iPhone Blackout Zone

What Could Be Worse than Pervasive and Perpetual Surveillance?

Surveillance iPhone

That all of our emails and phone calls and everywhere we go would be collected and stored by our democratic government was completely unimaginable to me just 10 years ago. Unthinkable! It’s the antithesis of free society! But we now live in a surveillance state. But to think that it will even get worse speaks to complete fascism.

Hang On

Apple patent 8,254,902 (link to the patent at the US Patent and Trademark Office in the Department of Commerce) would allow remote activation and de-activation of phone features based on location. The name of the patent is “Apparatus and methods for enforcement of policies upon a wireless device.”

Here is a possible use-case scenario: you enter into a movie theater or concert venue, and your phone will be denied its normal ability to ring, the screen will not turn on, the camera and phone will not work. WiFi does not work. This action protects the security of the copyrighted material, and the audience’s concert or movie experience is not diminished.

But would it stop there?

Well, of course not. This text directly from the patent:

Covert police or government operations may require complete ‘blackout’ conditions.”

iPhone Blackout Zone

So all of the iPhones in a specific area could be rendered useless, killing free speech and government accountability. This causes me a lot of concern. How often has the US government and local police been held to account because someone shot a video of their atrocities? I’m thinking of the Rodney King beating, the police hosing with pepper spray protestors squatting defenselessly (one of them pregnant), the state of Alabama fire hosing non-violent protestors during the race riots, the police needlessly killing college students at Kent State. Each of these moments was defined in our national thinking as the disgrace that it is because each was captured forever and became a mirror in which our national conscience could gaze. The worst of government was documented and, as a result, checked.


The government is quick to siren that citizens should not fear total and invasive surveillance if they have nothing to hide. Well, why isn’t the same true for a government of, for, and by those same people—the same people that pay for the government? Increasingly I think the government is afraid of democracy, of the bright light of accountability that is democracy.

Tim Pool, a journalist who has live streamed protests around the world, has a great, short overview of the iPhone kill switch in this video.

Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone puts things in perspective in this short video (less than 2 minutes).

The question is not ‘Do you have something to hide.’ The question is, ‘Do we control government or the government controls us?’ This struggle is part of who we are as a people. This country was born in rebellion because the British government was exerting too much control over American lives. We broke free and began to create a system of government meant to protect liberty. …”

These are profoundly serious times. To say that the American way of life is at stake is not an overstatement.

I personally think the question is even deeper than the one Oliver Stone so eloquently asks: “Do we, as a people, still believe in democracy?!”

We can no longer wait for some leader to come along and fix this mess. We are going to have to place these issues at the center of national elections in the executive and legislative branches to put government back on track. The purpose of our government is not to engage in some outrageous invasion of its own people, to utterly destroy personal privacy. The purpose of our government is to provide for citizenry’s life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

I ask again: Are we building a future in which we will want to live?!