With the recent ruling of the Library of Congress that made jailbreaking an iPhone or other device using the iOS legal and within “fair usage” rights of a user, one would think Apple would give up on the matter and leave its users alone to use their devices as they see fit. However, Apple apparently does not agree with the ruling and has filed a patent for a “security process” that iOS developers will eventually build into the devices’ software to stop users from jailbreaking and unlocking the devices. This process would allow the “compromised” device to limit the device owner’s ability to use it severely .
While Apple has used the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 to keep their iOS locked down to “protect” it from viruses and other problems, but the ruling overturned Apple’s use of the DMCA to do so. g. The Library of Congress could see the patent filing as a blatant disregard of their decision. The patent posting took place August 19 210, though Apple filed it in February of 2009.
Apple’s Patent: What it Proposes to Do
Stated within the abstract of the patent, named “Systems and methods for identifying unauthorized users of an electronic device,” states that as a security application, it will detect an unauthorized user of a device, meaning the iPhone, iPad, or iPod. The method, as the patent filing calls the security measures, will also allow any given device with the measures employed to determine the way the unauthorized user is “compromising” the iPhone or other device. Additionally, they claim that the device with the measures installed can gather information pertaining to the unauthorized user and send that information to the authorized user by means of text messaging, email and other means.
The abstract also states that the device will identify suspicious behavior of the current user including “unauthorized” hacking and others actions such as jailbreaking, unlocking, removing the SIM card, or otherwise compromising the device. This action immediately turns an “authorized user” into an “unauthorized user” who is compromising the system, according to the wording of the filing.
Apple’s Patent: How it Proposes to Do it
This filing states that once an unauthorized user is detected, the device with the security measures employed can immediately determine the extent of the “compromise’ and react accordingly. Upon doing so, the device will determine who the unauthorized user is and then proceed to limit the user’s use of the iPhone or other iOS device.
The patent filing states that the device can specifically take a photo of the unauthorized user, track the unauthorized user with GPS, transfer data to a remote location and subsequently erase all data from the device itself, upon confirming any unauthorized use. The filing claim points also state the security measure also has various other means of identifying an unauthorized user, which are even more severe and invasive including (but not limited to) recording the user’s heartbeat and determining whether it is the same of the device’s owner.
However, the question remains as to why Apple would file for a patent on such a security application since the ruling by the Library of Congress specifically permits jailbreaking.
While Apple is trying hard to remain in control of their devices and software, the Library of Congress is making it more difficult to do so. While Apple still controls the environment in which applications are developed and sold, users are allowed to bypass that system legally, thus losing that control. The filing for the patent by Apple right after the jailbreaking hearings in 2009 took place appear as an attempt to circumvent and disregard the hearings and the subsequent ruling in its entirety. To Apple’s credit, the patent was filed before the final ruling; nevertheless, because of the ruling that allows jailbreaking, the patent is not likely to be granted.
It would appear that when Apple filed for the patent, they sincerely believed the Library of Congress would side with them and their reasons for not permitting jailbreaking. They were severely mistaken. The actions the security measures take, as outlined in the filings, border on invasive, not to mention they mimic that of a spyware program. This “security measure” as Apple calls it, is also a means of telling the owner of the iPhone in question that no other person can use it.
This would mean that if one person owns the phone, he cannot allow someone else to make a phone call because his information could potentially be erased if the devices detects the caller is not the user. This security device, should the patent pass scrutiny, appears to create many more problems that it solves.
Apple Inc., “SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR IDENTIFYING UNAUTHORIZED USERS OF AN ELECTRONIC DEVICE,” PatentVest
Chris Davies, “Apple iOS Auto lock iOS Patent Application could monitor iPhone jailbreak/unlock,” SlashGear
David Murphy, “Apple Patent Targets iPhone Thieves, Jailbreakers Too?” PC Mag
“Apple Terms of Service,” Apple