The United States Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday published a patent application filed by Apple in May of 2014 that describes a method of designating a specific finger for use with an iPhone’s Touch ID sensor that would cause the device to enter a “panic mode.” The mode would cause the iPhone to completely lock down limiting access to personal data if a user is forced to unlock their device.
The panic mode could also be used to capture photographs or video of a thief who is trying to steal an iPhone. Apple says that the iPhone could then securely send those files over the internet to the user’s iCloud account, and could then be turned over to the police. Apple also mentions that panic mode could trigger the iPhone’s microphone, and the user could describe the person who is attacking them.
Other possibilities for panic mode laid out in the patent include a loud alarm that continues until the user confirms they are safe, or to send a distress signal to other iPhones.
Another capability listed in the patent would also iPhone users to quickly jump to a specific app when a certain finger is used to unlock the iPhone. Here’s how the Apple patent explains it:
Depending on the fingerprint that was captured, a particular action may be carried out when the device is unlocked. In one example, a fingerprint of an index finger may indicate that a call is to be placed. When the fingerprint of the user’s index finger is captured, when the mobile device is unlocked, a telephone application may be launched to allow the user to place a call after the mobile device has been unlocked.
As with any patent, simply because Apple has patented a certain technology does not mean it will soon be appearing in an Apple device. The company often patents hardware and software, without actually intending to use the patented technology in any devices.