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August 25, 2010 8:26 AM   Subscribe

... Apple will know who you are, where you are, and what you are doing and saying and even how fast your heart is beating. ... This patent is downright creepy and invasive— certainly far more than would be needed to respond to the possible loss of a phone.
posted by Joe Beese (161 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Gruber is gonna be really pissed at Google for this!
posted by Artw at 8:29 AM on August 25, 2010 [19 favorites]


I skimmed this b/c I am on a deadline for sthg else, and I trust EFF in general. If this turns out to be verified, it just cements why I don't have an iPhone in my commmunication plans. Of course, I don't expect any of the other providers or phone mfrs to stay complacent. Maybe one of them will seek business as the "anonymous" phone.

I'm not hyper vigilant about privacy. I am in the phone book & have been for the last 36 years, and I don't mind standard things being transmitted whhile I make a call. But the types of things intimated by this article are just so Orwellian as to make me cringe.
posted by beelzbubba at 8:32 AM on August 25, 2010


The way shuffle keeps servin' up unexpected sweet sweet music, I suspect my iPod already knows me better than I know myself (and it's 1st generation).
posted by mazola at 8:34 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's a patent. Tech companies patent everything they think of. Put the signal flares up when this moves to development stage.
posted by argybarg at 8:34 AM on August 25, 2010 [14 favorites]


I guess you could always just, not get an iPhone or something.
posted by ghharr at 8:34 AM on August 25, 2010 [12 favorites]


Apple will know who you are, where you are, and what you are doing and saying and even how fast your heart is beating

It's just development for their newest product: iGod.
posted by mattdidthat at 8:35 AM on August 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


From the patent summary:

In some embodiments, an unauthorized user can be detected by noting particular activities that can indicate suspicious behavior. For example, activities such as entering an incorrect password a predetermined number of times in a row, hacking of the electronic device, jailbreaking of the electronic device, unlocking of the electronic device, removing a SIM card from the electronic device, or moving a predetermined distance away from a synced device can be used to detect an unauthorized user.

In some embodiments, when an unauthorized user is detected, information related to the current user of the electronic device (e.g., the unauthorized user), the current user's operation of the electronic device, the electronic device's location, or any combination of the above can be gathered. For example, information such as the current's user's photograph, a voice recording of the current user, screenshots of the electronic device, keylogs of electronic device, communication packets (e.g., Internet packets) served to the electronic device, location coordinates of the electronic device, or geotagged photos of the surrounding area can be gathered.

posted by burnmp3s at 8:36 AM on August 25, 2010


The system can take a picture of the user's face, "without a flash, any noise, or any indication that a picture is being taken to prevent the current user from knowing he is being photographed"

Between this and that school district that installed software to secret record its students using their laptop webcams, I don't understand why anyone is still willing to buy devices with cameras that do not come with a hardware switch that cannot be overridden in software.
posted by enn at 8:39 AM on August 25, 2010


People love those stories where little lost boy recovers stolen laptop from big meanies by using software he installed to take a silent photo remotely, etc. This is just Apple trying to get a leg up on a mobile version, using whatever sensing equipment is available to them.

I really, really, really doubt that if something like this ever made it into iOS whatever it wouldn't be opt-in. That would be stupid, really stupid. There are enough people that would want this anyway.
posted by setanor at 8:40 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tired: Jim Crow laws
Wired: Anti-Brian Lam laws
posted by littlerobothead at 8:41 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well that'll teach people not to buy used iphones or jailbreak their own devices!
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:41 AM on August 25, 2010


Um, yeah, so this is about getting your own phone back. I hate when people get all worked up about stupid bullshit like this.
posted by empath at 8:43 AM on August 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Apple does not explain what it will do with all of this collected information on its users, how long it will maintain this information, how it will use this information, or if it will share this information with other third parties. We know based on long experience that if Apple collects this information, law enforcement will come for it, and may even order Apple to turn it on for reasons other than simply returning a lost phone to its owner.

I dont see how people here can just read that and shrug, which many people here seem to be doing.
posted by vacapinta at 8:44 AM on August 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


It's a patent, not a feature. Lots of patents never make it into shipping products. Wake me if this one ever does.
posted by mcwetboy at 8:46 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


EFF has lost it. It's a phone, people. Not your gonads.
posted by monospace at 8:48 AM on August 25, 2010


vacapinta:

Because it's a patent, not a plan or a new feature. If you could go through the patent archives of Microsoft, Apple or Google, how many creepy or strange ideas that were never implemented would you find? Probably many.
posted by argybarg at 8:48 AM on August 25, 2010


Sooo, if they ever do roll this out, and I get an iPhone, and have a heart attack, can I sue them for not immediately sending an EMT to my location?

I mean, it's all information they will have access to, right?
posted by quin at 8:48 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Tired: Tired / Wired
Wired: Tiered / Weird
Tiered: Tired / Wired / Tiered / Weird
Weird: Tired: Tired / Wired Wired: Tiered / Weird Tiered: Tired / Wired / Tiered / Weird
posted by swift at 8:50 AM on August 25, 2010 [12 favorites]


Apple does not explain what it will do with all of this collected information on its users, how long it will maintain this information, how it will use this information, or if it will share this information with other third parties.

That's because it's a patent, not a business plan, and it's an idea, not actually implemented software or (for some aspects) hardware.

Imagine if someone patented a new chemical compound that was an extremely potent poison. Would you go about ranting about how "The inventor does not explain what he will do with this poison. He could be planning to kill us all!"? What if the application specifically said it was meant to be a pesticide? Or used in low doses as a chemotherapy for cancer? The outrage over this application is absurd.

Anyway, it's clearly just an enhancement to existing services like Find My iPhone and the remote wipe offered through Mobile Me. Which, by the way, are opt-in. I know that if I had sensitive data on a phone and it were stolen I would really like the ability to shut out unauthorized users (e.g., the thief). An automatic system that detected things like jailbreaking (which a thief might do in order to facilitate extracting my sensitive information) would be valuable. Or a company might want to enable anti-jailbreak functionality to keep tighter control over what got installed on corporate phones. There are a ton of perfectly valid use cases for this technology; use cases that are discussed in the patent application, by the way.

We know based on long experience that if Apple collects this information, law enforcement will come for it, and may even order Apple to turn it on for reasons other than simply returning a lost phone to its owner.

Newsflash: If they have a warrant, law enforcement (in the US) can get access to any information collected by any company. There is absolutely nothing unique here about Apple.
posted by jedicus at 8:55 AM on August 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


omg so it was apple that was the big brother all along!!!!!!1!
posted by defenestration at 8:55 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's a phone, people. Not your gonads.

Just wait til the announcement for iBalls. Not to be confused with iEyeballs.
posted by kmz at 8:55 AM on August 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


This patent is downright creepy and invasive— certainly far more than would be needed to respond to the possible loss of a phone. .

Having had a laptop stolen, I would have loved to gotten all this info on the fucking thief.

This is poor poste. It would have better if Joe Beese actually did a bit of work and looked at what other tech companies are doing that should give users pause. Instead we get a poorly framed single link with the predictable results of haters of a single company spouting off.

Seriously Joe, would it have killed you to take 5 or ten minutes to make a better post?
posted by nomadicink at 8:56 AM on August 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


Some actual details of the patent to balance out a single link scare-FPP.
posted by i_cola at 8:57 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Um, yeah, so this is about getting your own phone back.

Could you expand on that? I mean, the EFF person doesn't see how monitoring someone's heartbeat would help in phone recovery and I don't either. I'm willing to be enlightened.

To say "I won't worry about a patent" requires no support. But to say "monitoring heartbeats recovers lost phones" does.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:57 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are a ton of perfectly valid use cases for this technology

There are zero valid use cases for silently recording video and audio. I don't care if your phone is stolen; that doesn't give you the right to eavesdrop on any random passer-by who might be in the thief's vicinity. Surreptitious recording via consumer electronics is no more legitimate than surreptitious recording through the placement of bugs or hidden cameras in someone's home.
posted by enn at 8:58 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's a patent. Tech companies patent everything they think of. Put the signal flares up when this moves to development stage.
posted by argybarg at 11:34 AM on August 25, 2010


You guys saw the patent three years ago and didn't say anything. You lost your chance to complain.
posted by argybarg at 11:34 AM on August 25, 2013
posted by DU at 8:58 AM on August 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


How would the device collect your heartbeat unless you hooked it up to a heart monitor of some kind?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:58 AM on August 25, 2010


Sooo, if they ever do roll this out, and I get an iPhone, and have a heart attack, can I sue them for not immediately sending an EMT to my location?

