Apple must keep phone-camera jammers out of cops’ hands: petition

Blocking people from shooting video of Beyonce on stage is one thing. Blocking people from shooting video of police behaving badly is quite another.

More than 10,000 people have signed an online petition calling on Apple to keep one of its patented technologies out of the hands of police.

Last month, Apple received a patent for a system that would allow a phone’s photo and video functions to be disabled by infrared broadcasts from a transmitter. “A transmitter can be located in areas where capturing pictures and videos is prohibited (e.g., a concert or a classified facility),” Apple’s patent said.

But news of the invention has sparked fear that it would be used in a drastically different kind of situation. “Imagine: you’re walking down the street when you see police officers slamming a woman to the ground,” the petition says. “They’re exhibiting a shocking use of force — one officers (sic) pushes her face into the ground. Another sticks his knee into her back. You become worried. You pull out your phone to record the incident — only to have your camera mysteriously shut off.

“With Apple’s newly patented technology, this incident could become a reality.”

Taking photos in public places is generally protected under the First Amendment. But that hasn’t stopped police from abridging that liberty in the past, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. “Unfortunately, there is a widespread, continuing pattern of law enforcement officers ordering people to stop taking photographs from public places, and harassing, detaining and arresting those who fail to comply,” the ACLU says in a web posting.

The ACLU early this month raised concerns about how Apple’s new technology could be used abroad and at home. “Concerns have already been raised regarding the potential for this infrared technology to censor dissidents during political protest,” the group said. “The problem is also a local issue. If law enforcement gets a hold of this technology, it could be used to prevent individuals from recording traffic stops, arrests, and other interactions between law enforcement and the public.”

The petition carries this message for Apple: “Don’t release technology that would allow third parties to remotely disable our iPhone cameras!”

Photo: In this May 1, 2012, file photo, a police lieutenant swings his baton at Occupy Wall Street activists in New York. (AP/Mary Altaffer)


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  • cosmicunity

    Yeah…high techy technology has made our life/lives so much better hasn’t it? Of course you really wouldn’t know unless you lived during a time when it wasn’t so pervasive/invasive. Easily culturally indoctrinated manipulated programmable live tissue marketable androids is all you are to the power structure that controls your life… and foolish you just loves it.

  • Careful Thinker

    Keep it out of the hands of cops?

    Does that include banning cops from working security at Beyonce concerts?

    What about non-police orgs that work closely with them? How will you stop BART from installing them so they benefit BART police? How about various city governments? Local vigilantes? Private prisons? Private security? Courts? City council meetings? Random trolls?

    Information wants to be free. If the technology exists, it will be used by anybody that wants to use it and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Delay… maybe. Stop, no.