Apple fought the good fight earlier this year when the US government wanted the company to invent software that would override the iPhone operating system and allow it to break into a secured handset. Only after the court issued an order for Apple to comply–an order that CEO Tim Cook vehemently insisted the company would fight at every turn due to consumer privacy issues–did it come to light that the specific case was by far not the first request the company had received from law enforcement agencies on various suspects’ handsets.
So if the company is such a staunch supporter of its customers’ privacy, why did Apple file a patent last week that would give the company the power to shut off an individual users’ camera?
The internet has already speculated that the top use for this type of feature is concert venues and live performances, thus allowing the promoter to disable the audiences’ cameras in order to prevent illegal recording of the performance. And honestly, that doesn’t seem too far-fetched compared to artists like Dave Chapelle and Alicia Keys forcing attendees to place their devices in a Yondr bag that digitally locks inside the venue, then unlocks when the attendees leave. After all, the performer works hard to provide a quality experience, and everyone in the room paid a hefty ticket price for what someone is about to post online for free.
However, in Apple’s case, there’s no such compassionate understanding from the public. It didn’t take long before opponents started to ask, “Who else can disable our cameras with this technology?” Is the government during a protest? The police during a civil rights violation?
Fortunately, Apple has a long history of beating others to the punch. And given that it was a foreign third-party firm that ultimately ended up breaking into the iPhone for the government earlier this year (and then refusing to tell Apple how they did it), Apple may be patenting this infrared technology before anyone else can get to it, giving them grounds to sue any company (or say, government entity) that uses the technology in direct violation of their patent.