What’s the real purpose behind Apple’s patent request: parental control or censorship?
By: John C. Dvorak
Today, a number of Web sites are praising the new Apple patent that is designed to, apparently, create a parental control mechanism for the iPhone to prevent the kiddies from the onerous practice of sexting. Apparently, sending lewd and lascivious messages over the phone has become a plague amongst teens who are generally goofballs between the ages of 13 to 19. Yes, the entire teenage moment in time.
This is a classic example of something looking like one thing and being something else altogether. And the entire tech world is stupidly missing the point.
This patent is not about sexting it’s about political speech. Apple wants its phone in Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, and other parts of the world where political dissent is a crime. Over the years, it has become apparent that the mobile phone is a tool for revolutionaries. This was proven with the Iranian “Green” riots of 2009, but began with a series of riots all over the world through the last decade.
The key to this patent—and my point—is in the summary within the patent application. It reads as follows:
The invention, in various embodiments, addresses deficiencies in existing attempts at solutions by providing systems, methods and devices that enable an administrator to control the text-based communications of a user of a text-based communications device through an administrative mode of an intelligent text-based communication control unit or application. The text-based communication control application filters incoming and/or outgoing text-based communications based on administrator-defined criteria.
In the next paragraph, it says:
In one embodiment, the control application includes a parental control application.
Note the language and the words “one embodiment.” This means there are other uses and this example is one you dummies can understand, “sexting.” But reread the first paragraph over and you’ll see the real use: control.
And, of course, the sexting ruse is just that—a ruse. Let’s face it, American teens in particular can work around anything in incredibly creative ways. So if kids want to send lewd and suggestive notes to each other, they will. And this patent sure does not put a stop to questionable photos that get traded back and forth amongst teens.
But a phone that prevents any sort of political use would not only be welcome in horrible regimes around the world, but perhaps—as I suspect Apple hopes—might be mandated. In other words, if you want to sell a mobile device in Myanmar (riots in 2007), then it must have this capability.
Let’s face reality this patent is not about sexting.
The sad aspect to all this is that nobody will complain about it. Nobody will condemn Apple for going after what I consider an anti-humanitarian patent and business will go on as usual. Meanwhile, a lot of people are seeing it as a great idea. But let’s call it what it is. This is a sleazy censorship mechanism and nothing more.