I mean, it's all information they will have access to, right?


No. In the US there is generally no affirmative duty to aid or rescue others. You can see a child drowning in a pool and calmly watch it die and the law would say nothing. (NB: There are exceptions, including exceptions for parents and caretakers as well as an exception for when your own actions created the danger the person finds themselves in).
posted by jedicus at 8:59 AM on August 25, 2010


Between this and that school district that installed software to secret record its students using their laptop webcams, I don't understand why anyone is still willing to buy devices with cameras that do not come with a hardware switch that cannot be overridden in software.with software they can't examine.

FTFY.
posted by DU at 9:00 AM on August 25, 2010


I mean, the EFF person doesn't see how monitoring someone's heartbeat would help in phone recovery and I don't either. I'm willing to be enlightened.

Probably because they didn't bother reading the patent, which explains why. A heartbeat recording is identified in the application as one possible way to identify an authorized user:

"In some embodiments, an unauthorized user can be detected by comparing the identity of the current user to the identities of authorized users of the electronic device. For example, a photograph of the current user can be taken, a recording of the current user's voice can be recorded, the heartbeat of the current user can be recorded, or any combination of the above. The photograph, recording, or heartbeat can be compared, respectively, to a photograph, recording, or heartbeat of authorized users of the electronic device to determine whether they match. If they do not match, the current user can be detected as an unauthorized user."

It's about biometric identification. Now, I don't know how well you can distinguish between people based on heartbeat, but patents aren't awarded because the inventions are perfect or work really well, just that they're new, useful, and nonobvious.
posted by jedicus at 9:01 AM on August 25, 2010


posted by nomadicink Instead we get a poorly framed single link with the predictable results of haters of a single company spouting off.

Don't worry, I'm sure someone will show up to relentlessly defend Apple.
posted by mattdidthat at 9:01 AM on August 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


I heard about this patent recently on an NPR affiliated show and the amidst the doom and gloom a commenter scoffed at the Big Brother view, speculating the proposed patent (it hasn't been given yet, while probably take a year for the Patent Office to decide) is probably geared towards business and enterprise markets.

Look, I'd love to have Apple respond to this and gives their thoughts about what they're doing, but it ain't going to happen for obvious reasons, much like with any company. If you want to rage against Big Brother, at least be smart about it, please.
posted by nomadicink at 9:04 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


WAKE UP iSHEEPLE
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:06 AM on August 25, 2010


...probably geared towards business and enterprise markets.

If the idea that my employer might give me a device that tracks my location and heart and takes my picture was supposed to reassure me...mission failed.
posted by DU at 9:08 AM on August 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Don't worry, I'm sure someone will show up to relentlessly defend Apple.

If you want to have a discussion, please do so. If you wish to just kinda stir things up, maybe trying avoiding that?

Of course there are valid reasons for this patent application to give people pause. I just wish we'd intelligently talk about it (because hey, it is interesting) rather than go to our pre assigned corners to get our hate on, you know?

Are these sorts of patent application common? Can anyone point to similar applications that were approved and how they actually ended up in specific products? I'd love to see an example of that.
posted by nomadicink at 9:08 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


sometimes I feel like people don't understand what advocacy groups do. It's like "so don't get an iphone. duh." well, yes. that is what you should do if issues like this bother you enough. the eff's job, or one of the many they do, is to inform people of things they may not want to buy if they care about issues like this. I mean, yes, it's just your phone, but it's also becoming a kind of cultural signifier in a way that carries certain burdens, among them the kind of thing that the eff is talking about. if it's "just a phone" to you or whatever, that's cool. you go do your tyler durden thing somewhere and we'll all promise to envy your hip unattached lifestyle. the rest of us are going to pay attention to what the companies we purchase things from are doing with the information we give them and how that information could come to harm us. because that's important to us.
posted by shmegegge at 9:09 AM on August 25, 2010 [15 favorites]


Also, WRT the fear of someone turning your webcam on remotely, there's a brilliant, cutting-edge technological solution that you may want to look into; it's called "electrical tape".
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:09 AM on August 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


what other tech companies are doing that should give users pause. Instead we get a poorly framed single link with the predictable results of haters of a single company spouting off.

And this is just dumb. First of all, "they're doing it too!!" isn't a defense. Second, when I complain about X I do not forego my right to complain about Y. And third, I don't hate Apple because they are Apple. I hate Apple because they do stuff like this!
posted by DU at 9:11 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are zero valid use cases for silently recording video and audio. I don't care if your phone is stolen; that doesn't give you the right to eavesdrop on any random passer-by who might be in the thief's vicinity.

Right. Which is why phones are all legally required to mask out background conversations and cameras automatically blur the faces of anyone who doesn't agree to be in any given photograph. Wait, no, recorded background noise and random people in the background of photos are perfectly fine.

Anyway, there's nothing in the application that suggests the phone is going to start recording everything it sees and hears. The application says "the current's user's photograph, a voice recording of the current user," which is pretty specific.

You've got to remember also that this is a product from a private company, not the government. Your privacy rights vis a vis any private company or person are much diminished compared to the government.

it hasn't been given yet, while probably take a year for the Patent Office to decide

Ha! If only the Office moved that fast. This application was filed in February of 2009. For applications covering this area of technology (TC 2610, specifically), the average time to the first office action on the merits (i.e., the first real response from the Patent Office) is over 3 years. From there it can typically be anywhere from 6 months to 2 years in examination. It's quite possible this patent won't actually be granted (or ultimately abandoned) until something like 2013.
posted by jedicus at 9:11 AM on August 25, 2010


Because it's a patent, not a plan or a new feature. If you could go through the patent archives of Microsoft, Apple or Google, how many creepy or strange ideas that were never implemented would you find? Probably many.

Feel free to back up this claim with actual creepy unimplemented patents by looking through Microsoft, Apple, and Google's patents.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:12 AM on August 25, 2010


the eff's job, or one of the many they do, is to inform people of things they may not want to buy if they care about issues like this.

Except that in this case they are misinforming people. I like a lot of what the EFF does, but this is poor work on their part.

If the idea that my employer might give me a device that tracks my location and heart and takes my picture was supposed to reassure me...mission failed.

No, the idea is that if your phone is stolen or if the phone detects suspicious behavior then it can use other sensors to confirm that it's in the possession of an unauthorized user and take appropriate action (e.g., warning the real user, remote wipe, lockdown, etc). Or it can collect some data to aid a police investigation into the theft.

Full-blown constant surveillance by the phone would be a drain on the battery. I can, however, think of one employer that might be keenly interested in continuous recording by its phones and that's Apple itself, especially in the wake of the iPhone 4 leak.
posted by jedicus at 9:17 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hate Apple because they do stuff like this!

File for patents?
posted by mazola at 9:17 AM on August 25, 2010


Right. Which is why phones are all legally required to mask out background conversations and cameras automatically blur the faces of anyone who doesn't agree to be in any given photograph. Wait, no, recorded background noise and random people in the background of photos are perfectly fine.

If you use your iPhone like that to surreptitiously bug people in their private spaces and you get caught, actually, it's not perfectly fine — planting bugs doesn't suddenly become legal when they have really nice industrial design. If you do it non-surreptitiously, that is, by making a normal phone call and holding the phone up to your ear so that everyone knows you are on the phone, then it's not surreptitious and not actually comparable at all to what is being described here.

Anyway, there's nothing in the application that suggests the phone is going to start recording everything it sees and hears.

I'm going by what the EFF page says:
# The system can take a picture of the user's face, "without a flash, any noise, or any indication that a picture is being taken to prevent the current user from knowing he is being photographed";
# The system can record the user's voice, whether or not a phone call is even being made;
It's clearly describing surreptitious recording.

You've got to remember also that this is a product from a private company, not the government. Your privacy rights vis a vis any private company or person are much diminished compared to the government.

Really? You're the lawyer, but I don't actually think any private company has the right to surreptitiously record my activity in my home. Don't landlords get sent to jail now and again for pulling that kind of thing?
posted by enn at 9:19 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh FFS. This is the usual sort of raving paranoia that the EFF is famous for, they are their own worst enemy, and as such, the true enemy of real freedoms. How many times will they cry "Wolf!" before people stop listening? Oh I forgot, that already happened.

