34 Comments

Summary:

A new patent the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office just approved was filed in 2008 by Apple and prevents users from sending and receiving “objectionable” text messages. The patent, officially called “Text-based communication control for personal communication device,” essentially prevents what’s known as “sexting.”

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A new patent the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office just approved was filed in 2008 by Apple and prevents users from sending and receiving “objectionable” text messages. The patent (via Gizmodo), officially called “Text-based communication control for personal communication device,” essentially prevents what’s known as “sexting.”

Steve Jobs is known for his stance regarding sexual content in the App Store. Essentially, he wants to keep it clean, so that most content is family-friendly. There are notable exceptions, like the official Playboy app, but generally speaking, nudity and sexuality are a no-no for iOS apps. If that’s not enough, worried parents can lock their kids devices down, restricting access to certain types of content, or to the App Store or Safari altogether.

Apple’s ideas of what is and isn’t acceptable in the App Store have led to some controversial decisions regarding which apps get banned or disallowed in the past. For some, it seems inappropriate that a company can decide what you should and shouldn’t do with your device once you own it.

The new patent takes that a step further. If this tech ever makes it way to your smartphone, it could theoretically alert a user, admin, or other designated individual whenever objectionable content appears in a text message. In practice, that could mean a parent gets a text when their teenage son writes something racy, or that your boss gets a notice whenever you swear in an outbound communication.

According to the patent, the iPhone could also offer suggestions with which to replace the offending text, or just delete it outright as soon as you’re done typing so that it never gets sent in the first place. In effect, that means it could actually change what you’re going to say.

Now I’m not against parents protecting their kids from potentially dangerous situations. That makes sense. But putting this degree of control over something as basic as what you can say with a direct communication device frightens me. Sure, this would probably end up residing in the Restrictions section of the iOS Setting menu, but even just the fact that it would be there would invite things like use by employers to monitor employee texting even more closely than I’m sure many already do, something I definitely don’t approve of.

What do you think? Is this a feature you’d welcome, or an example of Apple going too far?

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

  1. Personally this is way too far for Apple. What next? Censor bleeps embedded into iPod OS so explicit songs get essentially bleeped?

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  2. I agree with the author. Parents should be able to control how their children use their device but it seems a bit overboard with the employer controlling employees’ texts.

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  3. I think this is brilliant. I would love to know my kids are able to send and receive safe text messages. There will be a day when spam is not only sent to email accounts but to phones, via SMS. It would not be cool, if my son gets a Viagra SMS when he is only 14 years old! SMS is just another email address, it’s not out of their reach. Parental control is a big deal, and Apple has been a leader in that implementation for smartphones.

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    1. You’re clearly out of touch with what it’s like to be a kid. They’ll always find a way to work around this sort of thing, whether it means inventing new slang terms or finding alternate means of communication. You can’t stop it, and any attempts to do so will always be detected by them – the response? Less communication, less trust. Good luck Apple.

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      1. No control measure is 100%, everyone knows people will find ways around it. That fact is not a good argument against it. Let me ask, when you park your car do you lock the doors? Or do you say car thieves will find a way around the locked door so I’ll leave the windows down and keys in the ignition.

        The two of my kids who have cell phones also have restrictions on those cell phones. No trust or communication has been lost because I openly explain the rules to them from the beginning and do not deviate from them. When kids a taught the difference between friends and parents, a parent loses nothing by being one.

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    2. You’re also missing that there is spam texts already. They’re called premium text messages, usually cost about $2 per text (carrier dependent). They range from sexting services, to all those annoying you can win an INSERT ITEM HERE ads. You enter your number answer an easy question and until you text stop you receive these premium texts everyday. Same thing as spam, but it actually costs you.

      As cptgibbs put, they will always find a way around things. You can’t be naive enough to think the locks you put in place, or rules have really stopped your kids from doing things.

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  4. It’ll never happen….

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  5. I suppose it’s some kind of parental control thing. If your boss decides to play big brother (or parent) and do this to you, Apple can’t do anything about it. It’s probably a nice feature for parents to have. It’s not Apple’s control and censorship, it’s mom’s control and censorship.

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  6. The ludicrous claims of this article will result in my removing this site from my reading list. I have plenty to read already, and I don’t need such hyperbolic claims as your boss is going to monitor your phone.

    This is a parental controls feature and nothing more. But that doesn’t make for as interesting story as some wild-ass hair on fire pull it out of your nether parts overblown tripe.

    I’m done with this site.

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    1. You’ll soon be done with every tech site that covers Apple because you know this story will be picked up by all of them.

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  7. I whould worry more about audio drugs Adam.

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  8. I think we need more information before we start predicting how this will be implemented.

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  9. I’m still puzzled at people being upset on restrictions placed on company owned property that is on loan to facilitate ones job function. All to often the spin put on articles such as this one make it sound that evil Apple empire is acting as big brother.

    The iPhone et. al. are certainly not one of a kind products. If app store restrictions makes one uncomfortable, a number of similar and arguably as-good or better devices available on the market.

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  10. GigaOm is becoming more and more like Gawker every day.

    That is not a compliment.

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