EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

12.06.11

CarrierIQ Exposes the Flaws of “Best Tool for the Job” Pragmatism

Posted in Apple, Free/Libre Software, FSF, FUD, Hardware, Intellectual Monopoly, Law, Microsoft, Patents, Samsung, Tivoization at 2:52 pm by Guest Editorial Team

The Best Tool For Freedom is a Free Tool

Moblen at OSCON 2007

Two friends have a good chat about free software at OSCON.

The CarrierIQ issue, even if it is part of an organized campaign to smear and ruin Android [2], is showing people the dangers of using non free software. Even one piece of non free software can betray users, so mostly free, “pragmatic” systems can be just as bad as regular non free systems. The free software community should capitalize on this awareness to change people’s attitudes towards their devices so that they will reject non free software in the future. Software freedom must be complete for users to have real conrtol and privacy.

Richard Stallman wrote an extensive review of Android back in September. It lists all of the parts of available phones that can be used maliciously against users, which surprisingly include the radio control firmware. The conclusion was unequivocal, “Android is a major step towards an ethical, user-controlled, free-software portable phone, but there is a long way to go. … While any computing system might have bugs, these devices might be bugs.”

When the CarrierIQ scandal broke, Mr. Stallman was not surprised. His comment was,

The root cause of this problem is that the users don’t control the software on these phones. So if they didn’t put in this surveillance package [Carrier IQ], they would put in some other. The users’ only protection against malicious features (surveillance, intentional restrictions, and back doors) is to insist on free software.

Anyone in the Open Source community who’s surprised should think hard about what the Free Software Society has been telling them. About four years ago at a “Web 2.0″ meeting, Eben Moglen urged the Tim O’Reilly and the Open Source community to quit, “wasting time promoting commercial products.” O’Reilly was sad that Moglen did not want to talk about protecting people’s data on other people’s computers in “the cloud,” but CarrierIQ makes it plain that those rights and protections are meaningless if the user is stripped of privacy by malware in their pocket. It might have been useful ten years ago to hide scary talk about freedom from big companies like IBM. It worked, thanks, but talk about “best tool for the job” and “pragmatic” mixes of free and non free software should now be considered counter productive and the results dangerous.

There are community alternatives to carrier issued Android. Stallman mentions Replicant, a 100% free software replacement for Android. There is also a less careful distribution called CyanogenMod that is focused on performance and includes non free software from Google and perhaps device drivers. Jeff Hoogland, the founder of Bodhi GNU/Linux, is working on Debian for cell phones and we can be sure many others are as well. In the mean time, if you must have a smart phone, it might as well be Android because there is no chance a phone from Apple or Microsoft will be liberated, but don’t expect it to be a Freedom Box the community really wants [2 and don't trust it until it's really free.

Sadly, US law is mostly a hindrance. Senator Al Franklin had some very pointed questions about possible violations of law for the company and a lawsuit has been launched against the guilty parties - Apple, HTC, Samsung, Motorola, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Carrier IQ. That's good but it will be difficult to prove what actually happened, and the free software community can do better. Like Vista and Windows 7, CarrierIQ establishes encrypted communications to hide the data transmitted. It would be better to have free software on your cell phone, so the FSF has petitioned the Librarian of Congress for a DMCA Exemption Without that, it may be against US law for people to replace the software on their phones or even to delete CarrierIQ malware.

The lack of freedom in cell phones is not a natural state but is unlikely to end without changes and enforcement of US law. Android has emerged as the top cell phone OS because it is free software and creates a productive commons for the odd hundred companies that must cooperate to make a cell phoneThe obnoxious US patent system has allowed Microsoft and Apple to practice judicial extortion that should have been blocked by US anti-trust and racketeering laws[1, 2,3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]. Spectrum licensing itself is a technically obsolete and harmful practice but the FCC could demand adherence to technical standards, demand the publication of technical standards required to operate phones, and forbid practices such as phone locking as the price carriers pay for spectrum as it transitions to open spectrum.

We are in this hole because a long running propaganda campaign by non free software owners has played down ethical issues while convincing people that they are helpless. Billions of dollars in propaganda spending still drown out the basic truth of the situation and non free software use remains prevalent even among people who have every reason to fear spying by the rich and powerful. CarrierIQ gives us a good chance to fix that.

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

4 Comments

  1. Michael said,

    December 6, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    Gravatar

    FUD:

    The CarrierIQ issue, even if it is part of an organized campaign to smear and ruin Android [2], is showing people the dangers of using non free software.

    The CarrierIQ scandal, which has nothing to do with any organized campaign to smear Android, is showing that even if you use what is commonly seen as being “open”, it might not be. Yeah, Android is often referred to as the “open” option – but now we are finding the “open” option is not really so “open” after all (not that there were not those of us who did not know this). And the “closed” option, iOS, seems the safer option.

