Apple rolls out message scanning feature to keep children safe from harmful images in UK

Andrew Griffin
Wednesday 20 April 2022 18:33
Comments

Apple is introducing new protections for children on iPhones in the UK.

The feature allows the phone to scan the messages of children and look for images that contain nudity. If it finds them, it will warn children about what they are receiving or sending, offering them extra information or the ability to message someone they trust for help.

It had already launched in the US, and will now be coming to the UK in a software update in the coming weeks. The rollout has been staggered as Apple works to ensure that the feature and the help it offers are tailored to individual countries.

The tool is referred to by Apple as “expanded protections for children” and lives within the Messages app on iOS, iPadOS, WatchOS and MacOS. It is not turned on by default.

When it is turned on, the Messages app uses artificial intelligence to watch for images that appear to contain nudity. That processing happens on the device and neither the pictures or warnings are uploaded to Apple.

If an image is sent or received by a phone with the feature on, a warning will pop up telling the user that the “photo could be sensitive”, and asking them whether they are sure they want to see it. It includes a range of warnings about the fact that the images include messages telling them that “naked photos and videos can be used to hurt you” and that the images might have been taken without the person’s permission.

(Apple)

Users can then choose to keep the image blurred without looking at it, get further information or “message a grown-up” about what they have been sent. Apple stresses that parents or caregivers will not be alerted without a child’s consent.

Apple’s new child protection features have proven controversial since it was first announced in August. Apple made some tweaks to the way the feature worked since its initial announcement, and says that it is built to preserve the privacy of young people.

It was also announced alongside another tool that would scan everyone’s photos if they were uploaded for storage in iCloud, and look for known child sexual abuse imagery. After it was announced, it was met with concerns that it could be used for other purposes such as political repression, and Apple announced that it would be pausing the rollout until it had gathered more feedback.

That feature – which proved far more controversial and criticised than the scanning in Messages feature that is now being rolled out – will not be launching in the UK yet, and is still yet to be rolled out in the US or any other market.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in