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Old Aug 13, 2013, 07:29 PM   #1
mentaluproar
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Apple patent could remotely disable protesters phone cameras

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Summary: A new patent, granted to Apple, could prevent academic cheating, cinema interruptions, but also see areas of political protest activity 'ring-fenced' disabling phone and tablet cameras.

By Zack Whittaker for Zero Day | September 4, 2012 -- 10:51 GMT (03:51 PDT)
Don't you just hate it when there's someone in the cinema taking photos, or talking on their phone? How unfair is it that 'they' cheated on their test because they could access the Web, and yet you only got half their marks?

Isn't it a shame you can't take a photo of the police officer beating a man in the street because your oppressive government remotely disabled your smartphone camera?

A new patent granted to Apple could do all of the above.



U.S. Patent No. 8,254,902, otherwise known as "Apparatus and methods for enforcement of policies upon a wireless device," was granted in late-August, and would allow phone policies to be set to "chang[e] one or more functional or operational aspects of a wireless device [...] upon the occurrence of a certain event."

What that means in real-terms is "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."

But the patented technology may also be used to restrict protesters' right to free expression in oppressive regimes around the world -- if you haven't checked recently, there's plenty of them -- by preventing camera images and video being taken at political rallies and events.

Apple makes a good point for the voice of good:

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. The result is that these wireless devices can often annoy, frustrate, and even threaten people in sensitive venues. For example, cell phones with loud ringers frequently disrupt meetings, the presentation of movies, religious ceremonies, weddings, funerals, academic lectures, and test-taking environments.
But it notes later on:

Covert police or government operations may require complete "blackout" conditions.
Adding:

Likewise, an airline operator or airport may cause the mobile device to enter into an "airplane" mode, wherein all electromagnetic emissions of significance are prevented, at least during flight, thereby more affirmatively preventing interference with aircraft communications or instrumentation and enhancing safety. Similarly, if a terrorist threat or other security breach is detected, the airport may disable at least a portion of the wireless communications within a terminal using a policy command, thereby potentially frustrating communications between individual terrorists or other criminals.
It's clear that although Apple may implement the technology, it would not be Apple's decision to activate the 'feature,' such as a remote-switch -- it would be down governments, businesses and network owners to set such policies.

Those policies would be activated by GPS, and Wi-Fi or mobile base-stations, which would ring-fence ("geofence") around a building, a protest, or a sensitive area to prevent phone cameras from taking pictures or recording video.

Other features, such as email or connecting to non-authorized networks -- such as working in the office and connecting to a non-work network on a company-owned device -- could be set, for example.

This sort of 'feature' would not bode well for journalists taking photos and citizens recording acts of state violence or police brutality in areas where ordinary people are facing increasing crackdowns on civil and human rights.

One unknown variable to this is what if you disable all connectivity, such as the cell network, Wi-Fi, and GPS? If there was no connection to a network to set such feature-disabling policies in the first place, it could be possible to circumvent such restrictions.

Questions have been left with Apple, but there was no reply at the time of writing outside U.S. business hours.

It goes almost without saying, just because a patent has been granted doesn't mean Apple will use the technology any time soon.

Companies often patent technologies and features that do not go into end products, so it's not a looking-glass view into what's coming in the next iPhone or iPad at an upcoming September announcement, or even further down the line. It does though offer a view into what companies are working on and have the potential to dish out to end-consumers and business customers.
http://www.zdnet.com/apple-patent-co...as-7000003640/

I'm a little curious as to why MacRumors hasn't jumped onto this already.

While part of me hopes Apple just wants to squat on this patent to keep others from using it, the other part knows better. I think I'm moving to Android after all.
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Old Aug 13, 2013, 08:19 PM   #2
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Look at the dateline of the article you quoted. It's 11 months old.

Here's another recent thread on the same patent, again with no sense of the date:
http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1621929
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Old Aug 13, 2013, 10:55 PM   #3
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It's 11 months old and very scare mongering since they basically claim things can happen without any proof. They just say "well it could be abused by an oppressive government" which is just handwaving.

