Apple Patents Remote ‘Kill Switch’ for iPhone Cameras

What to do about all those darn videos showing cops murdering people?

They make it much harder for law enforcement to lie about their own actions, and just get everyone all fired up. Why not ask Apple (for starters) to build in a “feature” on a future generation of iPhones that will allow cameras to be disabled remotely?

A patent granted to Apple this month details technology that remotely disables iPhone cameras using infrared sensors. Someone you do not know and cannot see will be able, without your permission, to disable the camera on a phone you own and are legally using, perhaps to take video of your son’s Little League game, perhaps to take video of a police officer choking to death an innocent man.

Apple’s patent application used the example of a rock band wanting to prevent audience members from recording a concert. Nasty bootleggers and their darn YouTubing!

While the First Amendment, backed up by much case law, guarantees the right of citizens to record the actions of government employees, including the police, conducting their duties in public places, the Amendment does not guarantee corporate America has to sell you the technology to do so. It is Constitutionally unclear if a police force using such technology to block video would violate the First Amendment (hey, you could switch over to your Dad’s camcorder that’s in the basement), but knowing the way things work, the cops would try it first, worry about court cases later.

And indeed you can hear the arguments terrorism, national security event, blahblahblah. Perhaps the police could designate First Amendment Video Zones outside any large event where citizens could shoot video of each other to their heart’s content?

Another interesting legal question would be the effect of citizens using some other technology to disable the technology used by police to disable camera phones. Would that become illegal, the way some states have made the use of radar detectors in your car illegal?

So as the cops like to say, “Hey, nothing to see here folks, move along.”

Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent. Reprinted from the his blog with permission.

6 thoughts on “Apple Patents Remote ‘Kill Switch’ for iPhone Cameras”

  1. Or rooting your iPhone or Android and blocking any commands sent to it with a really heavy password. You’re not limited to 8 characters.

    Remember that Unix is the direct basis of MacOs, Android and Linux.

    td p { margin-bottom: 0in; }p { margin-bottom: 0.1in; line-height: 120%; }code.cjk { font-family: “Nimbus Mono L”,monospace; }

    If your system uses a
    cryptographic hash to store passwords i.e. MD5, SHA1, etc then
    there is no limit to the password length itself since these hashes
    can be created with any amount of data. An MD5 or SHA1 hash can be
    created for an entire hard drive and this is commonly done for
    forensic purposes because if even one bit is changed ever so
    slightly then you have a very different hash and hence you can
    verify the data has changed. This means you can use these exact
    same algorithms to test if data has been tampered with. Linux
    (current Linux at least) uses these same hash functions. It will
    ask you for a password and it will then create a cryptographic
    hash of the password you gave and see if this hash matches the
    stored password. This also means that your passwords are not
    stored in plain text and the only way to recover a lost password
    is to run a brute force test which generates password hash after
    password hash until a it finds one which matches the current hash
    and then you have your password.

    There is a slight downside to using these hashes which is that
    a hash has a finite size for example an MD5 hash is 128 bit. This
    means that an MD5 hash only has 2^128
    or 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456
    possible combinations. Now while that is a big number, what this
    means is that you can have what they call a hash collision where
    you have two different items or keys that produce the same hash.
    In theory, the larger the key size, the lower probability of a
    collision and the longer it should take to brute force a password
    but that is strictly evaluating the entropy and how long it CAN
    take but there is also a chance that the first entry they try can
    be the one which matches even if it’s a hash collision. Generally
    speaking, you really are safer using a hash which has a larger key
    size because, suppose this is MD5, the odds of the first password
    matching out of
    possible matches is extremely extremely unlikely. Also pick a good
    password because a lot of crackers will try and use word lists,
    name lists, and mutations of these list (i.e. if the word is
    “fish” then they will try fish1234,
    fish!@#$ etc) before they rely on
    brute forcing a password. /very_long_quote..

    The long numeric chain there is 40 characters long + the commas.

    the last 12 numerals is 40 TeraBytes. If street cops or for that matter Federales started packing around 40 terabytes of disk space it would show up in some records. Like what Bradley Manning and Assange spilled. Not so much physically bulky as expen$ive. And though the omnipotent They are really good at spending other peoples money, even They have limits. And limits on covering their spending.

    Exercising a little bit of electronic hygiene is always a good idea.

    Don’t download your porn onto the same storage device you use to store Police Behaving Badly videos. Or the same computer. Like the motto of Linux, “have a lot of fun” There’s more to the article I quoted at


    I made sure this won’t be an executable link in the comments. Not that I don’t trust me, more like Nobody Else.
    To make this longer than necessary, but not my standard of writing a novel on somebody else’s server, you could conceivably use the first three verses of Beethoven’s 9th as your password easily.

  2. The next step is to marry smart phone technology with smart guns. Remotely shut down a gun. Not to mention the user first has to authenticate against an “approved” list of users for that weapon at each use before it would activate.

    Could you imagine what the price of a good old fashioned Kalashnikov or Stoner would be when that day comes?

    1. In any war there are a lot of people laying around dead with weapons in their hands. In an urban conflict, a revolution… there’s a lot of non-military people who are placed in a position where they can arm themselves from the bodies of the Dead. Of both sides.

  3. Never bought an iPhone, never will. And if Apple goes ahead with this, I’m sure many, many people will realize how good Android and Windows Phone really are. Will Apple REALLY shoot themselves in the foot?

  4. Could you cover the infrared sensor? Or does it work through the camera lens, which would make that impossible or useless?

    1. when I need my phone (Androids until I get the hang of rooting, then they’ll all be Kali Linux) to be on but not getting any signals from afar, I get something like the insulated drink bags like the kids use for drinking juice. And the CMOS is always on. Just like remote starting your car. If you can do it, so could a cop or other kind of robber.

      I tested mine with cat treat bags, a basically zip-loc baggie with aluminum insulation. Turned it on, turned on auto-sync, the whole nine yards. Then inserted and sealed it in the bag and turned on the phone that should/would auto-sync with it, and called the number. Nothing. It got zero signal while in the same room with the other phone. Nothing’s perfect but that’s damn close. A Faraday Cage. You can get the same material at the hardware or auto parts store as window tinting.

      Just getting the minimum reflection is enough for stopping radio signals. Then there

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