A well-known lawyer who helps people who have been sexually harassed or abused says that Apple’s plan to add “edit” and “undo send” to iMessage could give sexual harassers and abusers more confidence.
In a letter sent to Apple CEO Tim Cook on Wednesday, attorney Michelle Simpson Tuegel said the iMessage update “poses a serious risk to people who are being harassed or abused.”
Tuegel says that the feature, which gives senders 15 minutes to change or delete their messages, could let abusers hide their tracks by sending violent threats or explicit images to victims and then changing or deleting the messages.
Teugel told The Post that would make it harder for victims and their lawyers to find proof of abuse. It could also let abusers “gaslight” their victims by saying they never sent any abusive messages.
The new iMessage features were first shown off by Apple earlier this month. The public should be able to use them when iOS 16 comes out in the fall.
“When I saw this update, I was shocked and thought, ‘Oh no,’ because I deal with this kind of evidence in probably 90 percent of my cases,” said Tuegel, who has helped many victims of sexual abuse and harassment, including more than two dozen victims of ex-USA Gymnastics doctor and serial child molester Larry Nassar.
In her letter to Cook, Tuegel suggests several ways that Apple could change the features to make them safer. For example, users could be notified when messages have been changed, and the time users have to change or delete messages could be cut from 15 minutes to 2 minutes.
Teugel told The Post, “I’ve had a number of sexual assault cases, especially date rape cases, where the offender comes clean the next day.” “Fifteen minutes isn’t a long time, but some people can think about what they just sent and delete it in that amount of time.”
“The two-minute window makes it more likely that the messages will be saved,” she said, noting that Gmail’s “undo send” feature only works for 30 seconds after an email has been sent.
Tuegel also suggests that Apple give users the option to turn off the “edit” and “undo send” features and make it clear whether court orders or subpoenas can be used to get the original versions of messages.
She said that she sent the letter to Cook on Wednesday morning, but she hasn’t heard back yet.
Apple didn’t answer right away when asked for a comment.