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. Links 17/1/2019: ZFS Debate Returns, AWS Pains Free Software

    Links for the day



  2. US Patent Lawyers Will Need to Change Profession or End up Becoming Abundantly Redundant, Unemployed

    In the age of Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) inter partes reviews (IPRs) and 35 U.S.C. § 101 it’s too risky to sue with dodgy patents; moreover, the Federal Circuit‘s growing adoption of Alice means that no recent cases have given hope to patent maximalists and litigation frequency has fallen again (at double-digit rates)



  3. Links 16/1/2019: Deepin 15.9 Released and Mozilla Fenix

    Links for the day



  4. Brexit Has Failed, But So Has the Unitary Patent (UPC)

    Even though all signs indicate that the Unified Patent Court (UPC) will never become a reality spin is to be expected from Team UPC, still looking to profit from more litigation and expanded scope



  5. IBM, Which Will Soon be Buying Red Hat, is Promoting Software Patents in Europe

    Even days apart/within confirmation of IBM's takeover of Red Hat IBM makes it clear that it's very strongly in favour of software patents, not only in the US but also in Europe



  6. Team UPC on Dead UPC: Choosing Gowns for Corpses

    The campaign of lies, long waged by Team UPC in order to manipulate politicians and courts, hasn’t stopped even in 2019 (IAM threw in the towel, but some of Team UPC is still ‘embalming’ UPCA)



  7. Links 15/1/2019: MX Linux MX-18 Continuum Reviewed, Mageia 7 Artwork Voting

    Links for the day



  8. Council of Europe (CoE) Recognises There's No Justice at the EPO

    It’s now the Council of Europe‘s turn to speak out about the grave state of international organisations that exist in Europe but aren’t subjected to European law (which they routinely violate with impunity)



  9. Dominion Harbor -- Armed by Microsoft's Biggest Patent Troll -- Goes After the World's Biggest Android OEMs, Huawei and Samsung

    Dominion Harbor, the patent troll that gets bucketloads of patents from Intellectual Ventures (a patent troll strongly connected to Microsoft and Bill Gates), is still suing using shell entities



  10. Links 14/1/2019: Linux 5.0 RC2 and DXVK 0.95 Released

    Links for the day



  11. Only the Higher Courts -- Not Trump's 'Poster Child' -- Can Bring Back Software Patents

    Software patents are not making a "comeback" as some like to claim; in fact, the latest court cases and notably their outcomes suggest that nothing has changed



  12. “Uniloc is a Lawsuit Factory”

    Apple is a very secretive company, so it is hard to know what goes on with the patent troll Uniloc



  13. European Patent Office a Textbook Example of Lawless, Rogue Institutions

    The tyrannical nature of the EPO is still being demonstrated by the sad fate of Patrick Corcoran; technical judges at the EPO are feeling intimidated by nontechnical politicians and bankers



  14. No, Software Patents Are Not Poised to Make a Comeback Under New US Patent Office Rules

    Poor understanding of the difference between patent courts and patent offices is to blame for widely-spread misinformation from Ars Technica (part of Condé Nast)



  15. IP Kat Has Turned From EPO Critic (to the Point of Being Blocked by the EPO) to EPO Whitewasher That Gags EPO Whistleblowers

    The EPO tried to forcibly gag (block) IP Kat like it blocks Techrights (since 2014); failing that, the EPO got the blog to just act as a whitewashing operation for Team Campinos (more or less the same as Team Battistelli)



  16. Linspire 'Reborn' is Still Working for Microsoft and Facilitating Surveillance on GNU/Linux Users

    GNU/Linux spyware scandals may be back (and it's not about Canonical and Amazon but Linspire and Microsoft); Microsoft is meanwhile exposing innocent kids to pedophiles and it refuses to explain or defend this



  17. Links 12/1/2019: Wine 4.0 RC6, X-Plane 11.30, SuperTuxKart 0.10 Beta, LibreOffice 6.2 RC2

    Links for the day



  18. The EPO's Low Patent Quality Can Kill the European Software Industry and Kill People Too

    The patents granted by the EPO are often invalid as per courts' decisions, which means that fake/illegitimate European Patents saturate the market and discourage development (e.g. of software and life-saving drugs)



  19. The Fiction That Spain (or Italy) Can Salvage the UPC

    The proponents/lobbyists of the Unified Patent Court (UPC), firms that make money from patent litigation (we collectively call these "Team UPC"), are nowadays backpedaling, having come to grips with the death of the UPC, realising it's time to save face by pretending everything they said in the past wasn't a lie



  20. Links 11/1/2019: IBM-Red Hat Obstacle Cleared, Toyota Chooses Linux

    Links for the day



  21. EPO President “Campinos is Wasting His Credibility With “Sweet” Communiqués Full of Hot Air and Storytelling”

    EPO insiders insist if not demand that all those responsible for the corruption and the abuses be removed; Campinos has done the opposite by promoting those who caused harm and turning his overseer into his subordinate



  22. The Emptiness of the Linux Foundation's Commitment to Linux and Its True Openness... to Corporate Cash (in Exchange for Influence)

    Like Pence and Moreno, who exchange a political refugee for loans, the Linux Foundation abandons its commitment to GNU/Linux in exchange for maximisation of financial contributions



  23. Links 10/1/2019: Linux 4.20.1, GNOME 3.31.4 Released

    Links for the day



  24. Links 9/1/2019: Qubes OS 4.0.1, Bash 5.0

    Links for the day



  25. European Patent Office Saga in 2019: “95% of the People Responsible for the Misery Are Still in Place and Have Not Even Been Rebuked”

    No signs of reformation at Europe's second-largest institution, which still suffers from justice deficit and blatant corruption



  26. Links 8/1/2019: Godot 3.1 Reaches Beta, Tidelift Gets Money

    Links for the day



  27. EPO Corruption is Helping Patent Maximalists in the United States

    The law firms that promote abstract patents in the United States (in the face of growing opposition from courts) adopt the EPO as a sort of 'poster child' because quality of European Patents keeps decreasing and lawlessness is increasing



  28. Links 7/1/2019: Linux 5.0 RC1

    Links for the day



  29. Words to Avoid: Cloud, Serverless, Microservices and More

    The marketing industry is hijacking press coverage and journalism has turned into a laughable mash-up of buzzwords; technical people ought to push back



  30. One Week After Site Migration

    January 1st marked an important milestone/accomplishment: managing to fully migrate Techrights to the new environment (datacentre) with zero downtime, just in time for the new year


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