While I’m not sure that spyware is the right word to describe this project, the EFF certainly gets it right when they label it as traitorware. Even though you are celebrating your “right” to jailbreak your device, Apple is quietly trying to patent technology that would allow them to identify (and ultimately punish) those who take advantage of those opportunities by tinkering with their devices.
The patent gives Apple a way to have the device investigate a user’s identity. They claim it is only to be used to determine if and when a user is “unauthorized.” In other words – stolen. However, it would also allow the folks in Cupertino to record the voice of the device’s user, take pictures of the current location and possibly even detect and record the heartbeat of the user! Once an unauthorized person is identified, Apple could wipe the device and remotely restore the user’s data. The patent suggests that it “might” use the technology to limit unauthorized uses of their phones, as well as to shut down the phone if and when it may have been stolen.
The technology would go a few steps further than that, though. The device would allow Apple to secretly collect, store and use sensitive biometric data about you. This is dangerous, folks. It is FAR more than what could possibly be needed to protect you against a lost or stolen phone. It invades your privacy and puts you at risk if Apple’s data is somehow compromised (again).
This isn’t the only concern, either. The device would include various types of usage monitoring – also privacy-invasive. That process would be used to get back at you should you decide to exercise your right to jailbreak a device that you purchased – even if it IS legal under copyright law.
Given the type of information this patented device would collect about you, Jobs and company would know who you are – where you are – and what you’re doing. Hell, they’ll even know how fast your heart is beating while you’re using your phone. The patent application states that this information “can be gathered every time the device is turned on, unlocked or used.” When any usage is deemed by Apple to be “unauthorized,” they would contact a “responsible party.” Sadly, it isn’t clear if that responsible party would be the actual owner of the device, the police or any third party.
Nothing is explained as to what will happen to the data collected, how long it will be kept, how the company might use the information or if/when it will share it with other parties. In my mind, this is just spooky and far, FAR beyond the scope of what is reasonable. What are your thoughts?