Learn about Apple's latest iOS 17 updates and the safety measures at-risk victims can take to protect themselves. A special thank you to EndTAB for providing us with these important updates to share with the public and ensure that victims and communities know the safety measures they can take using their phones.
Feature #1: Contact Posters
What are Contact Posters?
Contact Posters are Apple's latest approach to personalizing calls. Think of them as dynamic business cards for when you're calling someone already saved in your address book. You can embellish this "card" with a photo or Memoji, choose a custom font and color, and make calls uniquely yours. These posters will pop up in multiple places, such as during a call or when sharing your contact via apps like NameDrop. Put another way, the caller can make a photo of their choosing show up on the recipient’s phone.
What’s The Risk?
Picture this: A victim receives a call from an abusive ex, and instead of just a name or number popping up, they're exposed to an unsettling, threatening or inappropriate image. With Contact Posters, callers have the power to dictate what image appears during a call, potentially giving bad actors yet another new (and sneaky) avenue for harassment or intimidation. We need less of these abusive loopholes - not more.
First, we need to make folks aware of this harassment loophole. Then we can empower them to prevent it. Here are 3 ways to make this happen:
1) Block Unwanted Contacts: The first step is the most direct; block the offending contact. To block a phone number, go to Settings > Phone > Blocked Contacts > Add New. When you block a phone number or contact, they can still leave a voicemail, but you won't get a notification.
2) Edit the Caller’s Contact Poster Yourself: As a preventive measure, go to the Contacts app and adjust the Contact Poster for individuals you’re wary of—this could be changed to just their initials or a neutral image. Here’s how:
- Open the Contacts app on your iPhone.
- Select the Contact for which you want to make a new Contact Poster.
- Once selected, tap the ‘Contact Photo & Poster’ option.
- Now choose the poster using the Photos, Memoji, or Monogram buttons. The Monogram will ensure that just initials show up.
- When you’re ready, select Done at the top right corner.
- On the preview page, tap Continue. That’s it!
3) Enable Sensitive Content Warning: Apparently, Apple saw this loophole coming and you can turn on their new Sensitive Content Warning feature (more on that below) that will blur any nude images coming through. This won't prevent threatening images though.
Overall, this plugs a very important leak that someone in the victim's contacts could exploit to expose them to harmful or traumatic images without having to text or AirDrop it to them.
Feature #2: Sensitive Content Feature
Sensitive Content Warning: What is it?
Finally, Apple has heeded the call for more proactive protective measures against unwanted explicit content. If the Sensitive Content Warning feature detects a photo or video that appears to contain nudity - it gets blurred and displays a warning that the content appears to be sensitive, and offers ways to get help. This way, users get a heads-up about potentially nude photos or videos across a range of applications including Messages, AirDrop, FaceTime Messages, and even the aforementioned Contact Posters.
The Technology Behind It:
Apple uses on-device machine learning to scan and analyze media, ensuring user privacy by not sending or storing any data off the device.
This tool can be a game-changer in the fight against cyberflashing. But you have to turn it on!! Here's how to activate it:
> Go to Settings.
> Navigate to Privacy & Security.
> Select Sensitive Content Warning and toggle it on. (this will activate it on a paired Apple Watch too)
> Choose the Apple menu > System Settings.
> From the sidebar, select Privacy & Security.
> Scroll down and select Sensitive Content Warning.
> Turn on Sensitive Content Warning.
Feature 3: Voice Cloning
What is ‘Personal Voice’?
Personal Voice is a new feature in iOS 17 that creates a copy of your voice and anything you type into your iPhone will be read aloud in your voice. It can also read out on-screen content or any other data stored on the phone in your own voice. Instead of your iPhone using a Siri voice - it can use your voice. During voice and FaceTime calls, all the text you type will be read out loud in your own voice.
Why Apple Created it
Apple created the new feature to let “users at risk of losing their ability to speak to create a voice that sounds like them.” For example, people living with ALS, vocal cord hemorrhage, laryngeal cancer, and multiple sclerosis have a high risk of losing their voice.
What’s The Risk?
Here’s where my mind goes: A victim clones their voice (willingly or is pressured), and then their partner can impersonate them in a variety of ways. For example, they could leave fake voicemails, bypass voice identification (like with Banks), sabotage relationships, their job and more. Basically, there are a ton of ways to harm someone if you control their voice.
