How a Future Feature of the iPhone Gives Civil Libertarians an Incentive to Unlock It

I suppose we can start referring to 'unlocked' iPhones as FreedomPhones. Why? Well, I guess you could say, "Dictatorship, there's an app for that":

The days of filming a live concert or sporting event on your iPhone may soon be a distant memory.

Apple is developing software that will sense when a smartphone user is trying to record a live event, and then switch off the device's camera.

Anybody holding up their iPhone will find it triggers infra-red sensors installed at the venue.

These sensors would then automatically instruct the iPhone to shut down its camera function, preventing [any] footage from being recorded.

Only the iPhone's camera would be temporarily disabled; other features, such as texting and making calls, would still work.

But wait, Mad Biologist, this is just about the illegal recording of private events, isn't it?

Well, how long do you think it will be before your friendly local government decides to buy some of these things and flash them around political demonstrations? Maybe add some extra 'functionality' too, like shutting down the phone entirely or Teh Twitterz.

Steve Jobs, the Mad Biologist says this as a shareholder--and therefore your fucking boss--we are not happy about this. Figure out a different solution.

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Or perhaps, in a nod to Ed at Dispatches, the cops start carrying these things in their cars so iphones can't be used to film their possibly illegal actions when they pull people over unnecessarily or are caught while beating someone up for no reason?

By Joe Shelby (not verified) on 25 Jun 2011 #permalink

The iphone infra-red sensor is on the top of the front of the phone to the left of the ear piece. It's traditional use was to determine when the phone was near your ear so that it would shut off the touch screen and prevent accidental screen-presses. There are ways of defeating this relatively simple technology. I know infra-red doesn't penetrate though glass very well but it may be as simple as taping a piece of paper over these sensors so that they don't pick up any stray transmissions.

Jail-breaking an iphone disables a lot of features and is a fairly complicated process. I know it's fairly easy to un-do but why resort to such a drastic measure when there could possibly be a much easier solution out there?

By Jay Walkin (not verified) on 25 Jun 2011 #permalink

or you could just put the phone in airplane mode, which turns off cell, 3g, and web interactions and would prevent the phone from receiving the signal.

Recently the iPhone exceeded every other brand of digital camera as the most prevalent camera, so this concern is genuine.

Crossposted from Pharyngula:

Okay, so the question is this: How would this system tell the iPhone to disable its camera? Nine chances out of ten, it'd be through some sort of pulsed-infrared system, received through the camera itself. So the only way to block that transmission is to stop infrared light from entering the camera. Doing so without blocking visible light requires some sort of filter.

So, yeah. If I still had an iPhone, I would probably jailbreak it for something like that. But I don't. (Well, I do, but it's sitting unused since I switched away from AT&T.) My primary phone is a Nexus One, and unless they build the technology into the hardware, it's not really feasible to implement in Android.