Apple Patent Filing Hints at High Tech iPhone Tracking

A recently published Apple patent application hints at the company’s plans to improve iPhone security by giving users new ways to track and identify who is using their combination iPod and smartphone if it is lost or stolen. The patent application is also stirring up controversy thanks to a reference to jailbreaking as a way to identify unauthorized users.

The patent application describes a system where an iPhone can be used to collect data such as geotagged photographs of who is using the device, user heartbeat patterns, current GPS location, voice recordings, screenshots, and Internet data packet logs. The iPhone could also track movement and vibration patterns to determine if it is in a car, train, airplane, or other vehicle.

Once collected, the data can be transmitted to the device’s actual owner, police, or specific contacts from the user’s Address Book database. Once a user has determined that their iPhone is out of their control, they can remotely lock applications and data, and can remotely wipe data from the device.

The patent also details suspicious activities that could be used to identify when an unauthorized user has gained access to your iPhone, such as failed password attempts, hacking, removing the SIM card, taking the iPhone outside of a predetermined area, and unlocking or jailbreaking the device.

The list of ways an iPhone could potentially self-determine if it has been stolen may be impressive, but it’s the mention of using jailbreaking as a method seems to be drawing the most attention. While Apple may not be overly pleased with the notion that iPhone users might choose to hack their device to install unauthorized third-party apps, there isn’t any indication in the patent application that the company plans use that as an excuse to remotely wipe user’s data without permission.

[Thanks to Patently Apple for the heads up.]