It is arguably one of the most famous commercials for technology ever made. It marked a revolution in personal computing and it spurred the interests of people like this writer to watch the Super Bowl if for no other reason than the commercials. Apple’s ‘1984’:
Nevertheless, Apple might be working on ways to ensure that 2012 looks rather like 1984, and the corporation might be showing the commercial backwards in the next Super Bowl.The Daily Mail of London has reported that eighteen months ago Apple sought a patent on a technology that would allow venues to shut down iPhone cameras (still & video) with infrared signals. The rest of the phone would work normally, but the user could not record the concert or home run or touchdown.
According to Britain’s paper, The Daily Mail, Apple’s motivations are to placate media organizations that have financial interests in keeping personal videos off free sites like YouTube:
Such a development would be welcomed with open arms by many concertgoers, fed up with their view being blocked by a sea of glowing mobile phone screens. However, the real reason Apple is developing the technology is to placate broadcasters upset that members of the public are posting footage of events on websites including YouTube when they have bought the exclusive rights.
No doubt concert goers will enjoy a clearer view of their next guitar solo or Bruins’ fans of a short-handed hockey goal. But the US political concern “Free Press/Save The Internet” sees easy and ample opportunity for more sinister application of the technology.to the recent tradition of Apple being ahead of the curve when it comes to monitoring use of its mobile devices and the people who use them.
In its patent application, Apple describes the technology as making it impossible to capture video or pictures at events where cameras and video recorders are prohibited. Your phone determines whether an image includes an infrared beam with encoded data. This data is sent from an emitter that directs the cellphone or a similar device to shut down image capture. Disabling emitters could be mounted on stages, throughout public squares or, conceivably, on police helmets. …
Imagine if Apple’s device had been available to the Mubarak regime earlier this year, and Egyptian security forces had deployed it around Tahrir Square to disable cameras just before they sent in their thugs to disperse the crowd.
Though the technology is still a few years off, almost any tech development in human history has been used for both better and worse ends. So corporate and government use of the technology to shut down a camera that might be gathering incriminating evidence is simply a matter of time. No conspiracy theory, this. Repressive regimes have been following people’s social-media trails for months. What could be better than not giving them access to such a (visual) trail in the first place?
Apple probably will not be Big Brother, but the embeds, kill switches, and tracking numbers of its mobile devices will allow others to wear the mantle, and likely not fear any activist collecting evidence of their work.