September 24, 2019
When Apple trailed its latest iPhone update, iOS 13, it was billed as smarter than ever before – capable of differentiating between you and members of your family, sending spam callers automatically to voicemail, speaking 38 new languages, and even predicting when a woman’s period is due to start.
Will Apple iOS 13 Make It Easier For Cyber Flashers To Target Victims?
The update also includes changes to the AirDrop file-sharing function – changes that have left some sexual harassment experts and victims with concerns over women’s safety.
Currently, users can send images and files via AirDrop to any iPhone user who has the function turned on within a 30 feet radius – the sender simply selects an iPhone name from the list of available devices. 
While commonly used to share holiday or family snaps, AirDrop has also been used maliciously for cyber flashing – the sending of unsolicited sexual images. 
More than 70 Women have spoken to HuffPost UK about their experiences of being cyber flashed, the majority on public transport, where perpetrators are in close proximity to victims and can choose from phone names who to target.
Now, a new U1 chip technology in the iOS 13 update is set to give your iPhone greater spatial awareness – gauging which phones are closest and, crucially, who they belong to. “If you want to share a file with someone using AirDrop, just point your iPhone at theirs and they’ll be first on the list,” an Apple spokesperson explained to HuffPost UK.
Tara Jane O’Reilly, 24, who was cyber flashed at Baker Street station in London, worries this does not take the safety of women into account. 
“I changed my iPhone name so that it wouldn’t identify me to strangers, but now a stranger can point his phone at me and send me a dick pic? That is terrifying, and Apple should reconsider this move,” she says.
Sophie Meehan, 20, who was cyber flashed at St Pancras station after a trip to the theatre with her dad and subsequently followed by the perpetrator, sees the update as “potentially very dangerous”, exposing those already vulnerable to cyber flashing. “This could mean more people could be targeted and therefore affected by this invasive crime,” she says.Related... These Women Are Going to Great Lengths To Avoid Becoming Victims Of Cyberflashing Clare McGlynn, professor of law at Durham University and expert on sexual violence, agrees that the software update could make life easier for perpetrators. “The new Apple software feels distinctly creepy, making it even easier to invade a woman’s privacy and daily life. If you want to make life easier for the harasser, this is the way to do it. Well done, Apple!”
Given the growing awareness of image-based abuse such as cyber flashing, companies developing technologies need to take into account the safety of women as they do so, McGlynn says. “Every day we are doing work to make ourselves safe and comfortable, such as being careful where we sit on public transport. This new software just adds to the unease many of us will feel everyday.”
Apple was approached for comment on the potential of the AirDrop update for misuse, but declined to comment. McGlynn believes the update is an example “of when women’s safety concerns are not designed-into tech from the very beginning”, and that the way to address this is having more women at the forefront of tech design – in 2017 Apple’s global workforce was 32% women. 
The Law Commission is currently investigating proposed changes to create an image-based abuse law, as recommended by the Women and Equalities Committee in October 2018. The Law Commission will report back in 2021.
Laura Thompson, a lead research in sexual violence at City University, says that until the government updates legislation, tech needs to lead on serving women better. “It is increasingly apparent how slow-moving the government is in comparison to the technology sector. While smartphone technology continues to rapidly advance, progress on tightening legislative measures to criminalise cyber flashing in England and Wales has stalled,” she says.
Change needs to happen sooner, Thompson adds: “Ultimately, an overall culture change is needed to end this vile practice. But until we reach that point we need systems, laws and policies in place that are capable of both responding to and anticipating potential misuses of new technologies.”
The British Transport Police (BTP) told HuffPost it does not yet have insight into how iOS 13 might be used on the transport network, but that it is already thinking how CCTV might be used to track perpetrators. 
Detective Inspector David Udomhiaye, head of the Sexual Offences Unit for the BTP, said: “The network is rich in CCTV so if we can see someone in front of you is clearly gesturing their phone in your direction and you’re reporting cyber flashing, then we can explore that as an option.” 
The iOS 13 updates will be available from 30 September on the new iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max.Related... Cyber Flashing: I Had To Educate Police About The Crime I Was Trying To Report Flashing Is Illegal Offline So Why Do We Tolerate It Online? Would Making Cyber Flashing Illegal Stop People Sending Dick Pics?
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