Apple patent application for detecting 'Unauthorized' iOS device usage causing controversy

Last week an Apple patent application was published and it described how certain activities performed on a iOS device could suggest "suspicious behavior" that could reveal unauthorized usage of that device. In particular - voice, facial, or heartbeat recognition could be used to confirm whether or not the current user is indeed an authorized user and should have access to the given device or not. Then depending on the authorization the user could be given full access to all data stored on the device or could be limited. And if you dig deeper into the patents details you will see Apple may have an alternative motive, namely jailbreaking.


blockquote>“An activity that can detect an unauthorized user can be any action that may indicate the electronic device is being tampered with by being, for example, hacked, jailbroken, or unlocked,” the patent continues. “For example, a sudden increase in memory usage of the electronic device can indicate that a hacking program is being run and that an unauthorized user may be using the electronic device."

So in other words, if your iPhone is not being used in way Mr. Jobs agrees with, he can deactivate your device.

UPDATE: Due to a technical error, this post sat in limbo for a week but we consider it interesting enough that we'd rather have it up late than never. Apologies for the tardiness but do let us know what you think about a future where this patent is in use on real devices.

[Thanks to everyone who sent this in!]

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!


Community editor. Tech enthusiast. All-around geek.

More Posts



← Previously

Pages 9.0.4 adds ePub export for iPad

Next up →

H.264 goes royalty-free, web to go H.264?

Reader comments

Apple patent application for detecting 'Unauthorized' iOS device usage causing controversy


You guys make it sounds like that every iPhone owner jailbreaks. That's not true. I don't and I know many others that don't There's millions on iPhone owners out there and millions that don't jailbreak.

I've seen Lamborghinis that don't have this much security...and we're talking about security against the device's own owner! This is non-sense!

Are you guys serious?? I guess you're all so rich that when someone steals your device you just buy another one? This hasn't even been implimented yet and everyone is speculating on the negative impact and ways it can be used. I would love it if my iPhone or iPad deactivates and becomes a brick if stolen, the idea that all the theif has to do is reload it irks me deeply. I would actually rather if there was a small amount of C4 inside that could be detonated if the device was stolen but that has as much chance as a snowball in hell. The jailbreak portion seems unlikely since it's been declared legal I'm sure there would be a horrendous outcry if that actually happend.

Sudden high memory usage now suggests hacking? How the hell did they come to that conclusion?
It could also mean my GPS chirped in from the background while I was watching Hulu and my phone checked my email.. a MUCH more likely scenario.

The fact that he CAN control your device remotely is the problem. What's the difference in wire tapping and this? Its all to close to limiting my abilities to do anything on my OWN phone. That's it I'm going ANDROID! I'm fed up with all his hands all up in our business!!!!!

I have no problem with being able to remote wipe (or explode) my phone. But only if I want to, I'll obviously know it's stolen. I don't need an irregular heartbeat sensor on my phone to tell me my phone is m.i.a.

You obviously have a short memory. Lots of first generation iPhones were bricked by Apple after being jailbroken by the owners of the devices.

Surely this could help Android sales even more than Apple already does. Yes, go ahead with this Apple.

This would be a step too far for me. I understand the thinking and desire from Apple's point of view but this is a paranoid way to use technology and a route people simply won't want to go down.

I dont pirate Apps either. Jailbreaking simply allows you to do more with your phone. Imagine you bought a car but the hood is locked shut, and only the manufacturer can open it. What if you wanted to add a supercharger, a better air filter, or even just a different set of spark plugs. But you're limited to what the manufacturer will put in there at their rates.
Really? You think Ford or VW could get away with that?
My jailbroken phone is, honestly and simply put, better and more capable than an unbroken one. I've spent more money on quality jailbreak apps than on app store ones. For example BiteSMS & Lockinfo do nothing to affect the ATT network, do not interfere with other apps but make my experience so much better.
Apple should do this:
Settings -> Jailbreak ->ENABLE
Watch how fast I'd hit "YES"

Google already has this ability with Android (google it, no pun intended).
Furthermore if Apple does this like they do everything else, it can be EASILY disabled with the new Jailbreaks.
This is nothing that can't be stopped by the Dev Team. F' Steve Jobs!

I've got to stop reading some of these poorly-thought out comments. There are too many compared to the reasonable ones.
My two cents: this doesn't sound like a good thing. I don't know if I should call it a "deal breaker" since I have already invested a lot in this platform. I don't want to lose it all, but I abhor the idea that Jobs moght FORCE me to use MY device the way he wants me to.
By the way, for those who don't know, some jailbreak without pirating apps. Sometimes a user would just like to unlock the potential that Apple locks down on a device. But, believe what you will.

TimEggers is likely correct. Let Apple do what they will. They will never stop the hacking and jailbreaking. This is just another attempt to limit the ecosystem and funnel the iFollower's dollars. My guess is that this will only invite more tampering by inciting privacy advocates to join the fold of iTampering.

What frijoles is going on with this new patent controversy? Jobs dose not want people to mess around with his property cuz he owns it-but he wants to have control of every idevice we legally buy with hard work!

I don't understand why people can't just leave things like they are supposed to be. Always have to mess with things. That's the way it was made leave it alone.

I jailbroke my iPhone only so I could unlock it. If I didn't need to jailbreak my iPhone I would not have. I don't use any jailbroken apps , I have in the past ,not anymore. It seems to me ever since iPhone 4 came out apple has been slipping in the pr department

I know they prefer we don't JB our phones but using biometrics to prevent that???? That goes too far. I will not own a phone where the maker goes to these extreme and personal levels to track what we do with what we bought.

It's just a patent! Lots of companies patent ideas they have no plan of actually using or even achieving. By patenting Apple confirms that they thought of it first and nothing more. It does not mean Apple has any plans to actually do this!

reading the patent, the jailbreaking thing sits next to removing the SIM card. if you read the patent it looks like they are only doing this if your phone is stolen.:
"wherein the particular activity comprises one or more of hacking the electronic device, jailbreaking the electronic device, unlocking the electronic device, removing a SIM card from the electronic device, and moving at least a predetermined distance away from a synced device. "
even tho apple leaves the door open to abuse this system, i think when you read the patent it clearly points towards a thief situation. i'm pretty sure that i've heard that apple has to do a minimum amount to stop jailbreaking to keep the carriers happy .. but they could be a lot more vigilant. don't forget the woz has his jailbroken .

Steve "Blow" Jobs can go suck a D.I.-ick real quick if he implements this! He has to realize if he sells products to consumers, they're no longer his to control and dictate with his Apple Gestapo tactics.

As soon as Apple releases this, I throw my Iphone to the garbage and will not go for for any Apple device until it i removed.
If I loose my phone, if I jailbreak it, it is my responsability to assume the consequences.
A patent that would restrict my free will, my freedom, is dictatorship.

Total bull if they actually do this. Is this legal? Wasn't Microsoft recently denied the ability to do this to Xboxs?

Continuing to stir up paranoia over this extremely narrow and misleading interpretation of this particular patent's claims borders on irresponsible journalism—a clear reading of the claims just doesn't support the conclusion that "if your iPhone is not being used in way Mr. Jobs agrees with, he can deactivate your device."
To all those completely losing their minds believing this patent is there so Steve Jobs can disable your iPhone if you use it in a way he doesn't like—I implore you to either read the actual claims if the patent, or just wear a tinfoil hat so we can instantly recognize (and ignore) your irrational conspiracy theory beliefs.

So, if you don't like the way Steve Jobs runs his company or manufactures his products, perhaps just don't buy one? Sounds pretty simple to me. Heck of a lot of nonproductive belly-aching if you ask me.