3 minute read

Apple’s Schizophrenic Porn Policy: Block Porn on Safari (iPhone)

Last Updated: November 13, 2017

Luke Gilkerson

Luke Gilkerson has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and an MA in Religion. He is the author of Coming Clean: Overcoming Lust Through Biblical Accountability and The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality. Luke and his wife Trisha blog at IntoxicatedOnLife.com

Since the birth of the iPhone, the porn industry has made smartphones the new horizon of their business strategies. The reasons are obvious: Smartphones are small and portable, yet give nearly instant access to the World Wide Web on high-quality touch screens. “Pocket porn,” once only a dream, is now the adult industry’s dream come true. By 2015, the global adult mobile market is estimated to hit $2.8 billion, a 65% increase since 2009.

Block Porn on Safari iPhone

The late great Steve Jobs faced some serious flack last year when he wrote about “freedom from porn” on the iPhone. Earlier last year Apple removed many apps from its store based on content some customers deemed objectionable, degrading, and inappropriate for children. Philip W. Schiller, head of product marketing at Apple, said, “We obviously care about developers, but in the end have to put the needs of the kids and parents first.”

It has never been clear what Apple considers inappropriate content, however. Why do Sports Illustrated swimsuit models get an app, but others do not? “The difference is,” says Schiller, “this is a well-known company with previously published material available broadly in a well-accepted format.” So, I guess partial nudity is okay in the App Store as long as the company putting it out has more widespread acceptance.

Perhaps Schiller would say that same about the recently added Max Go app, offering viewers complete access to all Cinemax films, including the ones that have earned Cinemax its nicknames “Skinemax” and “Sin-to-the-Max.”

And of course there is one very easy way around the anti-porn policy altogether: just don’t go through the App Store. Companies can market adult content through traditional web browsers like Safari or video chat applications like Facetime.

For someone concerned about titillation on the iPhone or iPad, there are proactive steps you can take.

Safari Isn’t the Only Problem

Many apps have built-in browsers. Even if you never use Safari, these apps can incidentally serve as a backdoor to porn. This is why setting restrictions on your iPhone are important.

Step 1. Do an app review

Many apps cannot be disabled using the iPhone’s restrictions, such as YouTube. Do a complete review of the apps on the device and uninstall any that can serve as a doorway to pornography.

Step 2. Enable Restrictions

Under the Restrictions menu, you may disable certain apps and content.

  1. Launch the “Settings” app and then select the icon labeled “General.”
  2. Select “Restrictions” and tap the button labeled “Enable Restrictions.”
  3. You will be asked for a four-digit passcode. (Someone else should know this password if you don’t want to be able to disable these restrictions.)
  4. Next, turn off AirDrop and other apps that might allow objectionable material. Toggle “Installing Apps” to “Off” as well (so no one can install new porn-friendly apps).
  5. Under “Allowed Content,” toggle off the ability to listen to explicit music and podcasts, and disallow movies and TV shows at inappropriate levels (e.g. NC-17 for movies and TV-MA for TV shows). Under “Websites,” toggle “Limit Adult Content.”

Step 3. Use a Monitored Browser

Even with adult content blocked on Safari, it is best for the safety of the user to monitor what content is viewed online. To do this, use a monitored browser, like Covenant Eyes.

(Update for 2017: We just released our brand new, completely overhauled Covenant Eyes Accountability app for iPhone® and iPad®. Our patent-pending technology extends accountability coverage on the iPhone and iPad in ways that no one else can. Learn more about the new app.)

The Covenant Eyes browser app is designed to work hand-in-hand with your device’s built-in restrictions.

To use Covenant Eyes…

  1. Get a Covenant Eyes account if you don’t already have one.
  2. Install the Covenant Eyes browser app. On your iOS device, find and tap your App Store icon. Click “Search,” then type in “Covenant Eyes.” Click on the Covenant Eyes app to open the information screen.
  3. In step 4 above, DO NOT disable apps rated 17+. Because Covenant Eyes offers Internet access that can be unfiltered, Apple rates it 17+. By disabling 17+ apps, you will be disabling Covenant Eyes.

Photo credits: xlordashxtechnamyte

  • Comments on: Apple’s Schizophrenic Porn Policy: Block Porn on Safari (iPhone)
    1. Jim on

      This is a good start, but until we can block access to Facebook and Twitter (which are accessible in full search mode from normal apps such as the Weather Channel app and the Holy Bible app), it’s not going to make much if a difference.

      Reply
      • Andrew Stringer on

        Correct! I think what we need is to be able to block everything on the app-integrated browsers and safari, and have separate controls (default allowing everything but monitoring it) in the Covenant Eyes browser.

