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Apr 12, 2001
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Apple in the iOS 15.2 beta introduced a new Messages Communication Safety option that's designed to keep children safer online by protecting them from potentially harmful images. We've seen a lot of confusion over the feature, and thought it might be helpful to provide an outline of how Communication Safety works and clear up misconceptions.

communication-safety-feature-yellow.jpg

Communication Safety Overview

Communication Safety is meant to prevent minors from being exposed to unsolicited photos that contain inappropriate content.

As explained by Apple, Communication Safety is designed to detect nudity in photos sent or received by children. The iPhone or iPad does on-device scanning of images in the Messages app, and if nudity is detected, the photo is blurred.

communication-safety-1.jpg

If a child taps on the blurred image, the child is told that the image is sensitive, showing "body parts that are usually covered by underwear or bathing suits." The feature explains that photos with nudity can be "used to hurt you" and that the person in the photo might not want it seen if it's been shared without permission.

Apple also presents children with ways to get help by messaging a trusted grown-up in their life. There are two tap-through screens that explain why a child might not want to view a nude photo, but a child can opt to view the photo anyway, so Apple is not restricting access to content, but providing guidance.

Communication Safety is Entirely Opt-In

When iOS 15.2 is released, Communication Safety will be an opt-in feature. It will not be enabled by default, and those who use it will need to expressly turn it on.

Communication Safety is for Children

Communication Safety is a parental control feature enabled through the Family Sharing feature. With Family Sharing, adults in the family are able to manage the devices of children who are under 18.

Parents can opt in to Communication Safety using Family Sharing after updating to iOS 15.2. Communication Safety is only available on devices set up for children who are under 18 and who are part of a Family Sharing group.

Children under 13 are not able to create an Apple ID, so account creation for younger children must be done by a parent using Family Sharing. Children over 13 can create their own Apple ID, but can still be invited to a Family Sharing group with parental oversight available.

Apple determines the age of the person who owns the Apple ID by the birthday used at the account creation process.

Communication Safety Can't Be Enabled on Adult Devices

As a Family Sharing feature designed exclusively for Apple ID accounts owned by a person under the age of 18, there is no option to activate Communication Safety on a device owned by an adult.

Adults do not need to be concerned about Messages Communication Safety unless they are parents managing it for their children. In a Family Sharing group consisting of adults, there will be no Communication Safety option, and no scanning of the photos in Messages is being done on an adult's device.

Messages Remain Encrypted

Communication Safety does not compromise the end-to-end encryption available in the Messages app on an iOS device. Messages remain encrypted in full, and no Messages content is sent to another person or to Apple.

Apple has no access to the Messages app on children's devices, nor is Apple notified if and when Communication Safety is enabled or used.

Everything is Done On-Device and Nothing Leaves the iPhone

For Communication Safety, images sent and received in the Messages app are scanned for nudity using Apple's machine learning and AI technology. Scanning is done entirely on device, and no content from Messages is sent to Apple's servers or anywhere else.

The technology used here is similar to the technology that the Photos app uses to identify pets, people, food, plants, and other items in images. All of that identification is also done on device in the same way.

When Apple first described Communication Safety in August, there was a feature designed to notify parents if children opted to view a nude photo after being warned against it. This has been removed.

If a child is warned about a nude photo and views it anyway, parents will not be notified, and full autonomy is in the hands of the child. Apple removed the feature after criticism from advocacy groups that worried it could be a problem in situations of parental abuse.

Communication Safety is Not Apple's Anti-CSAM Measure

Apple initially announced Communication Safety in August 2021, and it was introduced as part of a suite of Child Safety features that also included an anti-CSAM initiative.

Apple's anti-CSAM plan, which Apple has described as being able to identify Child Sexual Abuse Material in iCloud, has not been implemented and is entirely separate from Communication Safety. It was a mistake for Apple to introduce these two features together because one has nothing to do with the other except for both being under the Child Safety umbrella.

There has been a lot of blowback over Apple's anti-CSAM measure because it will see photos uploaded to iCloud scanned against a database of known Child Sexual Abuse Material, and Apple users aren't happy with the prospect of photo scanning. There are concerns that the technology that Apple is using to scan photos and match them against known CSAM could be expanded in the future to cover other types of material.

In response to widespread criticism, Apple has delayed its anti-CSAM plans and is making changes to how it will be implemented before releasing it. No anti-CSAM functionality has been added to iOS at this time.

Release Date and Implementation

Communication Safety is included in iOS 15.2, which is available as a beta at this time. The beta can be downloaded by developers or members of Apple's beta testing program. There is no word yet on when iOS 15.2 will launch to the general public.

Apple plans to provide new documentation on Communication Safety when iOS 15.2 comes out, offering further explanation on how the feature works.


Article Link: Apple's Messages Communication Safety Explained: What You Need to Know
 
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mzeb

macrumors 6502
Jan 30, 2007
252
354
This feature is done right. I am happy to see that it is all done on the device and that the decisions on what is inappropriate can be left to children and their parents. Apple should not be in the business of child safety. They should be in the business of providing the tools to parents to make sure their children are safe with their devices. The responsibility of child protection should sit first on the parent and this allows exactly that.
 

newbmacuser2021

macrumors 6502
Oct 19, 2021
354
120
Are you saying if your child owns an Android phone, the privacy will be invaded/exposed?

I write the most secure Android code in the world. Possibly Mars :)

Apple just disables access to files outside of the sandbox which is a fail safe way of securing data. That is, an app only has read / write permissions to the files within the IPA itself (the iOS app).

Or in English, you can’t access system files on iOS.

This is done at the cost of writing to SD cards, or querying data usage by file type (Disk Inventory X).

macOS is just like Android. On macOS or Android you have access to system files.

Apple sort of shoos you into building silly little games for iPhone. ;)

And then Apple votes on Game of the Week.
 
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steve09090

macrumors 6502
Aug 12, 2008
309
749
This feature is done right. I am happy to see that it is all done on the device and that the decisions on what is inappropriate can be left to children and their parents. Apple should not be in the business of child safety. They should be in the business of providing the tools to parents to make sure their children are safe with their devices. The responsibility of child protection should sit first on the parent and this allows exactly that.
The parents are more often than not, the offenders.

Apple are in the business of communication. Privacy is a big part of communication, as is nefarious activity. Wether it’s spam or other nefarious activity, communication companies have a responsibility.

Anyone else here let their ISP or email provider kick emails into their spam or junk folder?
 

newbmacuser2021

macrumors 6502
Oct 19, 2021
354
120
What does that have to do with anything?

Well if you look at the iOS frameworks, they’ve completed disabled IOKit and Darwin.



And now they’re adding CSAM, on top of iCloud Relay (keeping your photos private).

Even if I wanted to, it’s impossible for me to pull photos from Google or Amazon locally.

The photos that sit in the GooglePhotos.IPA (the Google Photos iOS app) can only be accessed by the Google Photos iOS app itself.

So I can’t even write an app on iOS to gather and combine all the various photos on your iPhone.

I hope that makes sense.
 

Cosmosent

macrumors 68020
Apr 20, 2016
2,117
2,417
La Jolla, CA
Moving forward, Kids won't use Messages, they'll migrate to WhatsApp OR whatever, to get out from under Apple's control.

With that group, Apple will have lost one of the key iOS features that makes iOS "sticky," Messages !

NOT saying they will migrate away from Apple products, but Apple will have lost some control over them.

Some Analysts think Messages is the #1 reason Apple has a sticky eco-system.

I don't agree, I think it's a lack of viable & credible competition.
 

newbmacuser2021

macrumors 6502
Oct 19, 2021
354
120
Moving forward, Kids won't use Messages, they'll migrate to WhatsApp OR whatever, to get out from under Apple's control.

With that group, Apple will have lost one of the key iOS features that makes iOS "sticky," Messages !

NOT saying they will migrate away from Apple products, but Apple will have lost some control over them.

Some Analysts think Messages is the #1 reason Apple has a sticky eco-system.

I don't agree, I think it's a lack of viable & credible competition.

Yes, but that’s only if Apple allows WhatsApp on the kid’s version of the App Store…
 

jz0309

Contributor
Sep 25, 2018
4,530
12,869
Temecula, CA
Moving forward, Kids won't use Messages, they'll migrate to WhatsApp OR whatever, to get out from under Apple's control.

With that group, Apple will have lost one of the key iOS features that makes iOS "sticky," Messages !

NOT saying they will migrate away from Apple products, but Apple will have lost some control over them.

Some Analysts think Messages is the #1 reason Apple has a sticky eco-system.

I don't agree, I think it's a lack of viable & credible competition.
The children are not under Apples control, they are under their PARENTS control, rightfully so.. read the article!
 

kalsta

macrumors 68000
May 17, 2010
1,614
357
Australia
Thanks for this article Juli. I was beginning to wonder if MR was intentionally stirring the pot with earlier articles on both this and the CSAM technology, but this is a responsible and well articulated defence of the Messages Communication Safety feature. Sorely needed!
 

SpotOnT

macrumors regular
Dec 7, 2016
122
148
I am sure some adults would like this feature too. Wonder why it isn't an opt in feature for adults who want to avoid unsolicited nudes.

That being said, though, I do wonder how accurate it is going to be at detecting nudity. Based on what we know with such algorithms elsewhere, it is probably pretty horrible.
 

newbmacuser2021

macrumors 6502
Oct 19, 2021
354
120
When questioned about Apple's role as moral police in the App Store, Jobs responds that “we do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.” Better, is what he said next: “Folks who want porn can buy and [sic] Android phone.” April 20, 2010

 
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