Let me give just one example.

The system can take a picture of the user's face, "without a flash, any noise, or any indication that a picture is being taken to prevent the current user from knowing he is being photographed"

And magically, this system can cause the iPhone to hop out of your pocket and point itself towards your face.

I especially liked this one:

The system can record the user's voice, whether or not a phone call is even being made

Yeah, this is a feature of every computer with a microphone. There was a scandal a few years back when Sun workstations shipped with a software switch set so that anyone who managed to find your IP address could listen in to your mic.

And then, there's the heartbeat detection paranoia. Because we all know every iPhone user has the Nike+ Heart Rate Monitor kit (currently out of stock, return to production date unknown).

These issues are all commonplace security issues of any computer. The fact that Apple is researching security and actively using that research is, IMHO, a positive thing.

Now my point here isn't to defend Apple. My point here is to highlight the ludicrous paranoia of the EFF. They are attention whores, and criticizing Apple (even for things they're not doing) has always been the easy way to get media attention. They are piggybacking on Apple's publicity, just as other activist groups like Greenpeace have. Without Apple to criticize, they'd be nowhere.

But the fundamental problem of the EFF is they fail to understand there is no such thing as "Electronic Freedom" separate from regular old human freedoms and civil rights. They are fighting on the wrong battleground. And their track record is atrocious, they have a long record of taking cases to court and losing, establishing an unbreakable legal precedent against the freedoms they claim to protect. I could point them to the correct battleground, but I won't, they'd just fuck that up too.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:21 AM on August 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


If the idea that my employer might give me a device that tracks my location and heart and takes my picture was supposed to reassure me...mission failed.

No, the idea is that if your phone is stolen...


I didn't mean to imply that my employer would TELL ME that's why they were giving me the device. Just that it could do that. And might, depending on my employer.

Full-blown constant surveillance by the phone would be a drain on the battery.

Surveillance does not need to be "full-blown" or constant to be an invasion.
posted by DU at 9:22 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


And this is just dumb. First of all, "they're doing it too!!" isn't a defense.

That's not what I wrote. My complaint was about singling out a specific company, as if getting them to stop will fix the situation. It won't. Saying "They're all doing it" is extremely important because it effects everyone.

Second, when I complain about X I do not forego my right to complain about Y. And third, I don't hate Apple because they are Apple. I hate Apple because they do stuff like this!

What is "this"? They've filed for a patent. Others companies have done the same thing. Why are you turning this into an Apple issue instead of a technology company issue?
posted by nomadicink at 9:23 AM on August 25, 2010


If you want to rage against Big Brother, at least be smart about it, please.

With all due respect, I feel your comments here have heen considerably more rage-y than the post.

If you agree that Apple would at least be well served by providing a rationale for this patent, I don't understand the force of your objection to a post pointing out that a leading cyber-rights organization also has concerns.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:24 AM on August 25, 2010


And magically, this system can cause the iPhone to hop out of your pocket and point itself towards your face.

I'd like a fuller understanding your phone usage pattern that does not involve ever pointing it towards your face.

Yeah, this is a feature of every computer with a microphone. There was a scandal a few years back when Sun workstations shipped with a software switch set so that anyone who managed to find your IP address could listen in to your mic.

So you agree that it's a bad thing?

Because we all know every iPhone user has the Nike+ Heart Rate Monitor kit...

The link says nothing about requring extra hardware.

How many times will they cry "Wolf!" before people stop listening? Oh I forgot, that already happened.

On the contrary, I've been impressed with how many potential wolves I've been warned away from already recently and am listening to them more and more.
posted by DU at 9:26 AM on August 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Why are you turning this into an Apple issue instead of a technology company issue?

Because Apple, not "a technology company", filed for the patent?
posted by DU at 9:27 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Interesting. It seems to me the hardware to do this is already in place, all that's needed for any company to do this, not just Apple, is a small software update.

I better poke my computer in the eye ("webcam") to make sure it can't see me...
posted by Termite at 9:29 AM on August 25, 2010


I am going to patent that thing where you rip a person's eyeball out of their skull and use it to bypass the retinal scanners. I will then license this out to google or Apple (depending on which company wants to do this first). I'm going to make millions!

I love the EFF. I love Apple.

If Apple was dumb enough to allow any user, other than the actual owner, engage these techs Apple would face so much crap that they would start to look like google. I'm not going to defend what I don't see Apple using.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:30 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Really? You're the lawyer, but I don't actually think any private company has the right to surreptitiously record my activity in my home.

A private company can sell you a device capable of surreptitiously recording activity in your home. They do it all the time. Security cameras, computers with microphones and webcams, etc. What the company can't do is record you without your consent, but there's no indication that Apple would be doing that.

Basically the EFF is arguing that a thief should be protected against the device he or she stole from recording his or activities. I don't believe that the privacy rights of thieves can or should extend to preventing recording by a stolen device.

Anyway, the law is still the law. The grant of a patent does not give the patentee a license to use the invention in a way that violates other laws. Nothing this describes is suddenly going to give Apple or your employer or anybody else the ability to violate existing privacy laws.

I'm going by what the EFF page says:

There's your problem. You should read the actual patent application for yourself, not the EFF's heavily spun summary.
posted by jedicus at 9:33 AM on August 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Joe, you know I love ya, but this post is some truly thin shit that only confirms the general matter of how poorly Apple users are treated at Metafilter.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:33 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


BTW, the Sun workstation issue wasn't much of a scandal. It was solved by turning off the software switch. Later releases of their OS had the switch off by default.

I've been impressed with how many potential wolves I've been warned away from already..

Let me know when those wolves are actually real, and not merely potential wolves. In the meantime, I will live in some other world that is less paranoid.

BTW, I'll keep your mindset going for you. Did you know there is a technology that potentially allows people to eavesdrop on any spoken conversation? It's called an "ear." Almost everyone has two of them.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:35 AM on August 25, 2010


If you agree that Apple would at least be well served by providing a rationale for this patent, I don't understand the force of your objection to a post pointing out that a leading cyber-rights organization also has concerns.

Apple would not be well served because telegraphing its intentions gives the other companies a goal to beat. I can understand any company not being willing to do that.

I object to the post, because it's poorly constructed in its presentation of single point of view of an idea from a single company. There are positive and negative potentials to this patent, many other tech companies have applied for similar patents.

Don't try to scare me with doom and gloom scenarios. Present the info and lets talk about the various possible outcomes.
posted by nomadicink at 9:36 AM on August 25, 2010


Privacy concerns aside, if this technology is used to detect unauthorized use of your phone, get ready for a plague of false-positive automated brickings that will be nearly impossible or expensive to undo.

By now everyone has heard of harmless apps being banned from the Apple store because some algorithm decided they were too threatening.
posted by klanawa at 9:37 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


...the general matter of how poorly Apple users are treated at Metafilter.

I think you just gave away the game. Apple isn't your family. They are an enormous corporation that wants your money and only your money.

Let me know when those wolves are actually real, and not merely potential wolves.

Some people prefer to lock the barn door before the horses are stolen, some after. If you are the latter, this thread might not be for you.
posted by DU at 9:38 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I didn't mean to imply that my employer would TELL ME that's why they were giving me the device. Just that it could do that. And might, depending on my employer.

I'm pretty sure your employer can't record you outside the workplace without your consent. If it can, then the EFF should focus on that gaping hole in privacy rights, not this patent application.

Surveillance does not need to be "full-blown" or constant to be an invasion.

And this patent application would not legalize surveillance that violates privacy laws any more than a patent on a poison would legalize murder.
posted by jedicus at 9:38 AM on August 25, 2010


You've got to remember also that this is a product from a private company, not the government. Your privacy rights vis a vis any private company or person are much diminished compared to the government.

Scenario 1: Until the NSA pays Apple a call. They already monitor all phone calls. Think of how much more effective constant monitoring, audio and video, would be. This would have been a wet dream from Cheney. You don't want the terrorists/drug dealers to win, do you?

Scenario 2: Helecopter parenting is even easier! Just add it to your mobile package for $15.99/month ($69.99/month after the first three months).

Scenario 3: Your corporate IT monitors more than just your internet usage.

