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New Apple Patent Could Shut Down iPhone Cameras when Entering “Sensitive Areas”

Posted by Zack | Posted in Consumer Electronics | Posted on 25-09-2012

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iPhone cameraIn recent Apple patent news, and for the first time recently patent news that DOESN’T involve the company suing somebody, a patent was granted to Apple enabling them  to wirelessly disable the camera function on specific iPhones in certain locations, which naturally sparked a flurry of fear among consumers.

Needless to say, smartphones have made it extremely simple to take a video and upload instantly to millions of people on the internet. Some of the most popular videos on the internet today are ones captured on cell phones depicting fights, protests, riots or other crazy events involving civilians and authorities. This allows viewers to get a point of view that other news outlets fail to capture, the one from right in the middle of the action.

According to U.S. Patent No. 8,254,902, in theory, “apparatus and methods of enforcement of policies upon a wireless device” could be implemented with the push of a single button. The patent itself states:

Apparatus and methods for changing one or more functional or operational aspects of a wireless device, such as upon the occurrence of a certain event. In one embodiment, the event comprises detecting that the wireless device is within range of one or more other devices. In another variant, the event comprises the wireless device associating with a certain access point. In this manner, various aspects of device functionality may be enabled or restricted (device “policies”). This policy enforcement capability is useful for a variety of reasons, including for example to disable noise and/or light emanating from wireless devices (such as at a movie theater), for preventing wireless devices from communicating with other wireless devices (such as in academic settings), and for forcing certain electronic devices to enter “sleep mode” when entering a sensitive area.

In layman’s terms, an encoded signal could potentially be transmitted to all wireless devices entering a “sensitive area” which would command them to disable all recording functions. However, one of the biggest questions here is who is in charge of determining these “sensitive areas”?

The biggest fear here is that this can and will be used by authorities at certain times to control what you can and cannot record on your own phone. This comes right after innovation by technology companies making wireless connectivity a major component on the latest smartphone cameras.

This could severely impact photographers and citizen journalists as this patent could constitute the creation of virtual walls around certain areas that would automatically shut off your camera whenever you crossed the barrier. The lighter side is that patents are filed every day that never come to fruition, which could be exactly what happens to this one, though it still lets off an ominous feeling of what the future may hold.

Source: International Business Times – Apple Granted Patent to Disable iPhone Recordings Near Government Buildings or Political Events

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