The next time you’re at a concert and you whip out your iPhone to record the excitement, you may notice it doesn’t work. During the show you keep trying to turn it on but for some reason it just won't light-up.
But miraculously when you go outside when the concert is over, your phone all of a sudden works again. This can happen to you at the next concert you attend or maybe inside the next movie theater you go to.
Apple has received a patent that would allow the company to turn off its mobile devices in areas that are deemed inappropriate for recording or taking pictures. The new technology would also have the ability to shut down communication functions in devices, so people couldn’t text or make phone calls if they’re in areas that are considered sensitive.
Here’s what's written on the patent:
“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 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.”
Many believe this new patent could be a good thing, as it can remove the power from movie bootleggers or cut off communication from a group of up-to-no-gooders in an airport let’s say, but it could also harm the public’s ability to document wrongdoing.
Remember the kids who were pepper-sprayed at the University of California Davis during the Occupy Wall Street rallies? The students were sitting peacefully but were sprayed at close range, while hundreds of smartphones filmed the incident, which was eventually broadcast around the world.
Well, this type of amateur-video journalism could be halted, as certain entities could have the power to abruptly shut off your phone during protest marches, rallies or political gatherings. Those same entities could also just block off satellite signals so you couldn’t get smartphone access in certain places.
The federal government along with Apple could arbitrarily decide what areas or public functions would be considered sensitive or restricted. Some believe the amount of subjectivity that goes into making such a decision is as big as the sea, which is the reason they're concerned about this new technology.
Although the patent was granted, Apple would still need the okay from the government to implement the technology, but the company is well on its way to using it in the near future.
Some have already expressed concern over not being able to monitor police action, especially during public protests.
"Covert police government operations may require complete ‘blackout’ conditions," said the patent. "The wireless transmission of sensitive information to a remote source is one of the examples of a threat to security. This sensitive information could be anything from classified government information to questions or answers to an examination administered in an academic setting.”
Apple also noted having the ability to shut off smartphones is ideal for professional and some social settings, where devices could easily bother many people at once.
“As wireless devices such as cellular telephones, pagers, personal media devices and smartphones become ubiquitous, more and more people are carrying these devices in various social and professional settings,” it says in the patent. “The result is that these wireless devices can often annoy, frustrate, and even threaten people in sensitive venues.”
Apple also says smartphones should be disabled within photography darkrooms and biological labs, where light can destroy what’s being worked on.
Apple also says the new technology can help drivers as they attempt to use their devices on the road. The company says the smartphone’s communication function could be temporarily deactivated when entering your car or when you're driving in certain areas. Devices would be manipulated by GPS signals and satellites.
Now just which entities will have the authority to deem areas sensitive remains to be seen. Whether it’s only Apple, areas of the U.S. government, or local police departments, setting up the technology nationwide is challenging, but extremely doable.
The fact that Apple has already been granted a patent by the governent, shows that having your smartphone manipulated by someone other than yourself could be happening sooner than you think.