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Apple patent covers remotely killing jailbroken iPhones

Apple has filed a patent for technology which would enable it to detect whether one of its devices was being fiddled with, as well as surveillance technology that recognises potential thieves.

Apple has filed a patent for technology that could enable it to 'kill' or shut down jailbroken iPhones, our sister site reports.

The patent covers tech that would allow Apple to detect whether somebody was doing anything it didn't approve of with one of its haloed gadgets, such as hacking, removing a SIM card, or texting nasty jokes about Steve Jobs. Okay, we made one of those up.

Jailbreaking an iPhone is legal now, even in the US, so you wouldn't expect the company to go around killing devices owners have every right to tamper with. Voiding the warranty and not supporting a jailbroken device is one thing, but making it unusable would cause uproar.

The tech described in the patent is intended to target stolen or lost devices, however, so that an owner who reported their iPhone missing would not lose sensitive data.

Further into the patent, it shows that Apple is also looking to find ways of restricting the functions of lost iPhones, as well as transfer and delete sensitive information remotely. It also includes alert systems which flag up when an unauthorised person is using a device, and ways to find out where it is.

Some of the prospective technology described did sound rather Orwellian, however. The iPhone would detect the voice of its owner, for example, and use that voice print to identify unusual users.

There is also a description of a heartbeat sensor which could detect the pulse of a user and compare it to the real owner, like a bloody, throbbing fingerprint.

Even more outlandishly, the patent also covers technology which could use the iPhone's accelerometer to assess the 'vibration profile' of the gadget and compare it to a library of vibration profiles, giving a clue as to how it's being transported.

The patent was filed in 2009 and posted only recently. Technology companies routinely file patents on absolutely everything, so they should always be taken with a liberal pinch of salt.

Do you think that the benefit of this type of tech outweigh the possible risks to privacy? Is losing your phone such a colossal pain in the backside that it's worth it knowing the exact timbre of your heartbeat? Let us know.