Tag Archives: patent

Does Apple Intend to Bring Spyware to You?

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?

What is Apple Hiding with the iPhone 4?

Apple has asked the FCC to keep information regarding iPhone 4 under wraps for at least 45 days. In the June 4th letter to the FCC, Apple EMC and Wireless Compliance Manager Robert Steinfeld said that “”Although Apple has begun to market the device publicly, these documents reveal technical and design information that has not been publicly disclosed in such marketing and that is protected by Apple as confidential and proprietary secrets.”

Is Apple really hiding anything, or are they simply trying to protect their turf until the device has officially launched? The letter further states that “Apple firmly believes the period of confidentiality requested is necessary to protect the information until the commercial release of the device.” That doesn’t seem so odd to me… until the next paragraph.

In the very next sentence, Robert formally asks the FCC to “indefinitely” withhold several other types of documents, including antenna gain patterns, the operational description and several of the schematics. He claims that these documents “reveal detailed technical and design information that is protected by Apple as confidential and proprietary trade secrets.” Understandable… to a point. The problem with that is the fact that asking the FCC to permanently deny any access to those documents borders on unfair marketplace advantage.

What are your thoughts on this? Should Apple be allowed to have certain pieces of information about the new iPhone blocked from our eyes indefinitely?

How Patent Wars Work

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Apple and HTC are locked in a patent infringement lawsuit. The actual legal complaints blatantly list 20 infractions that Apple feels HTC has made pertaining directly to Android devices. A caller to the live show the other night asked my thoughts on the situation, and on patents in general.

Holding a patent is your way of holding on to insurance. It’s not so much that you’d want to enforce it – it’s that you can use it as leverage. It’s basically a weapon in a peeing contest. Right now, some companies can’t do certain things because of patents. Their hands are completely tied. What is likely to happen is that Apple will allow HTC to do certain things, and HTC will reciprocate to Apple by allowing them to do other things.

At this stage in the game, I feel that Android is closer to a Windows Mobile phone than an Apple device. They certainly have a lot more promise. I think that the newest iteration of the Windows Mobile platform will be a shot in the arm… it will help get them back into the game.

But the whole “Android vs iPhone” debate is bunk. There’s nothing like the iPhone. They aren’t in direct competition with each other, because they are completely different. Apple controls everything about their operating system, while Google keeps things as open as possible. It’s like comparing apples and oranges.

With HTC, Apple could possibly be going after them because HTC has something they want in return for allowing the use of their patents. There’s really no way to know for certain from our standpoint. I’m an outsider, much as you are. That’s usually how these things come about though. The patent dance is a very intricate one.

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