Whose phone is this?

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In contrast to the relative ease of replacing Windows with Ubuntu on his PC, Dan Gillmor wonders who owns his phone:

...when I recently bought a used Samsung mobile phone and tried to replace the bloated, privacy-invading system that comes standard with Samsung's Android devices, I ran into all kinds of trouble. Why? Because Samsung and Sprint, the carrier that handles voice and data for that phone, have decided they--not I--will retain ultimate control over the device I purchased. Oh, I can use it, but only in ways they consider permissible.

This is the lockdown method of modern technology, a growing phenomenon that deserves much wider notice--and, for the most part, condemnation. To put it simply, we are being told that we don't actually own what we buy.

From Kindle e-readers to Keurig coffeemakers, users are facing various lockdown schemes from vendors--that are, at their least objectionable, another way to strong-arm users:

I asked Samsung and Sprint for an explanation of why they are so ardently trying to stop people like me from making my phone a better device. Their responses never quite answered what I considered fairly simple questions. [...]

Imagine how outrageous it would be if Apple or Windows-based computer makers refused to honor warranties if you modified the system in a way they found improper. The fact that we let phone-makers do this speaks to our weird acceptance of captivity when it comes to devices that are, in reality, nothing more than portable computers.

If we had proper consumer-protection laws in this country, it would--with very, very few exceptions--be illegal for manufacturers to lock down devices in this way. But expecting our current political system to favor customers over corporations is almost foolhardy.

And there's a question you should ask yourself when you decide to buy something that contains software and can be connected to digital networks: Who ultimately controls it? You, or the company that "sold" it to you? If the latter, you aren't buying. You're just renting.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on October 16, 2014 4:24 PM.

infectious paranoia was the previous entry in this blog.

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