FAQs: iPhone Accountability and Filtering with Covenant Eyes

Since the release of the new Covenant Eyes iOS Accountability app in late 2017, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Our ability to connect our Accountability services into deeper parts of the iPhone, including apps, and force Google safe searches no matter where Google is accessed, has been very helpful to our customers.

Our members have asked a lot of great questions about the new app. I thought that I’d address a few of the more common questions that have come through both our blog and our world-class Customer Support Team.

Question: Can you see my texts?

Answer: No, we cannot see your texts. iMessage activity is not available to us.

Question: Is every app monitored? Filtered?

Answer: Every app is monitored, but allow me to explain what I mean by that. Covenant Eyes is able to see every domain that is accessed through the iOS device. A domain name is synonymous with a “web address,” like “Instagram.com” or “Facebook.com.” Even though you aren’t typing in a web address in order to use an app, like you do in a browser like Safari, the app still makes a “call” through the device to a server in order to access the information you’re looking for. The Covenant Eyes app identifies the “call” and reports that domain every single time the phone tries to access information by reaching out to a server.

Is every app filtered? The answer is no. Currently, we do not have the ability to filter the content that might be shared within an app. Meaning, we can’t block nasty language in Snapchat or stop inappropriate direct messaging and pictures in Instagram (although that’s coming!). The exception to this is that we do have a wonderful handle on Google, no matter where Google is accessed on the device. Meaning, if a person finds a hidden Google search in an app (and they’re everywhere), and think they can get away with an unfiltered search, Covenant Eyes forces a Google safe search every single time. Therefore, although we’re not enforcing our own filtering rules, we are at least forcing Google’s safe search rules, which although not foolproof, are generally effective at blocking most objectionable content. And, anything that might slip through the safe search and is clicked on by the user would be rated by Covenant Eyes at that domain level.

It’s pretty great. And, we’re the only service that can do this.

Question: Why does the VPN only report HM (highly mature) content?

Answer: We had to start somewhere. We’re considering an expansion to our reporting into other content levels and we’ll be sure to let everyone know if we decide to head in that direction. For now, we needed to at least report HM content as a starting point.

February 2018 update: Accountability Reports now list sites that are at or above the “Report Sensitivity Level” (RSL). For example, for one of the men that I hold accountable, their RSL is set at “mature,” which means the Accountability Report for that individual lists sites in the “Mobile & Tablet App Activity for Review” rated mature and highly mature.  

Question: What is a VPN? Did Covenant Eyes invent this?

Answer: A traditional virtual private network (VPN) is typically used by employees to securely access corporate files from remote locations, i.e., home or hotel. Now, the term VPN is more often used to describe commercial VPNs that are used by everyday people to connect to the internet more securely, thereby hiding their internet activity from their internet service provider or protecting their activity when connected to public hotspots.

Covenant Eyes’ new app utilizes the VPN feature on the iPhone in order to dig deeper into activity on the device. We didn’t invent it. We just found a neat way to use it.

Question: Can I turn off the “forced” YouTube restricted mode? It’s too restrictive.

Answer: In our initial release of updated Covenant Eyes iOS app, the answer was “no,” but, we listened to your feedback, and made a change! Now, if you’re a Filter user, you have the option of enabling YouTube Restricted Mode across the entire device. This can be done by the Filter Guardian in My Account, as explained in our support article. This is significant for parents who are constantly fighting against YouTube’s lack of strong mobile controls.

Question: With the new app, do I need to keep using the Covenant Eyes browser?

Answer: Maybe, but it depends on the user. The new app can force safe search in Google and Bing, and will rate any link that is clicked anywhere in the app, but it won’t monitor an inappropriate Google search where nothing is actually clicked. And, if it is clicked in a browser other than Covenant Eyes, i.e., Safari, it’s going to rate at the domain level only. If you want the safest browsing experience, then we advise that you continue using the Covenant Eyes browser, where every click is fully rated, in the same way that many of you have grown to depend on. It’s still the best way.

But, if the freedom to use Safari won’t cause undue temptation, and the knowledge that a dumpster dive into inappropriate content in Safari will now hit the report is enough to make you steer clear of trouble, then our new app is perfect for you too.

Conclusion: We’re pleased with our new iPhone coverage and are actively working on ways to make it even better. We value your feedback, and will continue to listen to our valuable members as we work together to create solutions that enable all of us to live porn-free.