Apple's 'Anti-Sexting' Patent Is a Joke

From the patent description, you'd think Jobs and Co. are determined to make the practice of texting totally uncool. To wit:

"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."

The problem with this scenario? Though they may not appear especially astute when operating large dangerous machines (like automobiles), teenagers are way smarter than us when it comes to manipulating small digital devices. Before you're done reading this paragraph, some teen has already invented a gaggle of new sexting acronyms you've never heard of. Even if you could keep up, some pimply genius will invent a way to hack/jailbreak the filter in such a way as to make you believe it's still working when it really isn't, and then post it on the InterWebs.

Also: The patent does not address the problem of kids texting naked pictures of themselves to each other, which is where prosecutors tend to get involved.

Here's a headline for you: Software that scans and filters text messages isn't new, folks. A half-dozen products already do this. You're reading about it now only because Apple is involved (though when Apple does something, it often becomes mainstream shortly thereafter). I haven't tried any of them, but I'm sure they're probably marginally better than no filter at all.

But why stop at dirty words? If Apple can control what's inside the texts you send or receive, what's to stop it from censoring, say, any mention of Android or Google Voice? Ladies and gentlemen, start your paranoia engines.

What will Apple try to patent next -- and where should it stop? Post your thoughts below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "This sexting message has been censored by Steve Jobs," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringeley's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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