Scenario 4: "May it please the court, we have evidence from the phones of Ms. Scarlet, Dr. Black and Col. Mustard, that hit me baby one more time was playing in the Library on the personal iPad of Mr. Body at the time of his demise. We further show that Mr. Body did not have a performance rites agreement with our client, leading to our claim on his estate for ONE BILLION DOLLARS in restitution."
posted by bonehead at 9:39 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


And magically, this system can cause the iPhone to hop out of your pocket and point itself towards your face.

It should be noted that the new iPhones have a forward facing camera, so any use of the phone will mean that a camera is being pointed at you.
posted by quin at 9:42 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


C'mon, people. The USPT is a rubber-stamp operation these days. Companies have to file for every idea that crosses their collective minds for fear that someone else will, and thus head off potential innovation.

The problem is that 'patentability' has been degraded to the point that it's almost meaningless. Got an idea for something? Patent it, and you may hit the jackpot without having to do the actual implementation and funding. Just wait for someone else to do it and then sue them!

It's a system that makes perfect sense, if you're a lawyer.

It's just development for their newest product: iGod.

Not while Steve's still around...
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:42 AM on August 25, 2010


In other Apple patent news, this is quite interesting: Apple patent unearthed for touchscreen Macs that can flip between mouse and touch UIs with tilt of the screen
posted by Artw at 9:42 AM on August 25, 2010


Scenario 1

The problem there is an erosion of privacy rights and the Constitution, not technology.

Scenario 2

The problem there is screwed up parents and, to a lesser extent, inadequate privacy protection for children, not technology.

Scenario 3

I don't think that would ordinarily be legal without informed consent on the part of the employee. Either way it's either a problem of unequal bargaining power between employees and employers or of privacy rights generally, not technology.

Scenario 4

That's absurd; the scenario you describe isn't a public performance. Anyway, that's a problem of copyright law being ridiculous, not technology.
posted by jedicus at 9:43 AM on August 25, 2010


Joe, you know I love ya, but this post is some truly thin shit that only confirms the general matter of how poorly Apple users are treated at Metafilter.

It's bad enough that these threads usually end up with the same sets of people defending and criticizing Apple no matter what the particular topic is. Can we not make this thread explicitly about Apple fans versus Apple haters? If you think it's a bad post you can flag it and if you think Apple users are treated unfairly you can bring it to MeTa (where I believe we've already discussed that topic to death anyway).
posted by burnmp3s at 9:44 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think you just gave away the game.

This isn't a game, this is is you breaking Metafilter. Seriously, it's a patent, ffs.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:47 AM on August 25, 2010


posted by DU Apple isn't your family.

Apple is a religion, complete with texts, totems, and a messiah. That's why criticizing Apple brings forth accusations of bigotry, persecution, and the fervor of crusading fundamentalist zealots who insist Apple is The iWay, The iTruth, and the iLife.
posted by mattdidthat at 9:48 AM on August 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


What's going to make the future funny is when after a crime, the government subpoenas the GPS info for the suspect's iPhone, and find he was home the entire time, moving about, presumably vacuuming his home, judging by the audio sample taken while under surveillance before the crime occurred. Instant confirmation of an alibi.

However, the suspect found that if you just tape your iPhone to your Roomba...
posted by chambers at 9:49 AM on August 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Joe, you know I love ya, but this post is some truly thin shit that only confirms the general matter of how poorly Apple users are treated at Metafilter.

I do know - though I appreciate the reminder - so I'll attend respectfully to your criticism of thinness. However, I'm not sure what you mean about "how Apple users are treated".

I gather that a few of us are noted for their consistently passionate defenses of or attacks against the company. But I didn't intend to provide them with an arena for combat. I don't think Apple is meaningfully more or less sinister than, say, Microsoft or Google.

If my attention was drawn to this particular advance towards the Panopticon - rather than one of the other examples nomadinick referred to - it's just because I love the iPhone I'm writing this comment on, and I would prefer it not collect this kind of personal information.

Maybe my favorite advocacy group sucks. But I'll personally take one over-excitable watchdog than none at all.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:51 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


It should be noted that the new iPhones have a forward facing camera, so any use of the phone will mean that a camera is being pointed at you.

I'm sure it takes great pictures of my ear.

I suppose I should point out that the EFF gets the bulk of its funding from telecommunications corporations. This is why the bulk of their legal efforts have been on behalf of corporate interests,. The EFF is not your personal savior, they are fighting for the rights of corporations, which are rarely aligned with personal freedoms. If the EFF fights against Apple, that is only because they they are a convenient target that their corporate funders are aligned against economically. The EFF doesn't have any interest in fighting the bigger fights against their telecom funders, which would be a more appropriate target. That would be suicidal.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:51 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Because it's a patent, not a plan or a new feature. If you could go through the patent archives of Microsoft, Apple or Google, how many creepy or strange ideas that were never implemented would you find? Probably many.

It's not a Microsoft, Apple, or Google product, but it is a really creepy patent.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:54 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Does it vibrate?
posted by Artw at 9:56 AM on August 25, 2010


The problem there is an erosion of privacy rights and the Constitution, not technology.

Isn't that what we're dicussing here, the policy and legal implications of a technical innovation? Anyway, there are already cases where this has been done (continuous monitoring of cell phones) during investigations. The innovation here is the idea that this would be continuous, or at least done frequently without the users' knowledge. And you must realise that it will be done frequently, otherwise a) baseline data would be poor, b) thefts might go undetected for long periods. Detection delays mean that the phone could be compromised or sold on. It's in the best interests of the stated intent to monitor frequently.

If this data resides on Apple's (or whomever, this isn't really an Apple issue) servers, you can bet that it will be the target of every law-enforcement and civil discovery process going, to say nothing of criminal leaks. What do you think spammers would do with such data? Your ex-spouses lawyers? Your employer doing a background check?
posted by bonehead at 9:57 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ugh, for me at least this hasn't got anything to do with Apple per se. This has to do with people overreacting to a patent application, which is something I've seen people do with Apple, Microsoft, Google, IBM, and others.

If you want some bona fides: There are lots of things Apple does that I don't like. It went back to polycarbonate for the MacBook, for example. It doesn't make it easy to upgrade or replace the hard drive in the Time Capsule. It didn't make it easy (or even possible?) for 3rd parties to make competitors to the Nike+ heart rate monitor. They've dragged their heels on opening the iPhone to multiple carriers in the US. I think they charge too much for MobileMe. I could go on and on.

I love the iPhone I'm writing this comment on, and I would prefer it not collect this kind of personal information.

So far Apple's been pretty good at letting users control what data the iPhone records (e.g., controlling GPS usage). A patent application necessarily tries to address all possible uses of a technology, not just the ones that the patentee ultimately hopes to use in the market. For example: a patent on an antidepressant might not say anything about only giving it to patients that need it, but that doesn't mean the drug company is going to go dumping it into the water supply. Patent applications are not business plans (well, except maybe business method patents). We should judge Apple (and every other company) on what it actually brings to market, not the fringe cases in a patent application.
posted by jedicus at 9:57 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The thing that I find ridiculous is the notion that once this data is gathered, that it won't be used for all sorts of purposes, including all possible purposes of those who have access to the data. That would not only be Apple, but also law enforcement that could subpoena the data.

It isn't a question of if the data will be used against the interest of the users, it's a question of when. If the data exists, it will be used by those powerful enough to access it. The only absolute safeguard against it, is to not gather it in the first place.

Those of you tut-tuting about paranoia just haven't been paying attention to history, or even the current usage of the data that is gathered by the current generation of i-phone. Drawing the line at an all-hearing, somewhat-all-seeing little box that you carry with you everywhere you go is a reasonable line and something you should be concerned about.
posted by 517 at 9:58 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


mattdidthat:

You really believe that?
posted by argybarg at 9:58 AM on August 25, 2010


I'm pretty sure your employer can't record you outside the workplace without your consent.

Sure. But if the capability is present, somebody will use it, like that school with its laptop webcams, and I'd rather not buy things that I have to trust other people not to turn into illegal bugs (since there's not really a good way to detect this kind of surveillance).
posted by enn at 9:59 AM on August 25, 2010


It isn't a question of if the data will be used against the interest of the users, it's a question of when. If the data exists, it will be used by those powerful enough to access it. The only absolute safeguard against it, is to not gather it in the first place.

First, good thing the data doesn't exist yet since this is just a patent application, not a product. Apple (and many, many other companies) has patented many things that it never actually brought to market.

