The bridge between technology and privacy issues keeps getting smaller. News of a recent Apple patent filing may make some iPhone users shiver, while providing a simple way for others to make calls. The patent involves an invention that lets one iPhone user know whether or not another iPhone user is available to talk. How? Well, the process is somewhat complex.
When iPhones Communicate
One person's iPhone would have to communicate with Apple, letting the company know what location that person is in, what that person's current settings status is (airplane mode, etc), a phone's signal strength, battery life - basically, all of the things that make a phone tick. After all of these details are sent to Apple's servers, anyone trying to reach that person would be given these details.
Example: if I were to try to call your iPhone, I would see the status of your phone on my screen. If I saw that you are on the phone, are charging your phone, or are in airplane mode (just some examples), I might not complete that call. In some ways, this new patent could prove to be quite useful. In other ways, it's just another creepy way for people to check up on others.
Opt In or Opt Out?
Since the invention that we are talking about is still in patent form, it hasn't actually been brought to any iPhone device yet. Apple is always filing patents, so the phone status feature may never actually be brought to light. If it is, though, it might cause some waves if Apple doesn't allow people to opt-in to the feature. Hopefully, Apple will let users opt-in or out as they see fit, or provide a blocking mode or something.
As interesting as this patent may seem, it's not really the fist of its kind. If you use a service like Skype, you can see the status of another person all the time. The difference here is, presumably, it will be a lot hard to put up a busy signal if you don't want to be bothered.
The new Apple patent borders on creepy, and will give stalkers an easy way to bother someone (not to mention collection agencies armed with iPhones, if that exists). But, such a feature could be useful if you make a lot of business calls and are constantly sent to voicemail.
Apple will have a hard time defending this innovation if the patent ever makes it to an iPhone, but it's interesting to think about all the same. What do you think of Apple's new patent idea? Creepy or useful? Would you use it? Hopefully, Apple will give iPhone users a super fast way to turn the feature off, if need be.
Apple hasn't weighed in on the patent story yet, but I'll keep you in the loop if the company decides to move forward with the patent idea. For now, the patent has been approved, and it sure looks like Apple is working on perfecting it!