Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Apple Patents Computer Hardware that Freezes your Computer to Make you Watch Ads

Apple has patented computer hardware that freezes your computer to make you acknowledge an ad. Adware at its most obnoxious (because it wasn't obnoxious enough as is?)

Apple's patent application.
Article in the New York Times.
Covered on Boing Boing.
"Its distinctive feature is a design that doesn’t simply invite a user to pay attention to an ad — it also compels attention. The technology can freeze the device until the user clicks a button or answers a test question to demonstrate that he or she has dutifully noticed the commercial message.Because this technology would be embedded in the innermost core of the device, the ads could appear on the screen at any time, no matter what one is doing."
If you read the patent application, they're talking hardware, not software. Ouch. Basically, your computer or device has this mechanism built into it. (It's harder to remove a car horn built into the car than an air horn that's duct-taped to the side mirror.)

Depending on how it is implemented, it could be a firmware rootkit, or a hardware equivalent of a rootkit.

In any case, thanks in advance to all the white hat crackers.

Or, you know, just don't buy an Apple device that has this.

On another note, it occured to me applying for a patent for something like this guarantees no one else could implement it... or not for long, anyways. If you never plan on implementing it yourself, you could use it as a tool for protecting users. That being said, I doubt that's Apple's intent. I would guess they're keeping the option open until such time as they figure they can get away with using it. So the more you get hooked on Apple...

Maybe the EFF should apply for a whole whack of patents?

Yet another compelling reason for the general public to take an interest in alternative computers and media players.

As Steve Gibson says, "It's MY computer."