Second, consider a world where this patent application didn't exist and indeed no one ever tried to patent this particular technology. Everyone would still be perfectly free to implement the technology. It's not as though you must have a patent and then you can go to market. A patent is the right to exclude, not the positive right to use the technology.
posted by jedicus at 10:01 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Full Disclosure: I'm firmly on the side of seeing much of what EFF does as crying "wolf!".

But, aside from the visceral response to the word 'heartbeat', how is this particular patent that different than any other remote security tools, from LoJack to the existing ability to remotely wipe an iPhone hard drive? The technology doesn't really give the government any information that it couldn't already get if it wanted to. And the heartbeat thing really isn't fundamentally different from any other biometric tool.

I agree with the multiple people above who criticized this post as being one-sided, heavily spun, and borderline hysterical.
posted by graphnerd at 10:02 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


...that school district that installed software to secret record its students using their laptop webcams...

BTW, an update from last week -- Feds: No charges in Pa. school laptop-spying case.
posted by ericb at 10:05 AM on August 25, 2010


Apple Patentmania: 31 Years of Big Ideas
posted by mazola at 10:08 AM on August 25, 2010


yeah, spying on people is creepy.
yeah, bricking phones for me behaving in ways you don't like is wrong.

but you could already find out anything you want about me. my address is easy to find. my employer is listed on my website. my facebook profile has lots of info about my friends. I'm on mint. google knows me to no end. you could infer a lot more from my online banking, google results, flickr page and plain old asking.

but you know what?

it's still just me. you're not learning anything you could use for much. it's just an average person with average means doing average things. I don't control any nukes, I can't even call in a lousy TP-airstrike on my neighbors house. I am too boring and uninteresting for someone not criminally insane to invest this much effort in.

and so are you.

most of us are.

because we're not as well known as perhaps two or three users on here. I'm looking your way, woz and asavage.
posted by krautland at 10:10 AM on August 25, 2010


"First, good thing the data doesn't exist yet since this is just a patent application, not a product. Apple (and many, many other companies) has patented many things that it never actually brought to market."


So because it is just a patent and not yet a product we should ignore it and not demonstrate our displeasure? We're just considering and objecting, it's not like we're boycotting their products.

In addition, it does already exist on a lower level. The current generation of i-phone record photos of maps when they are closed and other screen data. To implement a camera capture program and some other data gathering would hardly be difficult. Apple is showing that it is considering gathering more data about the user.

Given the lackadaisical reaction of most people to privacy statements (how many people actually read them?) by the time this technology is put into the market, it will be too late to undo it. It's probably too late already.
posted by 517 at 10:12 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Those of you tut-tuting about paranoia just haven't been paying attention to history, or even the current usage of the data that is gathered by the current generation of i-phone

You could make this statement about cell phones and laptops and pretty much any modern technology with biometrics in it since inception.

I don't recall ever seeing the EFF freak out about Thinkpad users who use the fingerprint scanner that some corporate IT departments require for authentication and authorization. That's not a patent, but an actual piece of technology that has been out there for several years now.

I usually respect the EFF goals, but it is not often that they accomplish success in legitimate cases. It's pretty obvious that they are using inflammatory and frankly bizarre language here in an effort to get the usual anti-Apple-user crowd pumped up for whatever end.

Using language like "retaliation" and making Steve Jobs into some Goldstein-like apparition to throw tomatoes at suggests a pretty weak logical and factual basis for their point — they have to go to the emotional appeal to make their case. Which often works, granted, but it is sad to see EFF resort to behaving in an odious manner to make their case.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:15 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why anyone is still willing to buy devices with cameras that do not come with a hardware switch that cannot be overridden in software.

You mean like a small piece of black electrical tape over the lens?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 10:15 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


"You could make this statement about cell phones and laptops and pretty much any modern technology with biometrics in it since inception."

You're right, I could. That was kind of the point.

Look at how each time a new source of data is created we see that we have nothing to be concerned about, and that the data will never be used for anything other than what it is intended to be used for. And then the political climate changes or the business climate changes and suddenly that data is useful for something else, something it wasn't intended for and no one would have thought was a good idea when they first started gathering the data.
posted by 517 at 10:22 AM on August 25, 2010


The current generation of i-phone record photos of maps when they are closed

Do you have a citation for this? I had no idea my iPhone was recording photos of maps when I hit the Home button. What maps is it taking photos of?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:26 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Do you have a citation for this?"

At the moment I can't google one. But there was an article that I was reading about a week ago that mentioned that the iphone screen caps when a window is closed, and that law enforcement was already using this this feature in criminal investigations. The article specifically mentioned how it captured images of closed maps.

It sounded like a debugging feature that had been put to the wrong use.
posted by 517 at 10:34 AM on August 25, 2010


At the moment I can't google one.

Maybe Google and Apple are working together on this one.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:35 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Look at how each time a new source of data is created we see that we have nothing to be concerned about, and that the data will never be used for anything other than what it is intended to be used for. And then the political climate changes or the business climate changes and suddenly that data is useful for something else, something it wasn't intended for and no one would have thought was a good idea when they first started gathering the data.

At some point don't we need to realize that this is just fundamentally a part of life in the 21st century and accept it? I know how crazy that sounds to people who are legitimately concerned with privacy, but what's the alternative? Google has access to all of my email, Facebook knows about my social life, and Apple knows about what I do on the phone and online.

Without somebody knowing these things, my life would be significantly less satisfying. I'm not going to avoid using telephones because they can be bugged, or bank accounts because they can be traced, or avoid public spaces because I can be seen.

Photos and phone calls are a difference in degree, not kind. I guess maybe the disagreement is where the cutoff lies.
posted by graphnerd at 10:36 AM on August 25, 2010


*"Without somebody knowing this, my life online experience would be significantly less satisfying.
posted by graphnerd at 10:37 AM on August 25, 2010


I don't recall ever seeing the EFF freak out about Thinkpad users who use the fingerprint scanner that some corporate IT departments require for authentication and authorization. That's not a patent, but an actual piece of technology that has been out there for several years now.

Isn't this a difference between passive and active? That the hypothetical iGadget will be passively and silently recording this data, whereas the fingerprint scanner is a device that requires an action on behalf of the user to use? Consent matters, if you've just lent your phone to someone without having to enroll them as an authorised user.
posted by Electric Dragon at 10:38 AM on August 25, 2010


"Maybe Google and Apple are working together on this one."

Here's one that mentions it but, it wasn't the one I was referencing.
posted by 517 at 10:42 AM on August 25, 2010


"If the idea that my employer might give me a device that tracks my location and heart and takes my picture was supposed to reassure me...mission failed."

Well, you obviously don't work for the government, then. Apple won't be able to sell its mobile devices to any government department that requires specific types of security until they can show that there's a way to secure the devices against unauthorized use. I work at a VA hospital. Surely you've heard the news reports periodically mentioning loss or theft of a VA-owned laptop, resulting in breach of patient information? It happens from time to time, and the IT people here are paranoid as a result. They are really suspicious of any mobile device and have stopped not far short of just banning all Apple devices at the door to begin with. (The chief IT officer said they don't allow Macs because "we can't control them!" which of course made me think "yes, you dolt, that's why we want to use them in the first place!")

Imagine you're working with patient data. Imagine you need to be able to access your email securely from a remote site. You might be receiving patient data or other sensitive information via email. Your employer won't let you do this unless they know for damn sure that any unauthorized access to the device will immediately result in deletion of the data.

What if you work for a business in which loss of data (due to industrial espionage, etc) would be damaging? Say, oh, I don't know, your company manufactures smartphones and one of your field testers happens to misplace a prototype at a bar or something. That's plausible, right? Same result - Apple won't be able to market the device to such a business without a patent like this.

In either case, this sort of patent would be head and shoulders above something like RIM, where all your data needs to go through their servers. No way will the VA allow something like that.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:43 AM on August 25, 2010


Consent matters

I don't know. In this economy, if the choice is between a job and scanning your retina or fingertip, or no job and "privacy", which you don't have anyway unless you are completely off the grid, it's probably only consent in the most technical sense. There seem to be degrees of consent, in any case, and more compromise than most privacy proponents would like to admit.

But to get to the issue of passive and active, Apple, Google, Microsoft, et al. do not need to passively spy on you because you already actively give them so much data when you choose to use their services, when you log on to their web sites, when you open your account data from wherever you are on the network.

