HARDWARE

Orwellian Watch: Apple's Creepy Patent Application

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Apple has applied for a patent on new technology that would enable it to take control remotely and disable mobile devices (think iPhone and iPad) or wipe out data altogether. It's apparantly for the purpose of cracking down on jailbreakers and in the event the device is stolen or lost.

On it's face, it doesn't sound terrible I suppose. If my phone were stolen, I would certainly be more concerned about the lost and compromised personal information on board falling into the wrong hands than losing the phone itself. What a relief it would be to have Apple simply erase the little sucker wherever it is and save my privacy.

But, is this really a privacy saver or a privacy buster?

The answer depends on how much you trust Apple, I guess. Or how intimate your relationship is with a faceless mega-corporation.

Are you comfortable enough with Apple that it's okay for them to:

- have the power to turn on your iPhone camera, snap a picture of whatever is in plain site of the lense and then upload it to Apple for analysis?

- have the power to record your voice on your next phone call and upload it for analysis, as well?

- have the power to record your heartbeat as you use your phone and... you know the rest?

These are the capabilities described in the patent application entitled "Systems and Methods for Identifying Unauthorized Users of an Electronic Device". Apple would archive a picture, voice and heartbeat recording of the authorized user up front. This would be the baseline for the above analysis scenarios.

Nevermind the obvious:

- that Apple is developing technology to crack down on jailbreaking iPhones after the courts just ruled its legal to jailbreak your own phone.

I can't resist playing the "what if" game.

So, what if...

... it's all a big misunderstanding and the camera takes a picture for the Apple mothership while you are in the middle of sexy time?

... it's all a big misunderstanding when your daughter's voice doesn't match your archived voice at the Apple nerve center? So, she's borrowed your phone. It doesn't work and now she can't call you to let you know she has a flat tire out on the Interstate.

... Oops, your archived heartbeat isn't a match and your phone is disabled right in the middle of your 911 call when you are, oh say, HAVING A HEART ATTACK? Hello!

Think I'm off base? This will never happen! What are the chances - one in a million? Perhaps! But, consider this; there are some 45 million iPhone users out there. One in a million translates to about 45 people in that one flukey situation that compromises their privacy - or worse.

What if its you?

You are welcome to follow me on Twitter @oricchio.

Last updated: Aug 23, 2010




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