Thursday, December 23, 2010

E.T. Phone Home...Coming Soon, Your iPhone May Be Phoning Home to the Apple HQ

Remember the saying, "E.T. Phone Home!" back in the 80s?  An iconic movie.  At one point during the movie, E.T. exclaims he must phone home.  The young boy modifies a Speak and Spell toy so E.T. can phone home.

Well now your iPhone might be the next modified Speak and Spell!  Apple has filed a patent so your phone can phone home in the event that it is lost or it's human owner is lost.

When a professional criminal steals a phone, they typically pull the sim chip out and / or jailbreak the phone.

What is a jailbreak?  Jailbreaking is a techie term for basically breaking into an operating system to make it do things that are usually locked down.  It is often done by the actual owner.  For example, past jailbreaks on iPhones allowed people in foreign countries to use them before iPhone officially made them available in foreign countries.  Apple considers jailbreaking to be a breach of service warranty and highly discourages it.

Apple filed this patent because they feel this next step in technology is necessary to locating stolen phones. In the patent they mention they want to help customers better protect their sensitive information.
Among other things, the patent would allow the device to:
-record the voice of the device's user
-take a photo of the device's users's current location
-detect and record the heartbeat of the device's user
-scan the face of the owner

Some privacy advocates don't agree.  They believe this is another way for companies to collect information, in this case some is biometric, that can be used to track you.  There are some valid points:
1.  What if Apple is hacked and the hackers take your data?
2.  Does Apple have another purpose such as finding customers that have made their warranty invalid by tampering with their phone?

What's your opinion?  A great new advance in safety to assist with kidnapping and finding lost people?  Or, Big Brother's watching?

So what do you worry about more?  Steve Jobs checking in on you or the ability to protect yourself against a professional criminal that wants to tap into your mobile and digital life by stealing your phone?


"Steve Jobs Is Watching You: Apple Seeking to Patent Spyware", Julie Samuels, August 23, 2010.

"New iPhone Security Patent App: User Protection or 1984 iSpy?", Brian X. Chen, Wired, August 23, 2010.

"Apple Patent is for Push-Based Location Update", MacTech Blog, December 23, 2010.

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