The EFF are fighting the wrong fight here. The issue is setting up laws that defend individual privacy, not keeping tabs over and getting shrill about what corporations will do anyway, building up IP. (Given their track record, however, it's probably best that the EFF stay away from that directed kind of advocacy.)
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:48 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the screenshot thing is a side-effect of how Apple does the visual effect of an application zooming in and out when you switch out of and back into an app. It could be fixed by storing the picture in RAM instead of writing out a screenshot to Flash memory. I suspect Apple didn't take that approach originally because the original iPhone was actually quite RAM-constrained (only 128MB total, and the OS already used about 80MB). It wouldn't surprise me if Apple did that eventually since the iPhone 4 has four times as much RAM as the original iPhone.
posted by jedicus at 10:48 AM on August 25, 2010


I had no idea my iPhone was recording photos of maps when I hit the Home button.

I never heard of this either. Googling "how to disable the iphone's automatic screen capture" finds a page that says a screenshot is taken every time you press the Home button - and provides a way to defeat it on jailbroken phones. iphoneinsecuruty.com says it's been observed in third-party apps as well as Mail and Safari. Both claimants have something to sell, fwiw.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:50 AM on August 25, 2010


iphoneinsecurity.com , that is.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:53 AM on August 25, 2010


In either case, this sort of patent would be head and shoulders above something like RIM, where all your data needs to go through their servers. No way will the VA allow something like that.

Actually, the VA allows Blackberries. In fact, back in 2005 there were already "more than 5,000 Blackberry handhelds already in use by VA employees." As a result "It is VHA policy that only senior managers and essential staff who meet the criteria specified are to be assigned a Blackberry device," since, allegedly, allowing unlimited distribution of Blackberries would lead to strain on the VA's email systems. (Source, VHA Directive [pdf])
posted by jedicus at 10:55 AM on August 25, 2010


Here's one that mentions it but, it wasn't the one I was referencing.

The Maps app is caching Google-sourced images so that, when you reopen that app, you can see the map you were looking at without having to reload your present location and zoom level. It's not done so that Steve Jobs knows where you are.

The other Apple apps do this trick to make it look like the app is starting up faster. This requires modifying the application bundle, so only Apple-signed apps are allowed to do this. No third-party app is being "snapshotted".

There are privacy implications that forensics IT people can take advantage of, but no more so than your web browser of choice caching the sites you visit on a non-Apple computing product. That's why the FBI and other law enforcement agencies confiscate laptops and desktops as evidence, not just iPhones.

The real bugbear is that Apple is taking advantage of its ownership to provide a feature that isn't available to third-party apps. But that's more of a matter for developers to worry about, than the EFF or Wired.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:58 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


It only takes a screenshot when you hold the Hold and Home button at the same time. It's called a "feature." There are shortcut keys on my computer that take screenshots, too.
posted by defenestration at 11:04 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh you were talking about the map caching. My bad. Commence the hysteria.
posted by defenestration at 11:05 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


They should embed a taser in the phone to zap thieves.


And jailbreakers!
posted by mazola at 12:11 PM on August 25, 2010


fundamentalist zealots who insist Apple is The iWay, The iTruth, and the iLife

They never insist this, partly because fundamentalists wouldn't take the "i" prefix in vain, but mostly because it's really, really lame.
posted by bonaldi at 12:25 PM on August 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


There's always one huuuuuge misunderstanding when it comes to patents:

Most people think that when the patent office awards a patent for some stupid idea, it rubberstamps that idea, so that now the patent owner can legally, morally etc. use that idea, because the government said so.
Therefore, time and again, there's BIG OUTRAGE when the patent office awards a patent on, say, genetically engineered mice, a poisoned monkey with a brain of a human (don't worry, I just made that up), or Big Brother terminology(TM).
OMG!!!1!! they say, I don't want anyone to be allowed to make poisoned monkeys with human brains!!!! Don't let them get a patent for that or soon the streets will be teeming with poisoned monkeys.

Except that the patent system doesn't work that way.
1) Just because you have a patent, doesn't mean that you are ALLOWED to make a monkeyman. Making a monkeyman might still violate certain laws.
2) It also doesn't mean that you actually CAN make a monkeyman. Maybe it's just some shit that some patent lawyer made up. (Although the patent office is supposed to give you a patent only when you have demonstrated that you are capable of doing what you claim - but how would they know?)
3) What you can do with your monkeyman patent is PREVENT other people from making monkeymen.

So think about it: Assuming that Apple gets its patent (which seems doubtful), they can then go on and sue other companies who use their technology (without getting a license first.)
And if they don't get the patent? Then EVERYBODY can do the stuff that's written in the patent without getting slapped on the wrist by Apple. That's the difference.

Just because Apple writes some nonsense in a patent application doesn't mean that they actually CAN or WILL or SHOULD or legally MAY use that technology.
posted by sour cream at 12:43 PM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Damn, now I want my very own Monkeyman.
posted by nomadicink at 12:55 PM on August 25, 2010


Apple is a religion, complete with texts, totems, and a messiah. That's why criticizing Apple brings forth accusations of bigotry, persecution, and the fervor of crusading fundamentalist zealots who insist Apple is The iWay, The iTruth, and the iLife.

You could say the same thing about the Apple anti-fanboys, who consider Apple to be a sinister, dictatorial, malevolent government-like presence who hates us for our freedoms and every Apple user to be in the throes of a cult, beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside, to revel in fixies and tight pants, until the great Turtlenecked One would teach new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of overpriced apps and DRM.
posted by stavrogin at 1:01 PM on August 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Or to put it differently: If spying on people through their iPhones is legal, then Apple can do so regardless of whether they do or don't have a patent.
And if it's illegal, it doesn't matter either if they have a patent or don't - it's illegal either way.

In other words: If you don't want companies to use certain technologies, don't rail against their patents or the patent system in general. That's even worse than fighting windmills.
Get laws in place that keep the companies from using that technology.
posted by sour cream at 1:04 PM on August 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is an interesting patent. Good. Evil. Who knows any more... and does it even matter?

All I know is that I've got options... and Apple is one of many that I just don't choose.

Steve used to be cool... back when NeXT was where it was at.

Still want me a NeXT cube, a DEC Alpha Personal Workstation, and a MicroVAX.

And a pony.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 1:36 PM on August 25, 2010


Oh FFS. This is the usual sort of raving paranoia that the EFF is famous for, they are their own worst enemy, and as such, the true enemy of real freedoms. How many times will they cry "Wolf!" before people stop listening? Oh I forgot, that already happened.

Paranoia? Funny, that's the same thing that many claimed over a decade ago when EFF was warning us about the Enhanced 911 service that can track user's location. Law enforcement maintained that it was a requirement for public safety (pinpointing users during emergency calls), the EFF and others said that once implemented it's used would be expanded by law enforcement. Recent statements by a Sprint manager at a closed conference revealed that they have already sent over 8 million records to law enforcement. A request is for a single point, so there are thousands of requests for each user, but it is still a lot of non 911 call tracking.

And now the FBI is pushing for warrantless location tracking. The hardware and network infrastructure is already in place, all they need is a law now.

The EFF may be a raving paranoid wolf-crying group, but that's because the wolves are out there and we should be concerned.
posted by formless at 1:57 PM on August 25, 2010


The EFF may be a raving paranoid wolf-crying group, but that's because the wolves are out there and we should be concerned.

Paranoia will destroy ya.

You may not recall this, but the requests for Enhanced 911 location tracking came from a public uproar after some well publicized cases where people with cell phones got lost in rural areas during snowstorms and could not be located. It is pretty hard to get people to be paranoid against something they wanted for lifesaving, even if it has less beneficial side uses.

I vaguely recall reading some court precedents that a persons location is not considered private information in all cases, this came up via GPS tracking cases. I won't suggest that the EFF get involved in this sort case, they'd just fuck it up. I'd leave it to the experienced groups like the ACLU. The EFF is better at crying Wolf than litigating.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:16 PM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Apple is a religion, complete with texts, totems, and a messiah.
May the Force of the Operating System be with You: Macintosh Devotion as Implicit Religion.

How the iPhone Became Divine: New Media, Religion and the Intertextual Circulation of Meaning.

Apple As a Religion: How the iPhone Became Divine.

