One of TMA’s favorite slagging themes is all about Google’s general dismissal of your demands for privacy. Their stance is summarized neatly in the episode of “Shit My Schmidt Says” where the lead character is interviewed by CNBC on the issue of user privacy: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” This flippant statement about one of the things that most Americans value as citizens above all else underscores Google’s attitude on the issue. If you want to use a knock-off shartphone OS, you’re not entitled to anything being kept from others. In addition to a justification for ripping off Oracle, that’s what “open” means to Google. It feigns a position on the philosophical high ground, boasting unfettered access without responsibility for anyone who wants to abuse that access.
Think this is hyperbole? Take a trip over to Trevor Eckhart’s blog and watch the video about the information gathered by a program called Carrier IQ, which is carrier-installed and appears on all Android (with the possible exception of the Galaxy Nexus), Nokia and Blackberry shartphones. The video below shows the data taken from a stock, factory-restored HTC Evo 4G. It’s 17 minutes long, and I generally “TL/DR” every YouTube video before the 2:00 mark, but this shit is staggering.
Let me address a couple of points I’ve seen vomited onto the comment sections of other blogs discussing this issue. First, it doesn’t matter where this compiled information is sent. The fact that it exists at all is reprehensible. Second, the evil carriers using a 3rd party to scrape this information aren’t the only ones who share the blame. Every party in the chain has responsibility – including Google, Nokia and RIM. I don’t give a shit if your OS is “open” or not: you’re allowing a party to your product to surreptitiously collect data with no option for them not to do it unless you’re some kind of hyper-nerd. I guarantee you less than .001% of those 200 million activation number that Andy Rubin beats himself off to have either the knowledge required to root their devices or the inclination to endure the hassle.
Want a device that’s free of malware? That doesn’t allow carriers to install crapware and shit like Carrier IQ? Want to use a device from a company that accepts the responsibility you place on it to defend your personal information from the assholes who think they’re owed it?
And for God’s sake, write a letter to your congressman or senator. Every time I read something like this, I think of Stuart Smalley’s marble-mouthed back-and-forth with one of Google’s shysters at the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee meeting.
Whenever there is a means to do so, there will always be people looking to take advantage of the loopholes provided by others to exploit you without your knowledge. Elect people that understand that – preferably ones that have some functional literacy about technology issues.