when receiving or sending photos that contain nudity, before they actually see it or send it. This feature is NOT enabled by default, and if they want to utilize it, parents will need to enable it through Family Sharing once it is released.
Once enabled, the device will scan each image received in Messages for nudity (no image processing or scanning takes place off of the phone — it is completely and securely done on device), and will blur the image with a notification before it is seen. The child will then be given the option to message someone that they trust for help if they would like, or to go ahead and view the image. A similar warning will be displayed prior to the child sending an image containing nudity as well.
Previously, the plan was to notify parents that the child received or sent nudity, but after feedback Apple scrapped this plan to help preserve privacy.
Note that these communication safety features only affect items sent or received in the Messages app. It does not deal with anything in Safari, Mail, or any other app on the iPhone/iPad. Again, this feature will be disabled by default and will be up to the parents to choose if they want to enable it or not.
While no system is perfect, and this may still change before it is officially released to the public, it does feel like a step in the right direction. I very much support everyone’s right to privacy, even children (which of course includes teenagers), but the option to warn when graphic photos are sent or received seems as though it has the option for everyone to be a little bit safer.