By Patent, iPhone users options for Sex are Narrowing

As you know, I have plenty to say about Patents. Software Patents in particular bother me, and this week Apple was issued a patent that scares me for an almost-new reason.

Apple has a history of uneven actions on nudity, pornography and censorship. Steve Jobs has gone so far as to state that he know what iTunes Store customers want, and that it’s to be protected from those things. I’m dismayed that Steve thinks he should be the world’s censor, but it’s his party. So if you buy an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch and want naughty apps you’ll just have to find another way to get them. And hope Apple doesn’t scrub them from your device without your permission.

This week, Apple was awarded a patent. That’s not news; the company owns thousands of them. And while it’s a software patent I’m not terribly concerned about Apple using it in ways that are too detrimental to anyone else’s business.

Unless by “business” you mean the kind you want others to keep their noses out of.

Apple’s new baby is a patent designed to filter text messages. As in “if there’s a certain set of characters strung together in the message, don’t deliver the message“. And that’s fine, so long as you decide to turn on a feature like that yourself, or for your children, employees, or someone else for whom you are responsible.

But Apple has a history of setting up bits of software inside their broader systems, not giving users any way to control or disable those features, and refusing to document how they work. Given the anti-pornographysex-display-of-the-physical-form position that Chairman Steve has taken before I’m afraid that iPhone users who choose to use their devices in ways that Steve doesn’t approve of may soon find themselves with no recourse.

Business change is tricky, and large companies need to make choices every day that are certain to bother somebody. But if a petent like this gets foisted on all iPhone users Steve will be making a big mistake.

Stay tuned . . .