Apple’s Communication Safety feature is back with the iOS 15.2 beta

Earlier this year, Apple unveiled a suite of new features it packaged in something it called Expanded Protections for Children. There were three new features total, but, at the time, one of them raised a lot of concerns regarding a potential breakdown of privacy. Following a lot of backlash and commentary, Apple decided to delay the features — but it looks like one of them is making a comeback.

As first reported today by MacRumors, it looks like Apple has included the Communication Safety feature in the latest beta of iOS 15.2. While this does not automatically mean that Apple plans on rolling the feature out to the public alongside the wide release of the software at some point in the future. It does at least suggest Apple’s working towards that reality.

And it’s certainly possible the Communication Safety feature does go live with the public release of iOS 15.2. To that end, the original report notes that the code for the feature is present in the beta of iOS 15.2, but the feature is not live. That could change with subsequent beta seeds, however.

Here’s a quick refresher: Communication Safety is the tool that’s present in iOS, iPadOS, and macOS. It will be built into the Messages app on those platforms, and it serves to offer up warnings of potentially explicit photos being shared in the app. Both children and the parents will be notified of that potentially harmful material. Those warnings will be issued when a photo is shared to the child or sent from the child’s device.

Per the code, here are some of the messages that a child may see in this situations:

  • You are not alone and can always get help from a grownup you trust or with trained professionals. You can also block this person.
  • You are not alone and can always get help from a grownup you trust or with trained professionals. You can also leave this conversation or block contacts.
  • Talk to someone you trust if you feel uncomfortable or need help.
  • This photo will not be shared with Apple, and your feedback is helpful if it was incorrectly marked as sensitive.
  • Message a Grownup You Trust.
  • Hey, I would like to talk with you about a conversation that is bothering me.
  • Sensitive photos and videos show the private body parts that you cover with bathing suits.
  • It’s not your fault, but sensitive photos can be used to hurt you.
  • The person in this may not have given consent to share it. How would they feel knowing other people saw it?
  • The person in this might not want it seen-it could have been shared without them knowing. It can also be against the law to share.
  • Sharing nudes to anyone under 18 years old can lead to legal consequences.
  • If you decide to view this, your parents will get a notification to make sure you’re OK.
  • Don’t share anything you don’t want to. Talk to someone you trust if you feel pressured.
  • Do you feel OK? You’re not alone and can always talk to someone who’s trained to help here.

The original report says that Apple has made it so that software will offer up different prompts depending on the age bracket of the child. There will be different messages for kids under 13 and kids 13 and older. And apparently’s software will not send a notification to parents if a 13-year-old views a photo with nudity in it (but a notification will be sent if the child is under 13 years old).

As it stands right now, it appears that only the Communication Safety within the suite of Expanded Protections for Children features is present in iOS 15.2.

As mentioned above, there was one feature baked into this effort that raised a lot of concerns, and that was the scanning of iCloud Photo libraries. That scan was looking for specific child sexual abuse material, or CSAM. Apple had some failsafes in place to protect against potential nefarious use cases, but the idea that Apple was automatically scanning photo libraries, even if it was only searching for specific material and tags, did not go over well at all.

There’s no word on when this particular feature will ever see the light of day again. But, as it stands, it appears Apple has worked out whatever it needed to to get Communication Safety ready for prime time.