The revolution sparked by the ease of being able to quickly capture instances of police brutality on your iPhone may face a serious hurdle soon. A patent granted to Apple Tuesday will allow those equipped with the required infrared light emitter to remotely disable an iPhone's photo and video recording capabilities, presumably in an effort to put a stop to shitty YouTube clips of concerts and bootlegged movies. However, as noted by Mic's Jack Smith IV, those aren't the only potential uses for Apple's latest feature.
For a brief overview of how this patent may change up the iPhone game, here's a direct quote from the patent filing:
For example, an infrared emitter can be located in areas where picture or video capture is prohibited, and the emitter can generate infrared signals with encoded data that includes commands to disable the recording functions of devices. An electronic device can then receive the infrared signals, decode the data and temporarily disable the device's recording function based on the command.
If we're talking about possibly putting an end (or at least a brief pause) to the sort of people who keep their phones held high for, say, the entire 90 minutes of Sugar Ray's set at some 90s throwback festival, then okay. There's probably a fair amount of people who are very, very here for that. But given the contentious climate that still permeates the police reform conversation, namely stemming from reluctant police organizations themselves, the idea of this technology being abused in the name of silencing police surveillance isn't exactly that big of a reach.
News of the patent has been met with controversy, with many pointing to the technology's potential use as a hindrance to police accountability:
Given Apple's commendable history of taking a stand against mass surveillance, it's easy to brush aside this latest patent as merely a victim of overblown paranoia. But the risks might be worth another look.
"As we've seen in headlines over the previous few months, recordings by members of the public is a crucial check on police abuse," senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California told the Los Angeles Times last year. "We've seen a number of examples of high-profile incidents of abuse and unlawful shootings or killings that never would have come to light if someone wouldn't have pulled out their phone."
Apple did not immediately respond to Complex's request for comment.