Apple has released the second developer beta of iOS 15.2, which includes support for its new communication safety feature in Messages. The feature was announced earlier this year, alongside the company's controversial new child sexual abuse (CSAM) detection technology feature, which Apple delayed following backlash.
The new Messages feature, meanwhile, is meant to allow parents to play a more active and informed role when it comes to helping their children learn to navigate online communication. Messages will be able to use on-device machine learning to analyze image attachments and determine if a photo being shared is sexually explicit. This technology does not require Apple to access or read the child’s private communications, as all the processing happens on the device. It's a Family Sharing feature for parents to opt in.
If a sensitive photo is discovered in a message thread, the image will be blocked and a label will appear below the photo that states, “this may be sensitive” with a link to click to view the photo. If the child chooses to view the photo, another screen appears with more information. Here, a message informs the child that sensitive photos and videos “show the private body parts that you cover with bathing suits” and “it’s not your fault, but sensitive photos and videos can be used to harm you.”
It's worth noting that Apple has made some changes to the communications safety feature compared to its initial plans. The company had originally planned to notify parents if their child under the age of 13 viewed an explicit image in Messages. Apple has since removed this feature after receiving criticism that it could pose risks for the children in question.
The communications safety feature is currently available in the beta version of iOS 15.2. It’s currently unknown when Apple plans to officially release the feature.