Apple Takes a Bite Out of Sexting
Apple recently secured a patent for technology that would allow the company to read, and censor, iPhone text messages. The patent was almost immediately dubbed an "anti-sexting device," despite the fact the actual patent title is "Text-based communication control for personal communication device."
The idea is that text messages will be subjected to a control system—an algorithm or perhaps an underpaid intern—that will flag objectionable content and prevent it from being sent. The logic is similar to that behind the TV Guardian, a device that filters so-called "mature" content from television and movies, based on a series of filters that users can turn on or off. (Perhaps this reveals my immaturity, but when reading through the list of TV Guardian options, "Hell/Damn Filter" made me snicker.)
I couldn't find any statistics on how many homes own a TV Guardian, but I'm willing to bet it's less than the number of people who own an iPhone.
The proposed Apple technology contains some laughable aspects, such as a grammar option, which would allow parents to set up alerts whenever their children's texts contained an assault on the English language. This description, from the patent itself and quoted in PC World, sums it up nicely:
"A parent can … institute a condition to improve a child's grades. For example, the control application may require a user during specified time periods to send messages in a designated foreign language, to include certain designated vocabulary words, or to use proper designated spelling, designated grammar and designated punctuation and like designated language forms based on the user's defined skill level and/or designated language skill rating."
Sounds like fun, no? Nothing spices up your text life like having to include the week's list of vocabulary words. (RU4 real? That's so antediluvian.)
Barbara E. Hernandez, also writing for PC World, took the "anti-sexting device" out of the context of children and parents and looked at how the app might fare in the workplace. "This could be helpful," Hernandez writes, "when your company is getting ready to release a product that's in a hush-hush beta phase. In essence, you could potentially spy on employees to see if they're spying for someone else."
Are you looking over your shoulder yet?
I don't text. My cell phone is an ancient, nearly three-year-old model that I plan to keep using until—gasp—it stops working. But I'm aware of how texting is transforming our social relationships, especially among the teenage set. Recent studies say that 75 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds own a cell phone, and that teenagers in the United States send or receive, on average, 3,339 texts per month. (That's over a hundred texts a day, for those doing the math.) Forty-two percent of teens say they can text blindfolded, and 60 percent of teens admit to texting while driving.
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