    Now this need not be the case in all examples… but it sure seems to the case here!

    Even one piece of non free software can betray users, so mostly free, “pragmatic” systems can be just as bad as regular non free systems.

    But can the be as good? :)

    When the CarrierIQ scandal broke, Mr. Stallman was not surprised.

    Stallman is a repulsive man with no real sense of morals. He wants to push his desires on the rest of us and insists on dishonestly calling that “freedom”.

    FUD:

    Sadly, US law is mostly a hindrance. Senator Al Franklin had some very pointed questions about possible violations of law for the company and a lawsuit has been launched against the guilty parties – Apple, HTC, Samsung, Motorola, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Carrier IQ. That’s good but it will be difficult to prove what actually happened, and the free software community can do better.

    The law is a “hindrance” because the accusations are hard to prove? What? And if the free software community can do better than *do it*. Stop whining and make this “better” phone. People will flock to a better device… Apple proved this when they released the iPhone. Heck, even cheaper knockoffs of the iPhone are doing very well. If you can innovate something better, as Apple did, you can change an industry – so have at it! Instead of whining about Apple’s innovations being somehow not “fair” (in some way you can never quite say), out-innovate them and make something better.

    I cannot speak for others, but I know I would love to see it. And where I have seen the open source community build excellent tools it brings me joy.

    FUD:

    Without that, it may be against US law for people to replace the software on their phones or even to delete CarrierIQ malware.

    May be? Based on what? People “jail break” their phones all the time.

    FUD:

    The lack of freedom in cell phones is not a natural state but is unlikely to end without changes and enforcement of US law. Android has emerged as the top cell phone OS because it is free software and creates a productive commons for the odd hundred companies that must cooperate to make a cell phone.

    It is the “top cell phone OS” in the same way Windows is the top desktop OS or McDonalds is the top restaurant in the world.

    But your point of there being a risk with closed source software: of course. No doubt. But those risks are *one* element of a decision. Why sacrifice, as a rule, productivity and profitability for the sake of reducing a specific risk? Those risks should be *balanced*.

  2. saulgoode said,

    December 6, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Gravatar

    It would be better to have free software on your cell phone, so the FSF has petitioned the Librarian of Congress for a DMCA Exemption Without that, it may be against US law for people to replace the software on their phones or even to delete CarrierIQ malware.

    The EFF successfully petitioned for the legality of replacing software on cell phones back in July of 2010. My understanding is that the EFF’s current petition is asking that these same DMCA exemptions be extended to other computing devices (tablets, notebooks, PCs, etc).

    Michael Reply:

    Thank you for good info with a good link.

  3. mcinsand said,

    December 6, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Gravatar

    >>Sadly, US law is mostly a hindrance.

    More accurately, US law has been on vacation for the past two decades. Despite good starts such as the DG vs. Digidyne and the browser bundling cases, the computer technology market is dominated by cross-sectional tying/bundling. The Barnes & Nobel case against MS is encouraging, but there have been some definite missed opportunities along the way. Psystar royally shafted themselves by diddling with the code; if they’d left the code untouched, they could have had a great case.

    As with patents, the tech world seems to be ruled by practices that would get an antitrust investigation PDQ out here in the regular world, and we need to restore some lines between markets to restore a healthy ecosystem. The tying that has become the norm has stifled innovation to give us the inferiocracy that we now have with Apple and MS, where market share is a matter of suppression, rather than competition… where shiny passes for innovation, rather than actual improvements in functionality.

    To restore a healthy, competitive environment, we need to actually start enforcing our laws. Courts ruled that tying OS to hardware is illegal, and we need to restore that wall, from desktops to laptops to cellphones, especially since phones are now more computer than traditional phone. ‘Jailbreaking’ needs to be recognized as a consumer’s right, as well as the ability to purchase an OS-free device separately from the OS.

    Not only do hardware and software need to be separated, but software also needs to be kept in discrete markets. This would not only help to restore competition, but it would also help with security to ensure a modular, diverse environment. This really needs to be a matter of global security, with some of the cyberwarfare efforts going on. Browsers, office suites, e-mail… all need to be kept as discrete offerings.

    Google looks to be on the right track. Although the cries of ‘fragmentation’ FUD are flying, and although some lemmings actually think that Android copied from anything else, rather than the other way around, there have been some encouraging signs. I just hope that they don’t stop.

