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Living Freedom by Claire Wolfe. Musings about personal freedom and finding it within ourselves.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Claire Wolfe

Disabling cameras remotely

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Apple has gotten a patent to remotely disable features on wireless devices based on their location. (This is from a not-always-reliable source, but is verified elsewhere.)

I can’t think of a single legitimate reason to impose blanket blackouts like that based on location (language in the patent to the contrary).

Lots of illegitimate ones, though. Halt recording at protests or public meetings. Or at cop checkpoints. Keep protestors from coordinating with each other on the spot.

Not clear at the moment whether Apple plans to do this only on iPhones (one more reason not to have a smartphone). But no matter what the plans, if such a tech ever actually gets into popular use … well, we will have some monkeywrenching to do, won’t we?

(Tip o’ hat to C^2.)

16 Responses to “Disabling cameras remotely”

  1. Concealed Carrying Cyclist Says:

    Well, one legitimate reason would be to ban recording devices at a sneak preview of a movie to discourage piracy. Or similar uses as attempts to reduce corporate espionage.

    Of course, if the handy cam in our ‘smart’ phones stop working, then people will shift to using dedicated cameras. Methinks Apple’s idea is going to be much less useful than intended.

  2. ILTim Says:

    Or does this patent simply prevent anyone else from implementing such a technology?

  3. Kent McManigal Says:

    Anything that can be done to “us” by “them” can also be done by “us” to “them”. It’s an arms race they can’t win. It is stupid of them to start it.

  4. just waiting Says:

    Didn’t the law use something like this in Oakland last year during Occupy? I recall reading that cops used some device that disabled all non cop electronic communications to disrupt a planned BART protest.

    I read about another device they invented that records and replays your voice just a blip after you say the words. Supposedly, having your words blipped right back atcha confuses and befuddles the speaker, so much so they are unable to continue speaking.

    Somehow, in the sick, twisted State mind, this is all ok. Freedom of speech be damned.

    Scary times, Claire, but Belize is sounding better every day :).

  5. Scott Says:

    I agree with Concealed Carry Cyclist- “Freestanding”cameras can be very small-even built into sunglasses(Wally World has them!)..if implemented, the ability to disable phone cameras would take out a *lot* of cameras, though. There’s also what I can A Child’s First Drone-a toy airplane with a video camera in it, capable of recording an hour’s worth of video (“Air Hog”). I saw them on display in the center aisle at WallyWorld.

  6. Matt, another Says:

    Hard to remotely disable a small handheld 8mm movie camera. Can get them in anarchist black too.

  7. Claire Says:

    ILTime — That’s a nice, optimistic thought. But I doubt it. Maybe Apple simply wants to be able to sell the service to cops.

    just waiting — Yes, good memory. They did do something like that in Oakland. I think it was to stop protests after the cops murdered Oscar Grant; not sure. I need to look into that.

    Matt, another — LOL, very true. Unfortunately, 8mm movie cameras can’t send their output straight up to the cloud for safekeeping. Nor do many of them fit well into pockets. Still, that wouldn’t be the first time that people resorted to old tech when Authoritah tried to foil new.

  8. Richard Says:

    Hey, we don’t need to buy their products. I have argued with many that Apple us practically fascist. Thear are smart phones, nothing more complicated than a computer running an operating system and hardware. Hack it and roll your own phone software. Heck even Claire Wolfe knows how to install Linux.

  9. Jim B. Says:

    I’ve had reason to buy another phone so I looked into getting something similar to my old phone. It is not a “smart phone” where you have to manipulate icons to work something, I specifically sought out a “dumb phone”. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get one without a camera, go figure.

    There is something to be said for dedicated devices, and backups, backups, backups. I’d rather have a dumb phone and use something like an IPad for computer communications. A dedicated video camera that’s not networked may allow you to keep recording when smart phones cameras don’t.

  10. velojym Says:

    While I’m currently using an iPhone (Droid is sitting in time-out for it’s weak reception), I keep a couple simple phones around as spares. As for cameras, I have some nice hardware, but for a protest I want something hideable. If I can’t transmit out, I’d either extricate myself, or send the SD card out via sneakernet. Another possible option is to have a remote storage device on your bicycle/car/etc, talking with your phone on an unaffected frequency, so if your camera is taken, you still have the storage media (well hidden of course).

  11. Matt, another Says:

    Even with hi-tech stuff there will always be ways around efforts to jam or disable recourding devices. All it takes is a little ingenuity and some software and electronics savvy. Cell Phones are not magical devices, they are digital radios and all the rules for radio wave propagation etc still apply.

  12. Laird Says:

    Maybe I mis-read the article, but it seems to me that this technology will have to be built into the phone; it’s not something that magically disables all phone cameras within its range. So the solution (in addition to using free-standing cameras) is to not buy a phone or other device with this technology built into it. That means no new iPhones (although older ones should be OK), and no other phones which license the technology from Apple. (The trick will be knowing which ones they are, of course!)

  13. Mike Porter Says:

    You missed one – snagging hard evidence as the cops crash through the wrong door and gun down granny and her dog. But then, considering many of the reasons they use to justify a raid, perhaps there are really only a very few ‘right’ doors.

  14. Mike Says:

    Yet another reason NOT to buy Apple. Closed source products and rabid patent-warring have turned me off to Apple products.

  15. Adam Selene Says:


    You comment, “another reason not to own a smartphone”. I am curious as to why you think smartphone sare a bad idea? In an article I read by Doug Casey, he said he had never owned a cell phone and thinks they are despicable, but he did not offer an explanation.

    Is a smartphone an even greater tool for our overlords to track us than a regular cell phone.


  16. Claire Says:

    Adam Selene — Unfortunately I don’t have time right now to go into the details, nor am I any sort of expert on smartphones. But yes, you’ve basically answered your own question:

    “Is a smartphone an even greater tool for our overlords to track us than a regular cell phone.”

    As devices to track (and in some senses control) not merely your physical location but other aspects of your life — smartphones are unparalleled.

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