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Sunday, 05 June 2011 10:10

Give us security and privacy for our iPhones Apple

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If a stranger contacted you using Skype and sent you a lewd message, the chances are you would block that person from calling or contacting you again. However, if a stranger calls us or texts us with unwanted messages on the little computers we call iPhones there is nothing available on the phone or in the App Store that will allow us to block that caller. Why not?


One of the biggest bugbears of mobile users in the information age is the unwanted caller - whether that be text spammers, harassing texts, threatening calls, time wasting telemarketers and so on. Yet if you look for a function on your phone, including one of the most advanced phones on the planet the iPhone, that enables you to block specific numbers or anonymous callers from contacting you, there is nothing.

Try doing a search on the App Store for call blockers and the closest thing you'll get is a clumsy tool designed for US users only called Blacklist. This program loads your iPhone with a database of known telemarketers in the US and is basically not even close to what you really meant when you searched for a call blocking application.

Now try doing a search for call and SMS blockers for iPhone 4 on Google and you'll come up with a number of products - two of the most popular are McLeaner and iBlacklist (not to be confused with the App Store's Blacklist). These products offer all the functions we want when it comes to blocking specific callers, including anonymous callers. However, they are available not in the App Store but on Cydia, the software store for jail broken iPhones.

Yes that's correct, in order to obtain the basic right of filtering calls and messages to your iPhone, a device you own and paid good money for, you have to jail break the iOS operating system so that decent call filtering software can be installed.

Once you jail break your iPhone of course, this puts you out of bounds with what Apple is doing, which causes problems. For instance, whenever Apple issues one of its frequent iOS updates you can't update the operating system without rendering your call blocking app useless until a jail break for the latest version becomes available and is installed.

Some users of jail broken iPhones don't care and are happy to soldier on with their existing version of iOS until a jail break for the latest version becomes available, which they then install.

However, most of us would prefer the convenience associated with working within the walled garden that Apple provides and not continually tinker around with jail breaking our devices. So we return to the question why is there no app in the App Store that provides personal call filtering functions?

CONTINUED

A visit to developers forums will tell you that personal call filtering software requires the developer to be given a level of access to iOS that Apple refuses to provide to third party developers.

From Apple's standpoint that's fair enough. One of the reasons the Apple strictly controlled walled garden approach to its hardware and software has been popular amongst a growing segment of users is the relative stability, security and usability it provides. In other words, far less system crashes, less security breaches, most applications work together smoothly and everything is turnkey user friendly.

That said, if Apple is not prepared to allow third party developers go deep enough to provide basic security for users such as personal call filtering, then Apple should provide this itself, either as a hardwired function of the iPhone or as a free app for the App Store.

Also Apple should take note that there are already a large number of personal call filtering apps available for Android phones, where developers are given much more freedom to access the operating system.

Some may protest that call filtering should be the responsibility of the carriers. Not so. Although some carriers in some countries do provide call filtering (often for a fee), most carriers will not filter specific numbers on request - mine doesn't. Anyway, getting carriers to filter personal calls is way too clumsy when you could easily do it at the device level.

We are now living in an age where personal privacy has become a major issue. Personal mobile devices have enabled us to intrude on the personal space of each other anywhere at any time.

Just as Facebook has been forced to give us control over the privacy settings of our public and personal profiles on that social network, we are entitled to the same control of who gets the right to share our personal space on our mobile devices.

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Stan Beer

 

Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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