What Else is New


  1. More of Bill Gates' Investments in GMO and Mass Indoctrination Under the Disguise of 'Donations'

    Microsoft's arrogant and famously corrupt co-founder is taken to task by those whom he is trying to bamboozle for monopoly, unlimited cross-generational power, and never-ending profit without risk



  2. Home Depot Confirmed a Victim of Microsoft's Bad Security, Microsoft Lays Off Security-Related Staff

    News reports circulate showing that Home Depot was knowingly careless with its Windows dependency while Microsoft lays off staff focused on security



  3. European Patent Office/Organisation - Suspicion of Improper Collusion Between EPO President and Chairman of the Administrative Council: Part III

    A preliminary look at Battistelli's reign and how regulatory powers got abolished, leaving the EPO reckless and largely unaccountable



  4. Links 21/9/2014: xorg-server 1.16.1, Linux Kernel 3.16.3

    Links for the day



  5. Links 20/9/2014: GNOME 3.13.92, Android L

    Links for the day



  6. Scanning Patent Troll Implodes; Is the Podcasting Patent Troll Next?

    MPHJ loses and Personal Audio LLC perhaps wins for the last time since software patents are quickly losing legitimacy in the United States



  7. If CAFC is Not Above the Law, Then it Should be Shut Down Now

    A long series of abuses in CAFC may as well suggest that this court has become broken beyond repair



  8. The Latest From Microsoft Patent Trolls and Patent Partners

    Microsoft-linked and Linux-hostile trolls continue their relentless attacks (albeit with little or no success) while patents as a weapon lose their teeth owing to a Supreme Court ruling



  9. Microsoft Proves That Its Massive Layoffs Are Not About Nokia

    Microsoft is laying off a lot of employees who have nothing at all to do with Nokia



  10. Links 19/9/2014: Another Red Hat Acquisition, Netflix Dumps Microsoft Silverlight and Brings DRM to WWW

    Links for the day



  11. Links 18/9/2014: Windows Copying GNU/Linux, Germany Moves to Security

    Links for the day



  12. Web Site 'Patent Progress' Now Officially 'Powered by CCIA' (FRAND Proponent, Microsoft Front)

    After talking a job at CCIA, "Patent Progress" and its chief author should be treated as dubious on real patent progress



  13. Articles About the Death of Software Patents in the United States

    Recent coverage of software patents and their demise in their country of origin, where even proponents of software patents are giving up



  14. The Death of Software Patents is Already Killing Some Major Patent Trolls

    VirnetX seems to be the latest victim of the demise of software patents in the United States



  15. More Microsoft Layoffs

    More Microsoft layoffs go ahead as the company is unable to compete



  16. ODF on the Rise

    Milestones for OpenDocument Format (ODF) and the launch of FixMyDocuments



  17. Links 17/9/2014: CoreOS, ChromeOS, and systemd

    Links for the day



  18. Italy is Cracking Down on Microsoft's Monopoly Abuse While Gradually Moving to GNU/Linux

    Italy is not only moving to Free/Open Source software but also to GNU/Linux while at the same time barring Microsoft from forcibly tying Windows to new PCs



  19. OpenSUSE's 'Assurances' Are Classic MBA School Hogwash

    OpenSUSE is not part of any commitment, except for SUSE's; the impact of the Novell/SUSE acquisition casts uncertainty on the project's future



  20. Links 16/9/2014: Firefox OS Smartphones in Bangladesh, “Treasure Map” of the Internet

    Links for the day



  21. The United Kingdom Should Dump Microsoft For the Sake of National Security

    The UK has issues of Microsoft dependency and Windows viruses; its migration to Free software and GNU/Linux is not fast enough to guard its autonomy in the age of digital imperialism



  22. CBS Hires Even More Microsoft Staff to Cover Microsoft Matters

    CBS continues to be infested with Microsoft staff past and present (this time Dave Johnson) and the bias in output is quite revealing



  23. Microsoft Has Just Killed Minecraft for GNU/Linux and the Possibility of Free/Open Source Releases

    Persson sells out to Microsoft and lets the abusive monopolist destroy the popular cross-platform game that a community has been built around



  24. Another Reason to Boycott Intel UEFI

    More anti-competitive aspects are revealed inside UEFI, which helps merginalise GNU/Linux



  25. Quick Mention: Novell and SUSE Passed to Microsoft's 'Partner of the Year', Microsoft Focus

    Novell is changing hands again, and falling into the hands of even more Microsoft-friendly actors



  26. Links 16/9/2014: Linux 3.17 RC5, KDE Frameworks 5.2.0

    Links for the day



  27. Željko Topić, Benoît Battistelli, and the European Patent Office (EPO): Part II

    Part II of our look into the EPO appointment of Željko Topić and other matters showing the dubious integrity of the EPO



  28. Links 14/9/2014: Android-based Watches Earn Optimism

    Links for the day



  29. Links 14/9/2014: Eucalyptus Devoured

    Links for the day



  30. Links 11/9/2014: Linux Toilet Project, Linux-Based Wheelchair Project

    Links for the day


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts