One, Apple Park Way
24 August, 2021
Dear Mr. Cook,
On behalf of ParentsTogether, a community of over 2.5 million parents across the United States, we are writing regarding Apple’s failure to prevent kids from accessing casual sex and stranger-chat apps that can be a haven for predators, as revealed in the Tech Transparency Project’s new report, “Apple’s App Store Loopholes Put Children at Risk.”
The past year and half has been a nightmare for child safety on the internet. As you are no doubt aware, online child sexual abuse and exploitation surged during the pandemic, with reports of online enticement to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline up 97.5% in 2020.
According to a new investigation from the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), Apple is failing to stop children downloading a vast range of adult-only apps, including apps for casual sex and chatting with random strangers. This is as good as giving predators a direct line to kids.
As is clear from TTP’s report, even when someone’s Apple ID shows they are underrage, they can still easily access adult-only apps. Examples include Anonymous Chat for Two, which is rated 17+ and pairs together random strangers for exchanging messages and images, and which is known for porn bots and requests for nude pictures.
Personal stories underscore the danger posed to kids by such apps. After confiscating her 14-year-old daughter’s phone, one mom was shocked to find a flood of sexually explicit photos from older men delivered via stranger-chat app Yubo, many pressuring her to reciprocate. Reviews on the App Store detail how many of these apps are filled with people asking for sexually explicit images.
According to Apple’s own guidelines, such “chat roulette” apps shouldn’t be on the App Store at all, a rule Apple is failing to enforce. Despite clearly recognizing their dangers, Apple allows children to download stranger-chat apps. A company with your enormous clout and resources should not leave children vulnerable to the insufficient safeguards of individual app developers and their all-too-often threadbare age verification processes.
The time for abdication of responsibility and unaccountable tech practices that hurt our children is over. Parents are asking you to take immediate measures to stop children from accessing adult-only apps. At a minimum, this means:
- Block anyone whose Apple ID shows they are underage from adult-only apps
- Require that adult apps institute substantive age verification processes and close loopholes that allow them to ignore evidence that a user is underage.
- Enforce Apple’s own guidelines and remove chat roulette apps from the App Store
ParentsTogether would appreciate the opportunity to meet and discuss these concerns. We look forward to hearing from you.
Online Safety Director, ParentsTogether