Apple Patents New “Kill Switch” That can cut off your Smartphone from the Net

kill switch

There’s been plenty of fuss about Apple and all their patents recently, so how about this one to kick up a controversy?

According to a report in ZDNet, the Cupertino-based company has just patented a newly developed technology that would allow the government and/or police to disable phone cameras and block the transmission of multimedia content from devices, including video, photos and other files, any time the authorities decide they want to.

Essentially, what it means is that the powers that be will be able to access a “kill switch”, cutting off mobile devices from the rest of the net and preventing the documentation of anything they don’t want to be seen or shared.

Apple, which is still defending itself from accusations that it passed private information regarding its customers to the FBI, stresses that the technology would most likely be used to prevent copyright theft, such as in cinemas, or to prevent cheating during school exams, or else to prevent mobile phones from interrupting important business meetings.

But the statement that came with the official patent ventures into far murkier waters, when it goes into detail about the full capability of the technology:

“This policy enforcement capability is useful for a variety of reasons, including for example to disable noise and/or light emanating from wireless devices (such as at a movie theater), for preventing 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.”

It goes on to elaborate on what it means by a ‘sensitive area’ here:

“…the wireless transmission of sensitive information to a remote source in sensitive areas is one example of a threat to security. This sensitive information could be anything from classified government information to questions or answers to an examination administered in an academic setting.”

One of the most immediate fears that should have liberals screaming from the rooftops is that police could make use of the technology during protests, blocking the transmission of recorded content from the area, meaning that acts of police brutality could no longer be documented.

There are other fears too – for instance, what would happen if you accidently stumbled into a scene of pandemonium, with rioters trashing the place and police nowhere to be seen, (like the London riots last year), only to find that you can’t even call for help? Or worse, what if there’s a terrorist attack and all of a sudden you’re cut off and unable to contact your loved ones?

The technology works by transmitting an encoded signal to wireless devices, which effectively overrides them, forcing them to disable recording functionality, and cutting them off from the net. Authorities could activate the signal by means of Wi-Fi, GPS, or even over the standard phone line, in order to ‘geo-fence’ a restricted area and cut it off from the world.

Apple may own the patent for the technology, but the decisions to implement the ‘feature’ would not be theirs. Governments, and possibly even network owners and businesses would have the final authority to make these decisions.