Is Apple’s Pre-emptive Censor Anti Customer?

Back in 2006, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology completed a prototype device that blocks digital-camera functions, both video and stills, in a given area. The prototype, produced by a team in the Interactive and Intelligent Computing division of the Georgia Tech College of Computing (COC), uses off-the-shelf equipment – camera-mounted sensors, lighting equipment, a projector and a computer — to scan for, find and neutralize digital cameras. The system works by looking for the reflectivity and shape of the image-producing sensors used in digital cameras.

Spaceship Apple the proposed structure for the quaint little town of Cupertino

The technology saw a market in preventing piracy, vis-à-vis, movies, shows and helping governments prevent images from areas off limits.  A camera’s image sensor — called a CCD — is retro-reflective, which means it sends light back directly to its origin rather than scattering it. Retro-reflections would probably make it relatively easy to detect and identify video cameras in a darkened theater.


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This week a notice was sent out from Freepress.net saying Steve Jobs’ Apple iPhone would be including a form of this technology in its newest versions.  Here is the way they explained how it might work:

“The system works by using off-the-shelf equipment to detect the image producing sensors used in digital cameras and then sends a small beam of white light at the sensor whiting out the entire image. One of the targeted uses is in movie theatres to prevent piracy.”

Freepress claims Apple’s addition of this technology is a pre-emptive strike against free speech.  “Apple says this new technology was designed to stop concertgoers from taking unofficial video at live events. But you can bet that governments and corporations will take full advantage of it in other more dangerous ways – to silence the voices of protesters, political opponents or anyone else they dislike.  As Apple CEO Steve Jobs obviously knows, smartphones have become extensions of ourselves. They are incredibly powerful tools for communication, education, political expression, community organizing and just plain fun.”

Why would Jobs and Apple take this step in altering their customers’ privacy to serve industry and others? Is it to protect Disney, Jobs alter ego, or does Jobs see this as something that will bring rewards to shareholders?  He claims the share price of his stock will take care of itself, but who am I to predict how the stock market works, and for whom it works?

I’m reminded of the great Seinfeld shows going back fifteen years where my favorite character, Kramer, is seen taping shows from the balcony.  But with zero demand from consumers, why would Apple risk losing momentum by casting the spotlight on the millions of users of their phone, or do they know a lot more about the market than we do?

Apple has been questioned before about its decisions to limit privacy and stifle how its technologies are used, but we wondered what you thought about this latest attempt to pre-empt use of “your” phone and will they hear it from their users?

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