Looking for a New Religion? Apple Gives Dose of the Divine.
posted by ericb at 2:18 PM on August 25, 2010


I'm pretty sure your employer can't record you outside the workplace without your consent. If it can, then the EFF should focus on that gaping hole in privacy rights, not this patent application.

Well . . . Most US states, including New York have some version of single-party consent. It is legal to record a conversation between two parties provided that one party consents. So, if your employer sends someone to talk to you, it can record the conversation, with or without your consent, whether or not you know the person comes from your employer, whether or not it is in the workplace. Interestingly the Second Circuit held just last week that covertly recording conversations with an iPhone does not, of itself, constitute a tort [opinion - pdf].
posted by The Bellman at 2:25 PM on August 25, 2010


Well, what do you know. The Ninth Circuit Court has ruled that the cops can go on to your driveway at night, attach a GPS tracker to your car, and follow all your comings and goings... all without those pesky warrants.

Frankly, I don't care if this patent would help get my iPhone back after being stolen. If the alternative is creating honeypots of personal data for the snoop patrol, I'll take my chances.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:25 PM on August 25, 2010


ericb:

You've just cited a bunch of articles. (Three of them about the same "research," but okay.) But come out from behind the citations, if you would, and tell me: Do you think that Apple users are religious nuts or, as mattdidthat says, "fundamentalist zealots who insist Apple is The iWay, The iTruth, and the iLife?" Do you really feel that? Or — I'll make a guess — an unspecified "some" Apple users are that way?

(I'll admit, if it's not too thin-skinned of me, that I come to any MeFi likely to involve Apple, ready to brace myself against a bunch of these kinds of insults. I'm sure the person throwing them around thinks I'm not really a person — just a "fundamentalist zealot" — so it doesn't matter.)
posted by argybarg at 2:32 PM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


By the way, I don't want my phone doing this stuff and if Apple implements it I will opt out.

I also don't want law enforcement or anyone else to be able to know, without my consent, precisely where I am and who is with me; to record me without my knowledge or a warrant; or to disable my car and lock me in it. That's why I would never buy a vehicle equipped with OnStar, which is an actual real thing that people pay extra for and not just some pie-in-the-sky patent application. Most of the hideously scary privacy shit in this patent (and don't get me wrong, I do find it upsetting) is already OnStar's prior art.
posted by The Bellman at 2:34 PM on August 25, 2010


At some point don't we need to realize that this is just fundamentally a part of life in the 21st century and accept it? I know how crazy that sounds to people who are legitimately concerned with privacy, but what's the alternative? Google has access to all of my email, Facebook knows about my social life, and Apple knows about what I do on the phone and online.

I would actually be ok with this, as long as there wasn't a power imbalance in who has access to this recorded information. A Brin style approach, where the public also has the right to record our interactions with government officials, would be good. But that is also threatened. So not only do we have a situation where private individuals are continuously tracked and monitored, but in addition public officials are exempt.
posted by formless at 2:35 PM on August 25, 2010


argybarg -- the purpose of my post is to point out that there are articles and studies which seek to define the evangelism for and devotion to Apple products as akin to that of religions. Such can be traced back to previous discussions, as per Umberto Eco's 1994 article in the Italian news weekly Espresso: The Holy War: Mac vs. DOS.

I take no position on the topic, but merely point out that 'Apple as a Religion' has -- and will continue to be -- discussed by some.

P.S. -- I love my Apple products (past and current).
posted by ericb at 2:41 PM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


And -- yes, the esteemed Umberto Eco weighed in on the topic!
posted by ericb at 2:43 PM on August 25, 2010


EFF has lost it. It's a phone, people. Not your gonads.

And with phones, like gonads, most people who have them carry them everywhere and don't really think about it.

I don't think Apple is at fault here really. It's just a patent, so like others have said, of course they don't have a written policy in place in regards to how they will use this. Corporations would find a feature like this immensely useful, as would private users. The problem is that if something similar does get implemented, it's yet more data that is being collected, and we need a social and legal framework for dealing with that, one that is useful in emergency cases but still preserves privacy.
posted by formless at 2:44 PM on August 25, 2010


And now the FBI is pushing for warrantless location tracking. The hardware and network infrastructure is already in place, all they need is a law now.

Speaking of tracking (though not with phones): Court Rejects Warrantless GPS Tracking
posted by homunculus at 2:44 PM on August 25, 2010


Joe, you know I love ya, but this post is some truly thin shit that only confirms the general matter of how poorly Apple users are treated at Metafilter.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:33 PM on August 25 [+] [!]


This doesn't even make sense. It's a post at least arguably about PROTECTING Apple users. I think it's hysteria, but it's not anti-'apple user' in the slightest. You identify far, far too much with the corporation (Unless you somehow draw a paycheck from them).
posted by empath at 2:47 PM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


This doesn't even make sense. It's a post at least arguably about PROTECTING Apple users.

And we thank Joe for his concern.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:28 PM on August 25, 2010


FWIW *I'm* an Apple user, as are quite a lot of the "haters" you get choked up about. I think you guys are after something else...
posted by Artw at 3:36 PM on August 25, 2010


No, the idea is that if your phone is stolen or if the phone detects suspicious behavior then it can use other sensors to confirm that it's in the possession of an unauthorized user and take appropriate action (e.g., warning the real user, remote wipe, lockdown, etc). Or it can collect some data to aid a police investigation into the theft.

If I recall correctly, Clarkson, on Top Gear, spoke about how he got multiple phone calls that his car had been stolen, while he was driving the car no less. Great anti-theft technology there. I expect similar levels of comedy to ensue for generations to come.

this post is some truly thin shit that only confirms the general matter of how poorly Apple users are treated at Metafilter

Speaking of comical... A great statement that perfectly parodies the nonsense that may result from this technology, or utter drama queenery.
posted by juiceCake at 3:41 PM on August 25, 2010


It's a post at least arguably about PROTECTING Apple users

It is no such thing. It's whiny, poorly thought out scare tactic designed to...oh hell if I know. All I know its that it eats fear, breathes hallucinations and shits paranoia like it's been eating a burrito made of schizophrenia. Here's the first paragraph:
It looks like Apple, Inc., is exploring a new business opportunity: spyware and what we're calling "traitorware." While users were celebrating the new jailbreaking and unlocking exemptions, Apple was quietly preparing to apply for a patent on technology that, among other things, would allow Apple to identify and punish users who take advantage of those exemptions or otherwise tinker with their devices. This patent application does nothing short of providing a roadmap for how Apple can — and presumably will — spy on its customers and control the way its customers use Apple products. As Sony-BMG learned, spying on your customers is bad for business. And the kind of spying enabled here is especially creepy — it's not just spyware, it's "traitorware," since it is designed to allow Apple to retaliate against you if you do something Apple doesn't like.
In six sentences the writer paints Apple as company that is trying to install spyware and a new form of software it's made up and failing that, it's been actively planning to punish while noting that Sony's antics in that area were bad for business, yet ignoring Apple's lack of doing so and the increasing popularity of it's devices.

It's no better than some backwards ass politician getting worked about gays, Muslims or big gubment. It breeds fear, doubt and uncertainty for no good reason. For the EFF to be proudly posting this type of unthinking garbage shows it's from being above reproach.
posted by nomadicink at 3:43 PM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's no better than some backwards ass politician getting worked about gays, Muslims or big gubment.

Gosh yes, it's completely like that. You are in no way being a completely ridiculous freak right now.
posted by Artw at 4:10 PM on August 25, 2010


In six sentences the writer paints Apple as company that is trying to install spyware and a new form of software it's made up

I really feel that somehow people are failing to notice a distinction between Apple, the corporation, and Apple users.
posted by empath at 4:29 PM on August 25, 2010


R&D departments of tech companies, or heck all companies, think up of wacky ideas all the time. And given that Apple hasn't implemented such technology in its products in the 18 months since they filed the patent application, it seems unlikely they plan on including the feature in their products. Perhaps they even rejected ever implementing this feature due to the exact privacy concerns that the EFF brought up. However, to accuse Apple of being creepy and invasive for even daring to think of this feature is pretty damn unfair.

