Apple recently obtained a patent for "anti-sexting" technology that would allow an iPhone to block sexual and other inappropriate language from text messages received and sent by minors. While there are clear benefits to advancing parental control over children's almost limitless access to technology, this restrictive and invasive technology has serious privacy implications.
"Sexting," the sending of sexual text and picture messages, has been a problem among those using cell phones at young ages. The proposed iPhone application could either censor offending words from such messages or block them entirely. Originally filed for in 2008, the patent has been approved, but the technology is not yet available to consumers.
Parental-control settings for television, film, and the Internet have been available for years. But the iPhone technology would differ from existing systems that block or rate age-inappropriate material. Instead of filtering mass media, it would screen private messages exchanged among individuals.
The issue here is not the marketed, socially beneficial use of the technology - that is, preventing minors from sexting. Rather, it's the ability of any company not only to monitor all communication coming from a personal device, but also to edit it.
Apple has issued statements saying the technology has the potential to monitor grammar and vocabulary usage, especially for students. So Big Brother would not just be watching; he would also be spell-checking...