How does it work?
The set up process takes a bit. You have to be recorded answering 150 questions, which will then be used to create the cloned voice. The computation process can take hours, at which time you’ll be notified the when the voice is ready.
First, from a prevention perspective, we need to make folks interested in this feature aware of the misuse implications. Discuss the benefits and risks, so people can make an informed decision about creating a voice or not. This feature is also an interesting way to discuss consent, boundaries and safety in relationships:
- Trust & Boundaries: How would you feel if your partner could use your voice when you left the room or were asleep?
- Consent: Does letting your partner use your phone to type things in your voice once mean they can do it in the future when you’re not around?
- Safety: If you learned your partner used your voice to leave a voicemail on a friend’s phone, how would you feel?
Second, from a safety planning perspective, we need to ask victims if they have cloned their voice on their phone. If yes, we need to talk through potential impersonation risks and help them turn it off if they choose to do so:
To Delete on an iPhone or iPad
- Open the Settings app. Tap Accessibility, then tap Personal Voice.
- Tap the Personal Voice that you want to delete.
- Authenticate with Face ID or Touch ID, or enter your passcode.
- Tap Delete Voice, then tap Delete Voice And Recordings to confirm.
To Delete On a Mac
- Choose Apple menu > System Settings, click Accessibility in the sidebar, then click Personal Voice.
- Click the Show Detail button next to the Personal Voice that you want to delete.
- Enter your password.
- Click Delete Voice, then click Delete Voice And Recordings to confirm.
Feature 4: Check In
Check In: What is it?
Check In is a new iPhone feature designed to allow users to share their real-time location and status with specific contacts. It was built with the intent of automatically helping individuals let their loved ones know they're safe, especially during times of crisis or emergency situations.
How it Works: The Benefits
If used as intended, this feature is designed to automate letting people in a victim’s network know where they are, that they arrived safely or if they’ve been delayed - which can be very useful if someone is worried about being followed or encountering trouble on their way to work, court or another important destination.
Checking in can be accomplished a few different ways:
Manual Check In: Once set up, you can manually activate 'Check In' whenever you feel the need to share your location or status with specific contacts. You can specify your destination, how you’re traveling (driving, transit, or walking), and add extra time if needed.
From there, Check In monitors your journey and notifies your friend if your iPhone isn’t progressing for an extended period of time or if it doesn’t reach your destination as expected, and the details of your iPhone’s journey will be sent to your friend. When you arrive at your destination successfully, the Check In automaticallycompletes and notifies your friend that your iPhone has arrived.
Automatic Alerts: You can set up specific times for automatic check-ins. For example, if you don’t check in by a certain time, like if you’re meeting someone new or on a date, the app can notify your contacts.
When misused, this feature gives abusive partners a new tool to monitor and control a victim in different ways:
Nonconsensual Monitoring: Abusive partners, through power and control, may openly demand that the victim uses the 'Check In' feature frequently, effectively tracking their every move.
Forced Check-ins: An abusive individual might force their partner to use the feature to 'prove' their whereabouts.
Manipulation: They might claim they're worried for the victim's safety as a guise to monitor their activities. This can mask their desire for control as concern.
Fear: Knowing that they can be tracked, the victim may feel pressured to avoid certain places or people, further isolating them from potential sources of help or comfort.
Again, from a prevention perspective, this can be an engaging way to discuss consent, boundaries and safety in a healthy relationship.
Consent: Agreeing to share your location because your partner pressures you (or they share there location with you) is not an example of giving consent (aka permission) freely.
Boundaries: If you feel uncomfortable doing this, it likely signals a boundary is being tested or violated.
Safety: Does sharing your location with your partner make you feel safe? What about if they question why you didn’t get to work at the usual time because your phone alerted them you got delayed?
From a safety planning posture, it’s important to see if they use Check In with their partner and walk through the unintended consequences of canceling the Check In or failing to Check In with them in the future. Will this create an unsafe situation and, if so, how can we ensure the victim’s safety is enhanced during this period?
Here’s how you cancel a Check-In:
- Open the Messages app on your iPhone.
- Open the conversation with the friend you sent a Check In to.
- On the Check In message, tap Details, then tap Cancel Check In and confirm.