In fact, there are many other reasons why they might have decided to file a patent application on this idea. For example, they might want to prevent their competitors from ever implementing such a feature. Or they think the feature would be a valuable addition to its patent portfolio in terms of licensing. Or perhaps they just want to stroke the egos of the engineers that came up with the feature. Or perhaps it was just a desperate R&D manager that was scrambling to hit his quota of the number of idea mined for patent applications in a particular quarter.
posted by gyc at 4:45 PM on August 25, 2010


I hardly think the issue is Apple, but rather the implications of said patents should they be executed and used. Apple is no different than any other corporation in this regard and pretty much in any regard. There are articles about other companies as well all the time doing similar things.
posted by juiceCake at 5:07 PM on August 25, 2010


I hardly think the issue is Apple,

The title of the article, prominently displayed on the EFF's home page is "Steve Jobs Is Watching You: Apple Seeking to Patent Spyware". The EFF clearly thinks different.
posted by nomadicink at 5:30 PM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Intel's mind reading computer could bring thought controlled interfaces to a whole new, frightening level
posted by homunculus at 5:32 PM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]



The title of the article, prominently displayed on the EFF's home page is "Steve Jobs Is Watching You: Apple Seeking to Patent Spyware". The EFF clearly thinks different.


None of which makes it a uniquely Apple issue.

I've seen news articles like "Corruption in the U.S. Government" which doesn't mean corruption is a uniquely U.S. Government issue.
posted by juiceCake at 5:56 PM on August 25, 2010


None of which makes it a uniquely Apple issue.

Well sure, except for the article portraying it as uniquely Apple issue.
posted by nomadicink at 6:12 PM on August 25, 2010


Court Rejects Warrantless GPS Tracking

On the other hand, in California and the Western states: The Government's New Right to Track Your Every Move With GPS
posted by homunculus at 6:42 PM on August 25, 2010


In either case, this sort of patent would be head and shoulders above something like RIM, where all your data needs to go through their servers. No way will the VA allow something like that.

That's not true. You can run the BIS and do email serving from your own facilities, even encrypted. That's why many companies who need secure email use their phones and run their own BIS, as does the VA.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:02 PM on August 25, 2010


BTW, this is a subject I care about quite a bit, but this particular issue highlighted by this post is a non-issue. I can't see why EFF would be doing this except to help boost fundraising efforts, just because Apple is a big target. As others have mentioned, a patent is not malicious intent, and plenty of technology can be used maliciously which we depend on every day to do productive work. It's not the tool that causes someone to use it criminally, and I get no whiff of any intention on Apple's part to record people surreptitiously. I think these features are meant to be used by the person who bought the phone, not by Apple to spy on that person.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:06 PM on August 25, 2010


All the big time privacy stuff is probably for the courts and the congress (pause for laughter), but what I see is the ability to detect and wipe or lock a jailbroke device. That would seem to go along with what I see as the new Apple corporate personality. I'm pretty not into all this stuff though, so maybe they already can do this.
posted by Trochanter at 7:49 PM on August 25, 2010


[few comments removed - knock it off.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:15 PM on August 25, 2010


Well sure, except for the article portraying it as uniquely Apple issue.

Sure. As I said, I don't think it is. I never stated the Article says it's uniquely an Apple issue or not. I don't think the article portrays it as uniquely Apple as well, it's just discussing what Apple has done.

My mom cooks food. I can discuss what my mom does to cook food, what type of food she uses, what types of spices. That I don't mention any other moms doesn't mean that cooking food is a unique activity to my mother.
posted by juiceCake at 8:34 PM on August 25, 2010


Cult of the Unseeing i.
posted by Back to you, Jim. at 11:35 PM on August 25, 2010


You could say the same thing about the Apple anti-fanboys, who consider Apple to be a sinister, dictatorial, malevolent government-like presence who hates us for our freedoms and every Apple user to be in the throes of a cult, beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside, to revel in fixies and tight pants, until the great Turtlenecked One would teach new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of overpriced apps and DRM.

A million times this.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:45 AM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


You're utterly delusional.
posted by Artw at 10:53 AM on August 26, 2010


[one more time, take longtime rivalries offsite and let people who want to do something besides poke their enemies talk about stuff in this thread.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:56 AM on August 26, 2010


"Actually, the VA allows Blackberries."

Really? Wow. This is the same organization that has informed us that Bluetooth mice are a "security risk" because they are an "unauthorized wireless device". The guys who have decided to put a bar-coded property tag on every computer and printer in the VA, to track every bit of hardware, with one color for VA equipment and another color for non-VA equipment? (Yes, they are tagging stuff they don't own, even if it already has a university property tag on it.) The same people who have informed us that we can't buy Apple products because they are "legacy systems", while the 8-year-old thin clients running Windows XP are the norm - even if the computer is for research, and will never be used on the VA network? The same justification for periodically not allowing us to buy software for Macs - well, we don't allow them, so why should we let you buy software? - and these guys have been convinced that a Blackberry is OK?

I'm confused. And surprised. These are the same people?
posted by caution live frogs at 11:13 AM on August 26, 2010


My mom cooks food. I can discuss what my mom does to cook food, what type of food she uses, what types of spices. That I don't mention any other moms doesn't mean that cooking food is a unique activity to my mother.

Yes, but you'd have issues with an article about how your mother is clearly planning to murder people because her cookbook proposal uses pots and pans, which could be kill someone.
posted by nomadicink at 11:13 AM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Security risk or not, I can't imagine any part of the US federal beurocracy running without the Crackberry. People, even very highly placed people, routinely transmit very highly classified info (even though they shouldn't technically) by BBs. Mobile email such a totally necessary capability, that BB use is considered fine.

A major part of that is the ability to run your own BIS and the high level of encryption on the devices. Good security, combined with the minimal use of bandwidth by BB traffic---iPhones & Androids use roughly 3x the bandwidth of a BB for similar communications---are why government is overwhelmingly a RIM shop right now.
posted by bonehead at 11:40 AM on August 26, 2010


Of course, if Apple really was planning to be evil and spy on their customers, they last thing they would do is to broadcast their intentions by filing a patent application on such spyware, knowing full well that the patent application would be published and publicly accessible after 18 months.
posted by gyc at 6:23 PM on August 26, 2010


Paul Allen Sues Apple, Google, Others Over Patents
posted by Artw at 1:18 PM on August 27, 2010


Steve Jobs, Circa 1997, Reintroducing Apple
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:07 PM on August 27, 2010


U.S. schools: grooming students for a surveillance state

Many of these kids won't mind surveillance features in their iPhones because it will all seem perfectly ordinary to them.
posted by homunculus at 11:04 AM on August 29, 2010


Again, it seems really odd to single out iPhones over a patent application.
posted by nomadicink at 12:20 PM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm confused. And surprised. These are the same people?

I once applied for a job with a DoJ security contractor website development firm. They used Flash extensively. When I asked why, it turns out it was due to security. They considered the "closed" code environment of Flash much more secure than other options, and so does the military - or did. This was in 2004. I could point out a number of flaws in their thinking, but apparently they had been going along like this for some time. As the job required clearance and I didn't want to go through that sort of thing, I turned it down, but I bet they're still using Flash.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:56 PM on August 30, 2010


Paul Allen Sues Apple, Google, Others Over Patents

BTW, this isn't a patent troll or anything like that. Paul Allen has done a lot of good, and he obtained those patents through his own company and was not waiting with a depth charge like the trolls do.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:59 PM on August 30, 2010


Martin Scorsese Attends Free iMovie Demonstration At Apple Store
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:01 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Flash on Android Is Shockingly Bad"
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:07 PM on August 31, 2010


You got yourself a borked link there, oh ye of Pileons. This is what you meant, yes?

Must have being using a droid, AMIRITE?!
posted by nomadicink at 2:53 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


AT&T chief: 'All your iPhone are belong to us'
posted by Artw at 2:31 PM on September 22, 2010


Paul Allen has done a lot of good...

OK, I'll bite. What good has Paul actually done since he left Microsoft? His company has degenerated into a patent horder. It can't seem to actually innovate, so now it's just suing those who can. If it disappeared from the face of the earth we'd be better off.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:56 PM on September 22, 2010


Legal row over who can use 'pod'
posted by Artw at 11:08 AM on September 24, 2010


OK, I'll bite. What good has Paul actually done since he left Microsoft?

He, um, builds a lot of buildings in the South Lake Union area?
posted by Artw at 11:09 AM on September 24, 2010


He, um, builds a lot of buildings in the South Lake Union area?

Fair point (and a bit more besides that.) I should have said, "What good has Interval Corp. ever done?"
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:44 PM on September 24, 2010


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