Apple was granted a patent last week that will allow institutions or agencies to prevent wireless devices from working or shutting them off completely.
The U.S. Patent No. 8,254,902, also known as "Apparatus and methods for enforcement of policies upon a wireless device," was granted Aug. 28. From the patent office:
In this manner, various aspects of device functionality may be enabled or restricted (device "policies"). This policy enforcement capability is useful for a variety of reasons, including for example to disable noise and/or light emanating from wireless devices (such as at a movie theater), for preventing wireless devices from communicating with other wireless devices (such as in academic settings), and for forcing certain electronic devices to enter "sleep mode" when entering a sensitive area.
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While phones not being used in theaters might be a relief, the patent could also be used for oppressing free speech or the right to assemble by shutting down phone use, according to ZDNet. If this had been used in the Arab Spring, few images or videos would have made it out.
Apple also suggests in the patent document that etiquette seems to have flown out of the window with smartphones -- with users callously using them at church, weddings and funerals. Sometimes etiquette must be enforced.
Our favorite was also the suggestion of shutting down smartphones in locker rooms, changing rooms and bathrooms, where there is a "significant threat to privacy." While this could be the tool of Big Brother, we realize that there are several places where this no-use zone could be practical and even embraced.