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Re: <nettime> consumer detector
Patrice Riemens on Thu, 8 Nov 2012 18:09:07 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> consumer detector

Meanwhile, at Apple:


all your actions are belong to us (boom boom)

Fears for civil liberties as Apple patents technology that could
remotely disable protesters' smartphones

    Technology would broadcast a signal to automatically shut down
    smartphone features, or even the entire phone Apple claims it
    would most likely be used to prevent copyright theft or to
    guarantee privacy in sensitive areas Civil liberties campaigners
    fear it could be misused by the authorities to silence 'awkward

By Damien Gayle

PUBLISHED: 14:35 GMT, 7 November 2012 | UPDATED: 18:06 GMT, 7 November

Apple have received a patent for a technology that could allow the
police to disable protesters smartphones, it has emerged.

The new technology would act as a 'kill switch' for smartphones,
disabling any cameras on the devices and blocking their connection to
mobile networks.

Apple stresses that the function would be most likely used to prevent
copyright theft, such as in cinemas, or to stop phone cameras being
used in inappropriate places, like department store changing rooms.

However, in the filing for U.S. Patent No. 8,254,902, the company adds
that 'covert police or government operations may require complete
blackout conditions'.

A new Apple patent could disable the phone cameras of protesters

'Additionally,' it says, 'the wireless transmission of sensitive
information to a remote source is one example of a threat to security.

'This sensitive information could be anything from classified
government information to questions or answers to an examination
administered in an academic setting.'

That statement suggests that police and other authorities could use
the newly patented feature during protests or political rallies to
block transmission of video footage or photographs from the scene.

In many highly publicised instances, such as during the Arab Spring
revolutions and even the West's own Occupy protests, pictures and
footage from smartphones have proved a crucial tool for citizen
journalists documenting police behaviour.

In one highly publicised case, 21 students from the University of
California, Davis were awarded settlements of $30,000 each after
a police officer attacked them with pepper spray as they staged a
sit-down protest.

Footage of that incident was filmed on the smartphones of dozens of
bystanders and eventually broadcast around the world, leading to the
suspension of two officers involved and the resignation of their
superior officer.

Civil rights campaigners warn that the new technology could limit the
ability of concerned citizens to gather evidence of such excessive
behaviour by police and security forces.


The patent for 'Apparatus and methods for enforcement of policies
upon a wireless device' was granted in late-August and would allow
authorities to change 'one or more functional or operational aspects
of a wireless device, such as upon the occurrence of a certain event'.

This means that those with access to the technology could use it for
'preventing wireless devices from communicating with other wireless
devices (such as in academic settings), and for forcing certain
electronic devices to enter sleep mode when entering a sensitive

The patent filing makes clear that although Apple may implement
the feature, any decision on whether to use it would be down to
governments, businesses and network operators.

The technology works via mobile networks, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or GPS, and
would send an encoded signal that can selectively shut down features
of smartphones within range depending on what kind of policy needs to
be enforced.

Apple claims the technology to shut down increasingly ubiquitous
wireless devices is necessary since they 'can often annoy, frustrate,
and even threaten people in sensitive venues'. However, civil rights
campaigners have already registered their concern that authorities
could misuse the technology.

Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties campaign group
Big Brother Watch, said: 'Itâ??s been a fact that modern phones are
in reality tracking devices that let us make calls, but the idea that
awkward citizens might find their phone shut down at the behest of a
Government agency is a very worrying thought and not one that fits
with democratic principles. 'The idea that awkward citizens might find
their phone shut down at the behest of a Government agency is a very
worrying thought and not one that fits with democratic principles'

'Only last year we had Chinese state media praising British
politicians for considering a blackout of social media sites and as
with the iPhone, this idea could have been made in China.'

Jules Carey of Tuckers solicitors, who represented the family of Ian
Tomlinson, the newspaper vendor who died after he was struck by a
police officer at protests against the G20 in 2009, told MailOnline
the technology could stop police being held to account for their
actions. 'There is something very sinister about governments and the
police having the power to block all communication and recording
devices except their own,' he said. 'This is the sort of technology
you might expect to see in China but not a western democracy.

'Time and again it is citizen journalism, little brother, which
exposes the truth about altercations between citizens and the state.

'Mobile phone video recordings and photographs played a significant
role in exposing the truth concerning the death of Ian Tomlinson and
have regularly been used to expose violent or racist police officers.

'I struggle to think of any justification for the use of this
technology in a democratic society and in some circumstances - such
7/7 - a phone shut down would have hampered the rescue effort and
prevented vital evidence being preserved.'

Val Swain of the Network for Police Monitoring, a campaign group that
monitors the activities of police in public order situations, said the
technology had the potential to make policing even less transparent.

'Netpol and our partners use photographs and video a great deal to
monitor and record police behaviour. We would certainly be very
concerned at any attempts to limit the freedom to do this,' she told
MailOnline. 'Texts, tweets, photos and videos are used a great deal
by protesters, not only to tell each other what is going on, but also
to tell the outside world. The disruption of this would be extremely

'I would also be concerned at the potential for use of this technology
by private companies, particularly those who are targeted by protests.
Might they be tempted to 'switch off' protesters phones to limit bad

'Policing in the UK is anything but transparent. The general public
has little trust in the state authorities to come clean over the use
of this sort of technology.

'This in itself makes people fearful and anxious. What is needed is
for the police to me much more open and honest about the way they
police us generally, and particularly the way they police public

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