iPhones and Androids as Big Brother tracking devices
When you carry a smartphone such as an iPhone or Android phone, you’re accepting the fact that you may be giving up a certain level of privacy. Most people are completely ignorant of this while many others choose to ignore the situation. Tracking your location and monitoring your habits such as browsing, texting, calling, and social networking is just the tip of the iceberg.
The loss of convenience is no match for loss of freedom. Richard Stallman, pioneer behind the free software movement, doesn’t carry a cell phone and only uses computers with 100% free software, including a laptop with a free BIOS running
“most people are taught to think about software purely as a matter of price and performance, not whether it respects your freedom.”
Data mining doesn’t just look at one data set in order to analyse a subject, it looks at a multitude of factors. Phones have grown from simple calling devices to full blown portable computers. The avenues of attack on privacy have increased exponentially.
“It’s Stalin’s dream. Cell phones are tools of Big Brother. I’m not going to carry a tracking device that records where I go all the time, and I’m not going to carry a surveillance device that can be turned on to eavesdrop.”
But following this line of Stallman’s thinking, you better not use a credit card either. Think of all the privacy data just waiting to be tapped from your spending habits. You can generate a decent bio on a person based on what, where, when they buy, and how much they spend. General location can easily be tracked without phone or GPS. Is a person a smoker or heavy drinker? Do they buy in bulk or are they impulse shoppers?
You may be able to determine all of this based on their credit card statement alone. And then there’s the waves of social networking sites where people give away their privacy to companies eager to sell it to advertisers.
But getting back on topic, smartphones don’t have to be black boxes full of proprietary programs. When given the choice between free and open source applications versus non-free binaries, if they both worked just as well I would always choose the open source version. However, this simply isn’t an option in many devices.
“If the manufacturer can replace the executable but you can’t, then the product is a jail”
Part of the reason why so many people put up with the current state of proprietary executables is because they work right out of the box with direct support from an organization. They’re not halfway implemented or untested with hardware xyz. When you have a problem with the phone, you go to the service provider and demand a fix or a new one.
I hope the balance between freedom and convenience is a grey area for most people. Not every little detail needs to be coveted so tightly. But I fear that in the end, people want everything to be simple and easy to use and they’ll gladly give up all of their freedom in order to keep it that way.