If a new Apple patent is any indication, police may soon be able to disable your iPhone camera with nothing more than an infrared beam. Apple needs to backtrack before it enables a dangerous new form of censorship.
This week Apple’s patent for a camera disabled by external infrared light emitters was approved. The technology would allow concert venues to prevent filming of performances. But it would also allow police to prevent everyday people from filming arrests or instances of police misconduct.
Cell phone footage has been crucial in exposing systemic police violence in the United States. From the chokehold death of Eric Garner in Staten Island to the recent police shooting deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, the ability of bystanders to film instances of police violence provides a crucial check on police abuse of power.
Tell Apple not to move forward with a technology that would help police censor civilian footage of police misconduct.
Bystander footage has frequently exposed police cover ups of extrajudicial killings of civilians, such as when footage depicted ex-officer Michael Slager shoot Walter Scott in the back, execution style. Without that footage, Slager’s claim that he shot Scott in self defense may have never been disproven.
While filming the police is a constitutional right, many departments aren’t happy with it. NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton called citizens recording arrests an “epidemic”. And some departments have taken measures to prevent civilians from using technology to their advantage. In 2011, San Francisco mass transit police shut off cell phone service in a subway station to help prevent a protest of police violence.
Apple’s patent could enable further censorship of everyday people trying to hold police accountable for instances of misconduct. The right to film the police is a crucial tool in the fight against police violence. We need to come together and ask Apple to ditch this new technology that would enable police to infringe on our rights.
Tell Apple not to move forward with technology that would help police disable iPhone cameras.