Are you trying to overthrow an oppressive regime but find yourself about to be captured by troops loyal to the government and worried that your smart phone will offer a treasure trove of information that might stop the movement? There's an 'app' for that!
The program allegedly will wipe your phone clean and send a last-minute message to the rest of the rebels, telling them you have been captured as well as feeding them your location. But do not look in the iPhone App store for this little electronic marvel, it is allegedly being developed by the US Govt.
We are not kidding. Uncle Sam is not only in the business of possibly arming the rebels in Libya and other countries, he is also providing support for their cell phones. We may even be giving them the cell phones. After all, as evidenced by the 'Assure Wireless' program, for years the government has seen cellular service as something of an entitlement to be provided to people in need.
If we consider cell phones a basic right for the impoverished, doesn't it make sense that America would also view people who are 'poor' in Freedom to be impoverished and in need of cell phones with communication tools to help them overthrow their oppressors?
The State Department is not exactly hiding this story. As reported by Gadget Guru;
The initiative is part of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's push to expand Internet freedoms following the pro-democracy movements in Iran, Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere.
While they are not hiding the project, it is not exactly something being trumpeted by the government, as assistant secretary for state Michael Posner told Reuters;
"We've been trying to keep below the radar on this, because a lot of the people we are working with are operating in very sensitive environments."
Over at PhoneDog.com there seems to be a prevailing opinion that the Panic Button is not a problem;
The panic button would be a tool that the individual owner of the smartphone would use, and not the government itself from some remote location, whenever they see fit. And again, this technology is meant for countries around the world, and not specifically here, locally. Of course, the technology, which would allow the owner to wipe their device and send out a warning to other activists that they are being arrested or detained, could very well be installed in devices here in the States. The usage could be changed, or new features added to fit the needs of the American people.
With any “panic button,” the fear of government comes into play. Is a software-based panic button a bad idea? Not on paper, and probably not when it’s implemented in the fashion that the US State Department and its designers intend, but obviously anything is possible and the technology could very well be used in other, more nefarious ways.
The technology is not exactly new and ground-breaking. Back in the early 1990s there was a program called 'The Boss Key' - install it and when the boss approaches your desk, one tap would pop up a pre-ordained screen with something that looked like work.
Current smart phones can also provide a reasonable amount of security. The iPhone has a standard password protection function that will lock the phone if someone does not know the password, but after ten failed attempts, it wipes the phone clean. The iPhone can also be wiped remotely if it is lost.
The story here is not that the government is developing software applications (or PAYING for this development) but rather that we are doing this with the intent that the software is to used to overthrow governments that we deem unfriendly.