      • Jake Shotrosky on

        Hey Andrew,
        We completely agree with you! It is something that we have been wanting to do for a long time but have been hindered by what we are allowed to do on iOS devices. Now, I do not want to give false expectations but it looks like this level of monitoring might be possible in the future. I wish I could give a timeline but there is a lot of work that would need to go into this and there are still some unknown factors.

    2. JDG on

      I’d really love to see you guys develop a database of “safe apps.” Many apps are completely fine except that something somewhere in the app will allow access to a built in safari browser. So even if your browser is disabled, you can access the internet through an app that isn’t even for that. It can be very difficult to determine whether an app is safe or not, and particularly with paid apps, you don’t want to buy the app just to find out you have to delete it.

      This may be unfeasible as it would need constant updating. For instance, the Bank of America app used to be completely safe, then they updated it, and it is no longer safe. I had to delete it, and I couldn’t go back to an older version. Also, maybe it would feel risky to take on the responsibility of claiming an app is OK just to have someone use it to sin. But maybe it’s a user supported system, like those coupon sites, where others can confirm whether it’s safe or not. And maybe disclaimers are in order that say that anytime you upgrade, that’s a risk, and you should wait for confirmation from the safe apps page, and even so, following the recommendations of this page are still a risk. I don’t know. Anyway, the app industry is so gigantic that it would seem something to help navigate these waters would be helpful.

      Reply
    3. Lucas on

      Does anyone know of an app that monitors what other apps you install on your iPhone? X3 does this for my droid and I think it’s a great functionality my accountability partners can use to monitor what I install. I want to get the new iPhone, but not if there is not an app that can do this. To deactivating installing apps defeats the purpose of the phone, and what stops you from downloading it on your iTunes on your computer and then installing another browser anyways?

      Reply
      • Dave Caswell on

        @Lucas – there is no app that monitors which apps are installed on the phone. Due to the limitations of the iOS ecosystem, it would be impossible for an app to be able to perform that task.

        When Installing apps is disabled, even though a user can download the app on iTunes, that app cannot be installed on the phone until Installing apps is enabled. What we find a number of our users doing is saving up their app installs into batches and then having their accountability partner enter the passcode to allow them to install.

      • Aaron on

        One other option is to set you iTunes account to send receipt emails to your accountability partner. It’s not the same as X3, but it will let them see everything you’ve downloaded, including apps, songs, movies, ringtones, etc.

    4. WB on

      I am glad to know I am not alone in this. I struggle with even telling people that you can still access questionable content through apps that include Web Browsers in them for fear that it will cause them to stumble. If they don’t know, I’d rather it stay a secret. That being said, it seems that the people who have posted here know what I’m going through right now. Its amazing that Apple lets this stuff through. You’d think they’d either force the content to go through the main Safari browser (which is blocked!) or your default browser (Covenant Eyes, which is monitored!). I also think that Apple is being a bit hypocritical with the ratings of browsers being 17+ when you can access these web browsers from apps with much lower ratings.

      For me, if there’s a way to access a web browser, its a tough battle and an automatic deletion.

      Here’s some apps that I know are safe if you have the safeguards in place (no iTunes, no app store, no Safari, no App install):
      iPad/iPhone: Real Racing HD2, Flight ControlHD, Planetary, Settlers of Catan, Bebot, Garageband, Pages, Keynote, Numbers, Multibong, Labyrinth, Skype (I’m so glad this is locked down tight!), Scrabble HD, Evernote Peek, djay

      iPhone: The Price is Right (iPhone), Keynote Remote, Tris, Texas Hold-em (Great Poker Game made by Apple!)

      Its getting harder for me to want to even buy apps because of the potential for failure. I also will not even consider messing with my restrictions unless my accountability partner is in the room with me. I am convinced that I am good at finding loopholes, so I stand behind these apps as I have not been able to find anything that will let me access a web browser in the apps. I hope this will help y’all and that any updates to these apps will be safe, but remember to ALWAYS BE VIGILANT!

      Reply
      • JDG on

        This is exactly what I was talking about. I’m the same way.

        I think what happens is that developers borrow bits of code from here or there when they develop their apps. They don’t necessarily create it all from scratch. And many times what they borrow will include an integrated browser. The frustrating thing is that this is normally perceived as a good thing from the consumer standpoint, so you can’t even find reference to apps that DON’T have integrated browsing. You just have to sort of get lucky. I’ve got a pastor who will install apps on his iPhone to let me test them out. Obviously if it’s a pay app, we don’t do it though.

        Some of the google apps are ok, like Lattitude and Places (at lease the versions I have so far).

        Also, Redbox has been safe, but it’s due for an update. I wonder if it remains safe. I’m always hesitant run updates. That’s how I lost my Bank of America app.

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