EFF Calls Apple's Patent Application 'Traitorware'

The privacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation calls the Apple patent application for a method to monitor and perhaps disable jailbroken and unlocked iDevices "traitorware." They would call it spyware, they stated, but because of certain aspects of the technology involved, they preferred "traitorware."

As we noted earlier, the Apple patent application mentions jailbroken devices, which sort of belies any notion that it's all about security. As the EFF says, "it's not just spyware, it's 'traitorware,' since it is designed to allow Apple to retaliate against you if you do something Apple doesn't like."

The technology would be a little invasive, to say the least, with the potential to record a voice, match it against voice patterns of authorized users, take images of the surroundings, and even monitor and pattern match heartbeats. That seems way over the top for what most consumers would be willing to allow to be monitored, but also, as EFF states:
This patented device enables Apple to secretly collect, store and potentially use sensitive biometric information about you. This is dangerous in two ways: First, it is far more than what is needed just to protect you against a lost or stolen phone. It's extremely privacy-invasive and it puts you at great risk if Apple's data on you are compromised. But it's not only the biometric data that are a concern. Second, Apple's technology includes various types of usage monitoring — also very privacy-invasive.
Indeed, a caution over privacy is what many have noted with respect to the patent application. The EFF lists the following as "features" in the patent application:
  • The system can take a picture of the user's face, "without a flash, any noise, or any indication that a picture is being taken to prevent the current user from knowing he is being photographed";
  • The system can record the user's voice, whether or not a phone call is even being made;
  • The system can determine the user's unique individual heartbeat "signature";
  • To determine if the device has been hacked, the device can watch for "a sudden increase in memory usage of the electronic device";
  • The user's "Internet activity can be monitored or any communication packets that are served to the electronic device can be recorded"; and
  • The device can take a photograph of the surrounding location to determine where it is being used.
 The EFF was instrumental in the recent decision in which the U.S. Library of Congress gave a DMCA exception to jailbreaking and unlocking. The organization said that Apple came up with its idea for this technology "while users were celebrating the new jailbreaking and unlocking exemptions." That's not entirely correct, as Apple submitted the patent in 2009, but it is clear that despite what the new DMCA exemptions say, Apple has previously said that it considered jailbreaking illegal.

The final paragraph in the EFF's statement is:
This patent is downright creepy and invasive — certainly far more than would be needed to respond to the possible loss of a phone. Spyware, and its new cousin traitorware, will hurt customers and companies alike — Apple should shelve this idea before it backfires on both it and its customers.
Creepy is a good description: any technology that monitors our heartbeat (and isn't medical in nature) is far too intrusive for us.
Via:  EFF
Tags:  Apple, iPhone, EFF, Jailbreak
rapid1 4 years ago

Wow when you read this and hear some crazy comment about Apple taking over the world you kinda start to believe it. That is way beyond intrusive!

Marius Malek 4 years ago

My thoughts exactly Rapid. I didn't like reading this because it sounds dirty, but I'm also happy that I don't own a single Apple product :P

infinityzen 4 years ago

Just a note for people, this is not something new. The patent application was put in in 2009. It just recently got massive media attention.

Nethersprite 4 years ago

And here I was, actually thinking about getting a job at my local Apple store (hey, they pay a lot!). This is really despicable news, although honestly not surprising. But, what worries me more is that basically any phone with a camera and accelerometer can do all this, and others with less advanced tech can also spy on you to some degree, if the company releases some funny firmware and keeps everything quiet. Who even lets them collect this kind of information? It's not like they need your heartbeat for targeted ads or something...

Also: Apple came up with its idea for this technology "while users were celebrating the new jailbreaking and unlocking exemptions."

Well, people celebrating those exemptions are really deluding themselves. This patent is for measures intended to prevent thieves and other unauthorized users from using the device; in the patent, "unauthorized users" apparently includes jailbreakers. So let me get this straight: despite a legal ruling, Apple will still brick jailbroken iPhones. What's the loophole?

bigtallsob 4 years ago

this is why apple really bugs me (the whole pc vs mac flamewar aside) if i buy an iphone, it is now mine. what i do with it is entirely up to me. if i want to use it, jailbreak it, hit it with a hammer, or stick it in the arbitrary orifice of a passerby in the street, it is entirely up to me. it has absolutely nothing to do with apple.

if my cell carrier doesnt want to carry traffic from a jailbroken iphone that is their decision, because they are actively providing a service. apple isnt providing me a service; they are manufacturing me a product. a backpack maker can't tell me what i am allowed to put in my backpack, and apple shouldnt be allowed to tell me what software i want to put in my iphone.

if i was renting the phone from apple, then they could tell me what i can or cant do with the phone, but i'm not. it was purchased. it belongs to the owner. #@*& off apple


OZiga 4 years ago

My God! And we thought Microsoft was evil! This goes so far beyond anything I ever heard Microsoft trying!

In my country and many others there are many thousands of Iphone users that Apple doesn't even have a track of because there's no AT&T and simply you just can't have an Iphone without jailbreaking it. So people buy them in the US and bring them home.

Turns out it was to be Apple to make 2010 into 1984! Of course if they try it they will lose so much. I will personally become an anti Apple evangelist if they mess with MY phone.

inspector 4 years ago

So, that goes to say feature iphone sales will drop!... or rise seeing how everyone is like mind controlled by them... If they going to really do this, hand them out for free.(i would still not take it thought)

3vi1 4 years ago

Who would have thunk it. I think someone misinterpreted the Mac "1984" commercial.

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