Imagine a system that enables a hardware manufacturer to take a flashless, undetectable photo of your face plus multiple photos of your surrounding location, record your voice regardless of whether you are making a phone call, monitor your internet usage and record your heartbeat and “vibration signature” – all without your consent.
If you’re thinking its all sounding a bit Big Brother, you’re right. In the process it tramples all over privacy legislation everywhere and has civil libertarians in meltdown.
Apple, one of my favourite brands in the world, has been accused of creating traitorware for trying to patent security software that tracks down people who jailbreak their iPhones and iPads and locks them out of their devices.
According to the patent application lodged by Apple, if these identifiers do not match the “authorised” user, the system then determines if there is “suspicious behaviour”.
Suspicious behaviour includes device hacking, jail-breaking or unlocking the electronic device, removing a SIM card from the electronic device, and moving at least a predetermined distance away from a synced device.
But jail-breaking your iPhone — tweaking it to run applications not approved by Apple — is serious business. That’s not just because jailbreaking can void your Apple warranty, but because it can put you at risk of data theft, malware or other significant problems.
Under the patent application, having done its surveillance of you, if Apple decides that you add up to unauthorised use because you’ve done something they don’t approve of, they will remotely lock or shut down the offending iPhone or iPad, making it unusable.
It’s been labelled by watchdog organisations as dangerous spyware and they’ve even invented a new word for it – “traitorware”.
US civil liberties group, Electronic Frontier Foundation, has called the patent “downright creepy and invasive” and overkill for technology that is to track down a lost or stolen phone – something already possible with the “Mobile Me” app.
Watch this space. You can bet that Apple is.