Think about it, that would only work in a world where nobody used Android, Windows Phone, or any other camera phone or device that would not have this feature (of which there is no proof it's being implemented). If a totalitarian regimen would want to use this, I don't think they would target a device class with a 15% market share and go through a ton of effort on the off chance that someone isn't carrying something that can take a picture that isn't an iDevice.

Any oppressive government that wanted suppress the population simply wouldn't bother with this technique - heck even shutting down cellular networks doesn't stop people from getting information out. World leaders know this.
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Old Aug 13, 2013, 10:57 PM   #4
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I doubt they'd sink this low... but hey! It's Apple... PRISM
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Old Aug 14, 2013, 12:22 PM   #5
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All "could be's" and "maybe's". The author needs to get back to making his tin foil hats and stop trying to find conspiracies everywhere.
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Old Aug 15, 2013, 03:49 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by mentaluproar View Post
I'm a little curious as to why MacRumors hasn't jumped onto this already.

While part of me hopes Apple just wants to squat on this patent to keep others from using it, the other part knows better. I think I'm moving to Android after all.
That article is just completely misunderstanding what this patent is about.

It doesn't allow anyone to disable the camera on your phone against your wishes. It is for people working at companies that have restricted areas where cameras are not allowed. No cameras allowed means you have to hand over your phone before you enter these areas, or get into bad trouble (like getting fired) if you enter these areas with a camera phone.

Now with this patent, you could tell your iPhone to turn the camera off in certain areas of your company, and as a result, you can carry it around and use it wherever you go. Notice that nothing happens unless _you_ give permission.
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Old Aug 15, 2013, 04:55 PM   #7
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I can tell the camera to turn off via geofence? I doubt this will be optional.
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Old Aug 16, 2013, 03:38 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mentaluproar View Post
http://www.zdnet.com/apple-patent-co...as-7000003640/

I'm a little curious as to why MacRumors hasn't jumped onto this already.

While part of me hopes Apple just wants to squat on this patent to keep others from using it, the other part knows better. I think I'm moving to Android after all.
Unfortunately, the genie is out of the bottle. This is technology with the potential of abuse. If the powers that be, decide that this is desirable technology for authorities to have at their disposal, a feature like this or similar to this, will be mandated and implemented on all cellphones' cameras.

Moving to Android, or WP for that matter, won't do you any good.
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Old Aug 17, 2013, 09:53 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by gnasher729 View Post
Now with this patent, you could tell your iPhone to turn the camera off in certain areas of your company, and as a result, you can carry it around and use it wherever you go. Notice that nothing happens unless _you_ give permission.
Patent or not wouldn't it still be up to the employer to allow or ban the device in the workplace?
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Old Aug 18, 2013, 04:18 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Gutwrench View Post
Patent or not wouldn't it still be up to the employer to allow or ban the device in the workplace?
iPhones are _useful_ in the workplace, so banning them completely doesn't help the company. The ability to use them everywhere except in some small part of the company would be useful.

----------

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Originally Posted by macs4nw View Post
Unfortunately, the genie is out of the bottle. This is technology with the potential of abuse. If the powers that be, decide that this is desirable technology for authorities to have at their disposal, a feature like this or similar to this, will be mandated and implemented on all cellphones' cameras.

Moving to Android, or WP for that matter, won't do you any good.
Just what justification would be given for this?
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Old Aug 20, 2013, 08:09 PM   #11
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But wouldn’t switching it onto Airplane mode disable the phone’s ability to know where it is (and thus it won’t know when to switch off the camera)?
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Old Aug 21, 2013, 05:51 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by gnasher729 View Post
…..Just what justification would be given for this?
I don't have the answer to that, but if this is desirable technology to have, for the government or law enforcement, it will be shoved down our collective throats, and 'spun' something along the lines of it being for the common good, or 'for our protection'.

