North Texas Daily

New Apple patent for camera phones could be bad

New Apple patent for camera phones could be bad

July 22
16:12 2016

Morgan Sullivan | Staff Writer


It could be the shriek heard ‘round the world, as millions of people who film the entirety of concerts on Snapchat will no longer able to do so. Earlier this month, Apple was granted a patent for the infrared system that could be used to block cell phone cameras at movie theaters, concerts and other “sensitive locations.” Although the patent could be used to crack down on movie piracy, it also leaves a lingering question: At what point does Apple, or anyone else, get to decide when your phone camera works?

There are just some places where you don’t need your phone camera. Some would argue that the movie theater is one place where taking pictures is unnecessary. While enjoying a movie, you shouldn’t need to take pictures or video. This patent could be seen as a crackdown on movie piracy, but with an industry making billions of dollars for one movie, it doesn’t appear that it’s too strapped for cash.

Using technology to block cellphone cameras in movie theaters isn’t going to stop movie piracy. It could put a major dent into the market until people remember that digital cameras are still a thing and bring those to theaters instead.

A benefit of the infrared technology would be blocking Comic-Con attendees from streaming exclusive content. For example, the “Suicide Squad” teaser shown at Comic-Con was on the internet shortly afterwards. In this era, everything goes on the internet. There’s no getting around it. The word “exclusive” means practically nothing these days since anything from songs to feature-length films are shared en masse.

You could argue that blocking cameras in places like concerts and museums would keep people in the moment. Memories can be made outside of your little screen, surprisingly. Museums would worry a little less about their sensitive items being subjected to flash photography. The technology could even be used to beam information about paintings and exhibits.

However, memories are different for everyone. Some people need tangible reminders of the past, and who are we to take that right away from them?

Although morally, it’s tough to see how this patent wouldn’t work, it’s much easier to see how ethical lines can blur. Remote technology that sends commands to nearby devices has the potential to be very, very bad.

Illustration by Samuel Wiggins | Senior Staff Illustrator

Illustration by Samuel Wiggins | Senior Staff Illustrator

Although the Apple patent would be mostly used for “good,” skeptics can see many downfalls if this kind of technology is in the government’s hands. Governmental agencies at all levels have advocated for this tech for quite some time, said Parker Higgins, a spokesperson for digital advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation.

In times of resistance against the government, it could be far too easy to shut down critics. There could be no more revolutions like the Arab Spring, which gained momentum through social media. With governments capable of remotely controlling phones, protests could be halted before they even began.

During the Ferguson protests, a media “no fly zone” was created, banning media helicopters from flying above the scenes and providing an aerial view. With this technology, the government could perform similar tactics with any protests or civil unrest, but people would be unaware of why their cameras weren’t working.

Another major downfall, especially for the media, could be the loss of citizen journalism. When bad things happen and the media isn’t there, they look for firsthand accounts of people on the scene. Just weeks ago, the media heavily relied on citizen journalism when five police officers were killed after a Dallas protest.

Cellphone video makes this possible. If they were blocked during that tragedy, the media (and police) may not have access to firsthand accounts. Memories can lie or be distorted, but visual documentation can provide clarity to any situation.

With all of the technological developments in the past few decades, we as a society never expected to be here. We are forced to make decisions based on what we think might be best – for now – and for the future. Although, on the surface, this technology sounds good, the possibility for it to be used maliciously is very high.

Whether it’s a movie theater, a concert or a protest, people should have the right to take pictures and video.

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