Apple is introducing a safety feature that scans messages sent to and from children using AI, starting with phones in the U.K, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, The Guardian reported.
The feature will scan for nudity when photos are sent or received by children using Apple's messaging app. If the new tool, which is an expansion of Apple's communication safety features in Messages, is turned on and detects nudity in a received photo, the photo will be blurred, and the receiver will get a warning that the photo might contain sensitive content. Similar features go into effect when a photo with nudity in it is sent by a child, encouraging them not to send the image and giving them to option to “Message a Grown-Up."
"The feature is designed so that no indication of the detection of nudity ever leaves the device," Apple said in a statement to The Guardian. "Apple does not get access to the messages, and no notifications are sent to the parent or anyone else." (Apple originally planned to notify parents of users 13 and under if they're using family accounts and opt to send or receive the images anyway, but did not include this feature in the latest update, according to The Guardian.)
Apple delayed the rollout of its child-protection features in September after backlash from privacy advocates who claimed the move gives Apple the tools to snoop on users' devices. Sharon Bradford Franklin, co-director of the Security and Surveillance Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology, told Protocol in an interview in August that the feature poses potential risks to LGBT and other vulnerable youth, as well as "undermine(s) a prior industry standard for providing encryption and security to users of Apple products."
Though Apple maintained that the features were "intended to help protect children from predators who use communication tools to recruit and exploit them and to help limit the spread of Child Sexual Abuse Material," the company paused its original rollout due to the controversy.
This story was updated April 21, 2022 to reflect the additional countries in which the feature is rolling out.