I mean we weren't asked if we desired the Patriot Act, or it's 2011 Sunsets Extension Act. And we certainly weren't informed about the clandestine activities of 'Prism'. My point being that our government isn't always as up-front with their motives, as we'd like them to be.

Ps. didn't get a quote notification for your post; just happened to catch it.
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Old Aug 21, 2013, 10:41 AM   #13
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But wouldn’t switching it onto Airplane mode disable the phone’s ability to know where it is (and thus it won’t know when to switch off the camera)?
Your not allowed to think logically about conspiracies I'm afraid.
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Old Oct 23, 2013, 07:14 AM   #14
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But wouldn’t switching it onto Airplane mode disable the phone’s ability to know where it is (and thus it won’t know when to switch off the camera)?
Try to ignore the rather stupid post of the thread starter, and look at what this feature is used for: You are in a place, for example your work place, where you are not allowed to take photos in certain areas. Therefore, phones capable of taking photos (most smartphones) are not allowed. Your phone is set up so that it will detect when it is in a prohibited area and not take photos in these areas, and therefore you are allowed to use your phone. That's the price of being allowed to use your phone at all. If your employer checks and sees that you have turned this feature off while at work then you will be fired.

Obviously if your phone cannot detect where it is then it will also not take any photos. Anything else wouldn't make sense.
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Old Oct 25, 2013, 01:17 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gnasher729 View Post
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Originally Posted by mrsir2009 View Post
But wouldn’t switching it onto Airplane mode disable the phone’s ability to know where it is (and thus it won’t know when to switch off the camera)?
...
Your phone is set up so that it will detect when it is in a prohibited area and not take photos in these areas, and therefore you are allowed to use your phone. That's the price of being allowed to use your phone at all. If your employer checks and sees that you have turned this feature off while at work then you will be fired.
Also - as far as airplane mode is concerned it could just be a constant signal on the plane too, so as soon as you try and move it out of that mode it just switches straight back. Once you are off the plane the other side the suppression code is not present, so turning it off airplane mode works as expected.
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Old Oct 25, 2013, 03:01 PM   #16
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when i was in the navy I was a pilot in the intelligence community. the building had no windows, and we left ALL electronic devices at the door, ALL including phones, cameras (didn't have both together then), pagers, and some watches.

If an employer doesn't want pictures taken, ban all the devices. If you don't like it work elsewhere.

the potential for gov abuse is off the chart imho.
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Old Oct 26, 2013, 09:11 PM   #17
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when i was in the navy I was a pilot in the intelligence community. the building had no windows, and we left ALL electronic devices at the door, ALL including phones, cameras (didn't have both together then), pagers, and some watches.

If an employer doesn't want pictures taken, ban all the devices. If you don't like it work elsewhere.

the potential for gov abuse is off the chart imho.
Of course. Government abuse of a feature that _the user_ has to turn on to make it work. Guys, think about what you are writing. It's Ok to be paranoid, but not to be paranoid and stupid, getting all excited about problems that only exist in the imagination of bloggers who don't understand the subject, and ignoring real problems because of that.

Your comment "if you don't like it, work elsewhere" is just stupid. Apart from what seems to be a typical American attitude that doesn't give a **** about people, employees having electronic devices benefits the employer. I would quite happily give up access to any electronic devices at work, as long as my employer agrees to continue paying my salary. Not that much useful work would get done.

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Also - as far as airplane mode is concerned it could just be a constant signal on the plane too, so as soon as you try and move it out of that mode it just switches straight back. Once you are off the plane the other side the suppression code is not present, so turning it off airplane mode works as expected.
This wasn't about using a phone on an airplane. It was about switching a phone into "airplane" mode, which you can do everywhere: On an airplane, in your car, or even at home in your living room or while at work.
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Old Oct 28, 2013, 09:10 AM   #18
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Your comment "if you don't like it, work elsewhere" is just stupid.
Awesome comment, I feel so bad now. Thank goodness we have your intellect to save us.
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Old Oct 28, 2013, 09:52 AM   #19
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That article is just completely misunderstanding what this patent is about.

