Can Amer­ica’s iCrime wave be halted? Well iDon’t see why not

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion - Brian Boyd on mu­sic

Ever since Elvis shook his pelvis on TV, pop­u­lar mu­sic has been held re­spon­si­ble for a num­ber of so­ci­ety’s ills, from “Would you let your daugh­ter marry a Rolling Stone?” to the beach fights be­tween Mods and Teds, to any amount of moral pan­ics about sex and drugs and gen­eral “bad” be­hav­iour.

Heavy metal mu­sic was sup­posed to con­tain hid­den satanic mes­sages, Mar­i­lyn Man­son is the “an­tichrist” and Amy Wine­house and Pete Do­herty are reg­u­larly cited as be­ing some­how re­spon­si­ble for “glam­or­is­ing” drug us­age.

The latest moral panic about mu­sic is very much of its time: stud­ies have shown that crime fig­ures have been de­clin­ing in the US ev­ery year since 1991. In 2005 and 2006 though, the num­bers in­creased.

Crim­i­nol­o­gists strug­gled to un­der­stand the trend-buck­ing fig­ures but even­tu­ally set­tled on a new phe­nom­e­non which they la­belled “iCrime” – the wide­spread theft of iPods.

“We pro­pose that the rise in vi­o­lent of­fend­ing and the ex­plo­sion in the sales of iPods and other por­ta­ble me­dia de­vices is more than co­in­ci­den­tal,” say the Ur­ban In­sti­tute (the group be­hind the study).

“We pro­pose that Amer­ica is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an iCrime wave.” The study also re­ports that the rates for rob­beries by ju­ve­niles in­creased dur­ing the same time – fur­ther ev­i­dence, it seems, that the iPod is to blame.

The re­port la­bels iPods as “crim­ino­genic” (re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing crime). Crim­i­nol­o­gists have pre­vi­ously ar­gued that crime oc­curs when three things come to­gether: a mo­ti­vated of­fender en­coun­ters a suit­able vic­tim and per­ceives a high chance of get­ting away with it. All three fac­tors con­verge in “iCrime”.

Of­fend­ers are mo­ti­vated be­cause iPods are seen as de­sir­able items and aren’t cheap; the vic­tim is suit­able be­cause he/she is dis­tracted lis­ten­ing to mu­sic. And the crime is rel­a­tively easy to get away with be­cause iPods can­not be traced/can­celled.

In some des­per­ate cases, peo­ple have been se­ri­ously in­jured – and even killed – in iPod rob­bery cases. All con­cerned feel that if iPods could in some way be pro­tected against unau­tho­rised use af­ter be­ing stolen, there would be lit­tle or no mo­ti­va­tion to steal them. Para­noid peo­ple have been known to re­place the iPod’s white ear­phones with stan­dard black ones so they aren’t giv­ing out a vis­i­ble “I have an iPod” mes­sage.

While Ap­ple de­clined to com­ment on the Ur­ban In­sti­tute study, it is known that back in 2005 (when iPods were go­ing main­stream); they did file a pa­tent un­der the ti­tle “Pro­tect­ing elec­tronic de­vices from ex­tended unau­tho­rised use”. The pa­tent is for a way to “brick” (make use­less) an iPod in much the same way that mo­bile phones can now be “locked”.

Ap­ple are ap­par­ently work­ing on a way to “pair” an iPod to a spe­cific charger. Al­ready, and much to peo­ple’s an­noy­ance, the iPod is paired with a cer­tain ver­sion of iTunes, but this new tech­nol­ogy they are work­ing on would de­tect when a user tries to op­er­ate the iPod on an unau­tho­rised ma­chine and would refuse to charge – ren­der­ing the iPod use­less.

The pa­tent reads “Ev­ery por­ta­ble gad­get with a recharge­able bat­tery has a charg­ing cir­cuit that recog­nises when the ex­ter­nal mains charger has been plugged in. It then man­ages the trans­fer of cur­rent to the bat­tery. Ap­ple’s pa­tent sug­gests that by at­tach­ing a ‘guardian cir­cuit’ to the charg­ing cir­cuit, it would be pos­si­ble to block the charg­ing process.

When a de­vice is plugged into an unau­tho­rised com­puter, soft­ware would com­pare a se­cu­rity code in the de­vice to a code buried in the soft­ware in the com­puter. If the codes do not match, then the guardian cir­cuit could be trig­gered to pre­vent any fur­ther charg­ing.”

You would have to won­der though about the pri­or­i­ties at play here: ev­ery few months, it seems, Ap­ple un­veils some flashy new hi-tech gizmo – whether it be the iTouch or the iPhone. You would think that a sim­ple block­ing of an iPod couldn’t be be­yond the reach of Ap­ple’s de­sign boffins. But, as­ton­ish­ingly, it is. bboyd@ir­

Slim pick­ing: ‘crim­ino­genic’ iPod

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