This month, an Apple patent application that has been made public indicates that the company is looking to identify “unauthorized” users of iOS devices. The patent details how some activities on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch could be identified as “suspicious behaviour” leading to unauthorized device use.
Specifically Apple details how facial, voice, or even a heartbeat could act as recognition to confirm whether a user has authorization to use an iDevice. If an unauthorized user is detected, the iDevice could limit access to the trespasser while at the same time gathering information on the trespasser such as photos, voice recording, and location.
Another set of methods that could be used by Apple to prevent unauthorized device use is flagging actions as jailbreaking, unlocking, or SIM card removal. In other words, if one of these unauthorized actions occurs, the device can initiative a lock-down mode and begin to record information about the unauthorized access, as detailed previously.
While the unauthorized user detection methods have merit, the thought of your iPhone taking a photo of an unauthorized user has sparked discussion about just how much control should Apple have over your iDevice.
If the device can record information about an unauthorized user, what stops the device from taking pictures of the intended, authorized user! Some people have found the idea to be Orwellian, giving Apple the means to retaliate when iDevices are not being used in ways that Apple wants.
On the other hand, allowing Apple to exert some amount of control over an iDevice can also be viewed as an additional security precaution. Such control can provide corporate clients additional reassurance about the security of iDevices and also ensure that consumers who use such applications as online banking are safe. The application further details methods for finding lost or stolen iDevices.
Now it is important to note that this is a patent application and only a patent application. Apple files many applications each year and the majority never make it to shipping products. We all know that Apple does take steps to temporarily prevent users from jailbreaking, such as through software updates, but the company has never employed more invasive methods to completely prevent jailbreaking, something that Apple could very likely accomplish.
While Apple has shown no major effort in taking over user devices, if they did, the community backlash would be massive.
Is this type of iDevice control by Apple a good thing for users or bad? What do you think?