Apple announces expansion of iPhone child safety feature in the UK

Apple has announced the expansion of an AI-based tool for iPhones that will protect children from both receiving or sending sexual content in iOS Messages. It will be available on all iPhone models supporting iOS 15, such as iPhone 13, iPhone 12 and iPhone 11.

This new security feature, called Communications Safety, was launched in the US late last year as part of the iOS 15.2 point update. Once the feature is enabled it uses artificial intelligence to scan all of the photos within the iOS Messages for sexually explicit content.

If any images are detected by the Communications Safety tool, they will automatically be blurred and labelled with sensitive content warnings. The user will also be a sent a link directing them towards relevant information and resources. Communications Safety can also intercept any photos sent by a child user if the images contain nudity, advising the user not to send them and to contact a trusted adult.

In a statement released by Apple, the tech giant said that once the feature is installed and enabled, “Messages analyzes image attachments and determines if a photo contains nudity while maintaining the end-to-end encryption of the messages”.

Apple’s original plans for the Communications Safety feature had to be scaled down after criticism and pushback from privacy groups.

Initially, the feature was also set to incorporate a parental option that would automatically notify parents if explicit material was found in photos sent or received by users under 13 years of age. Instead, child users will be able to send messages to a trusted adult separately from deciding whether to view an image, with parents only being notified if the child chooses.

The tool has now been designed so that any detection it makes will remain limited to the device, with Apple not having access to any of the messages or data.

Apple has more child safety features ready to go, including an AI tool that can scan images uploaded to iCloud servers using hashes and then cross-reference them with law enforcement databases.

Although Apple has announced it will be bringing Communications Safety to UK iPhone users, the company did not specify a timeframe for rollout.