Apple may be looking to lock out unauthorized iOS users

Apple has applied for a patent on a method to differentiate between authorized and unauthorized users of a particular iOS device. Once an unauthorized user is detected, the device can then automatically disable certain features or send notifications to Twitter or other services.

The patent, titled “Systems and Methods for Identifying Unauthorized Users of an Electronic Device,” describes several ways a device could sense who is using an iPhone or iPad. Among the methods considered are voice print analysis, photo analysis, heartbeat analysis (!), hacking attempts, or even “noting particular activities that can indicate suspicious behavior.”

If the various analyses detect someone who is not authorized to use the device, it could set off a number of automated features designed to protect the device’s data, suss out the offending party, and alert the device owner. Sensitive data could be backed up to a remote server and the device could be wiped. The device could automatically snap pictures of the unauthorized user and record the GPS coordinates of the device, as well as log keystrokes, phone calls, or other activity. That information could be sent along with an alert to any useful service, such as e-mail, voicemail, Twitter, Facebook, or a “cloud service” like MobileMe.

As AppleInsider notes, Apple apparently experimented with enabling the iPad to recognize different authorized users and automatically change some settings for that particular user. Such a feature could be somewhat useful on iPads, which are sometimes shared among family members in homes and among several users in schools and businesses.

This proposed patent takes the capability one step further, by effectively locking out snoopers and thieves altogether, and alerting the device user of possible improprieties. The features would no doubt be welcome to enterprise users, who need safeguards around data that may be on a mobile device.