A recently published patent filed by Apple back in February 2010 appears to cover new technologies that would allow the company to detect and circumvent 'jailbroken' iPhones.
Apple's patent is entitled "Systems and Methods for Identifying Unauthorized Users of an Electronic Device," and would help to protect the company from jailbreakers and other hacks to the iPhone.
Jailbreaking iPhones was recently deemed to be perfectly legal, according to the US Library of Congress.
Identifying the jailbreakers
Apple's patent application describes the identification of "hacking, jailbreaking, unlocking, or removal of a SIM card" so that the company can take action against the user.
Apple is presenting the patent as a move to protect registered iPhone users from thieves and unauthorised users of their mobile.
"Access to sensitive information such as credit card information, social security numbers, banking information, home addresses, or any other delicate information can be prohibited," notes the application.
"In some embodiments, the sensitive information can be erased from the electronic device. For example, the sensitive information can be erased directly after an unauthorized user is detected."
A remote 'kill switch'?
However, concerned jailbreakers are pointing towards the following section of the patent application, which says:
"An activity that can detect an unauthorized user can be any action that may indicate the electronic device is being tampered with by being, for example, hacked, jailbroken, or unlocked.
"'Jailbreaking' of an electronic device can generally refer to tampering with the device to allow a user to gain access to digital resources that are normally hidden and protected from users.
"'Unlocking' of a cellular phone can generally refer to removing a restriction that 'locks' a cellular phone so it may only be used in specific countries or with specific network providers.
"Thus, in some embodiments, an unauthorized user can be detected if it is determined that the electronic device is being jailbroken or unlocked."
Slightly more worrying, Apple's planned responses to the identification of a jailbroken iPhone might include remote activation of the iPhone's camera, with a geo-tagged image uploaded to a server.
Or it might transmit data from the phone to a server and then wipe it from the iPhone – what some refer to as a 'kill switch' – a worryingly Orwellian method of a company looking to control how its customers use its products, should it turn out to ever be implemented.