It doesn't allow anyone to disable the camera on your phone against your wishes. It is for people working at companies that have restricted areas where cameras are not allowed. No cameras allowed means you have to hand over your phone before you enter these areas, or get into bad trouble (like getting fired) if you enter these areas with a camera phone.

Now with this patent, you could tell your iPhone to turn the camera off in certain areas of your company, and as a result, you can carry it around and use it wherever you go. Notice that nothing happens unless _you_ give permission.
That can't be right. If the user needs to tell the camera to be inactive in certain areas what's to keep the user honest? As long as it's something the user needs to select he can simply forget to do so.
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Old Oct 29, 2013, 06:32 AM   #20
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That can't be right. If the user needs to tell the camera to be inactive in certain areas what's to keep the user honest? As long as it's something the user needs to select he can simply forget to do so.
You are an employee at some company. The company has a restricted area. You are allowed into that area, but not with a camera. Including an iPhone with a camera. This invention (which isn't implemented anywhere) would allow you to set up your phone so the camera won't work in that area, and you are therefore allowed to take your phone in.

What keeps you honest? The fact that if you are caught in that area with your phone capable of taking photos, security guards will accompany you back to your desk, where you collect your belongings into a box provided for you, before they take away the card that gives you access to the buildings and push you through the door, never to return.

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Awesome comment, I feel so bad now. Thank goodness we have your intellect to save us.
You're welcome.
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Old Oct 29, 2013, 10:34 AM   #21
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You are an employee at some company. The company has a restricted area. You are allowed into that area, but not with a camera. Including an iPhone with a camera. This invention (which isn't implemented anywhere) would allow you to set up your phone so the camera won't work in that area, and you are therefore allowed to take your phone in.

What keeps you honest? The fact that if you are caught in that area with your phone capable of taking photos, security guards will accompany you back to your desk, where you collect your belongings into a box provided for you, before they take away the card that gives you access to the buildings and push you through the door, never to return.

----------



You're welcome.
What I thought. From a security perspective, how is "if you are caught in that area with your phone capable of taking photos...bad stuff happens" any better than "if you are caught taking photos with your phone in that area…bad stuff happens?" The only way this patent enhances security is in conjunction with an on-site check to insure all phones are set in the camera disabled mode, and even then there is only a security benefit if the user could not re-enable the camera. If the user can re-enable the camera then the preceding scenario is actually less secure, as it would give the security force extra work with no payoff.
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Old Nov 1, 2013, 03:43 AM   #22
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That can't be right. If the user needs to tell the camera to be inactive in certain areas what's to keep the user honest? As long as it's something the user needs to select he can simply forget to do so.
Along with that Geofencing or whatever it is that makes this work it needs to be very accurate. If I'm in a building or room next to you then it is your responsibility to make sure that it doesn't affect my device also.

This though is just the thin end of the wedge. I need to have my device know where I am to be able to take a photo, really?
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Old Nov 3, 2013, 11:20 AM   #23
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Along with that Geofencing or whatever it is that makes this work it needs to be very accurate. If I'm in a building or room next to you then it is your responsibility to make sure that it doesn't affect my device also.

This though is just the thin end of the wedge. I need to have my device know where I am to be able to take a photo, really?
I agree. Seems whacky. Your device would then become they eye of whomever could hack into it. Although I'm not engaged in any criminal or seditious activity this makes me feel personally uncomfortable. After a while, with any luck, I'll become desensitized to this kind of thing.
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Old Nov 6, 2013, 10:43 AM   #24
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I really wish this would happen. I would love to be able to disable phones in classes.

Problem is that it would only be apple devices. Not a wide enough spread to take care of the problems.
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Old Nov 6, 2013, 12:43 PM   #25
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