Monday, July 21, 2008

FSF speaks out against the iPhone 3G

I'm the first one to say that the Free Software Foundation (FSF) sometimes appears like a bunch of nut jobs, I dare not say, fundamentalists. However with their "5 reasons to avoid iPhone 3G" they have really hit the nail on the head. I'm not going to comment on the whole piece, you should really take a look at it yourself, but rather just comment on 3 quotes which seem important to me.
Apple, through its marketing and visual design techniques, is manufacturing an illusion that merely buying an Apple makes you part of an alternative community. But the technology they use is explicitly chosen to divide people into separate digital cells, and to position Apple as sole warden. When your business depends on people paying for the privilege of being locked up, the prison better look and feel luxurious, and the bars better not be too visible.
Oh, stop it, Apple manufacturing illusions? No way! It's totally normal for people to queue up in front of stores for hours whenever a company releases a new product. It has nothing to do with the perception that their lives will be much improved once they own Apple's latest and greatest. And yes, Apple's prison's is damn sexy!
As of November 2007, 3.3 billion people in the world had mobile telephones, and the number continues to rise rapidly. For many of these people, phones are becoming the most important computers they own. They are vital to their communications and they are with them all the time. Of all the technology people use that could be turned against them, this is one of the most frightening possibilities.
This one is definitely one of their strongest arguments. Mobile phones, especially when they're basically personal computer such as with the iPhone 3G, are per definition more personal than regular computers and for many people they're also vital life-lines for both their private and professional lives. Most of us (not me!) can go for a week without a computer, how how many can imagine a week without their phone?

Especially when it comes to your location mobile phones will reveal significantly more about your whereabouts than any notebook or desktop computer ever will. As an example let me use my own online-habits these days while I'm traveling:

Tracking my computer's IP address you could quite easily follow me through the various cities I've been in. You could find out in which public spaces (e.g. San Francisco's Union Square), caf├ęs or hotels I've gone online. But then again, look at my blog and you can pretty much find that information out as well, even though it's not quite real-time. Plus I'm not online 24/7 so the best one can do is to locate me a couple of times a day.

However if you tracked my location via my mobile phone, which is turned on as long as I'm awake, you could basically track my exact whereabouts in real-time. Now some people aren't scared about that, I however do think this is quite a delicate situation. And I can't help thinking: How would George Orwell's 1984 have gone if he had known about such technologies? Definitely no getting away from Big Brother and all the cameras in the country side...

Plus my reverse argument when it comes to local-based services is always that they don't really offer too much value, at least to me. In order for me to even consider giving up my real-time location I need to see some significant benefits, not just the location of the nearest 10 Starbucks locations from where ever I'm standing.

In the end let me take this to the extreme: These days you pay for location-based services, how hard is it to imagine a future where you pay in order for your phone not to make its location known to anyone who asks for it?
We can trade our freedom and our money to get something flashy on the surface, or we can spend a little more money, keep our freedom, and support a better kind of business. If we want businesses to be ethical, we have to reward the ones that are. By not enriching companies that want to take away our freedom and by rewarding those that respect us, we will be helping to bring about a better future.
I agree, but please, please someone else start supporting the better businesses, I totally bought into the whole idea of my life being so much more worth living once I have all those flashy and pretty gadgets! (Especially if they help you get laid...)

To cut a long story short: I won't buy the iPhone 3G for a whole host of other reasons but now I can even provide all those Apple fanboys with a philosophical and political reasoning on why I'm not getting it.

[via lifehacker who add some interesting comments on their own]

No comments: