Apple has obtained a patent for technology to remotely disable iPhone cameras using infrared sensors. The technology is designed for use by venues where there photography is prohibited, including concerts and live events.
The technology was discovered by a team of researchers that includes Kevin W. Johnson, Victor Tiscareno, and Cindy Lawrence.
Apple may not use the technology to develop a product. However, the patent has raised concerns from privacy advocates that the technology could be used by repressive governments to mute protests and censor violent government activities against dissidents.
“As we've seen in Egypt and elsewhere, the images and videos we take with our phones can be powerful forms of free speech,” a SaveTheInternet.com petition stated. “This tool could be used to silence the voices of protesters and to stifle a critical means of free expression.”Cell phone videos have been used in the U.S. to hold police departments accountable for situations involving police brutality. FBI Director James Comey caused an outcry in May when he implied that a “viral video effect” was to blame for a rise in violent crime. Cell phone videos “could well be at the heart” of officers' resistance to engage in “the marginal additional policing that suppresses crime,” he said.