Apple’s ‘Unauthorized users’ patent stirs controversy

A newly published Apple patent application has led to reports that the company will use a new unauthorized user recognition technology to deter users from jailbreaking iPhones. The patent application, entitled “Systems and Methods for Identifying Unauthorized Users of an Electronic Device,” primarily describes methods for detecting unauthorized users—people who do not normally use the device—and taking appropriate action, such as relaying information about the unauthorized user’s identity and location to the device’s owner, restricting functions, or deleting sensitive data. The controversy stems from references in the application to jailbreaking and/or unlocking the device, both of which it describes as “activities that can indicate suspicious behavior.” In July, the U.S. Library of Congress’ Copyright Office announced a decision under which jailbreaking was deemed legal and within the user’s fair use rights, which might conceivably limit Apple’s ability to discriminate against users with jailbroken devices. However, it’s unclear as to whether Apple is patenting this invention in the hopes of actually locking out users for its own purposes, deterring certain uses of its devices, or merely empowering owners to protect their own items as they wish. As with all Apple patent applications, the filing does not necessarily represent any future product release from Apple, but offers evidence of the company’s research in this area.

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