Apple has been in the news a lot lately. The long-awaited iPhone 5. iOS6. Other geeky cool things. There’s one story, though, that’s not so cool.
International Business Times reports that Apple was recently granted a patent allowing the company to disable specific iPhones. The patent is vague – can you get less specific than “changing one or more functional or operational aspects of a wireless device, such as upon the occurrence of a certain event”? – and in the wake of deadly riots overseas blamed on a movie, it’s sparked concerns about political opinions being silenced.
Just imagine if iPhones in government buildings or at political events were disabled, as IBTimes’ article notes. Would the entire phone be disabled, or just certain applications? Would it apply to specific people or everyone in the area (and if so, what about the media and people organizing the event, who need to be able to communicate)? Would there need to be a legitimate security concern, or could they disable phones at any event anywhere? Would Apple be responsible for making the choice or the government?
I’m not about to sound the alarm just yet. I’m sure Apple has good intentions (and probably gets far more patents than it actually needs or uses). But this opens the door for some less than appealing developments in the intersection between communication and government. Let’s hope it doesn’t become the new norm.
In other news: If you’re a member of the iPhone club, how are you liking iOS6? If you haven’t already, check out Wired’s summary of some of the hidden new features.