Orwell’s Telescreens Were Bush League

I’m disgusted by, and opposed to, government intrusion into private lives.

“The Obama administration is urging the Supreme Court to allow the government, without a court warrant, to affix GPS devices on suspects’ vehicles to track their every move.” Wired

But Steve Jobs beat them to the punch:

“Apple’s iPhone software is storing a record of the travels of iPhone owners on their phones and on the computers used for iPhone synchronization, a practice that has renewed privacy concerns about mobile location tracking.

The data, consisting of latitude and longitude coordinates and corresponding timestamps, is stored unencrypted and, apparently, without conspicuous notification.” InformationWeek

There are two parts to this story.  The first is as follows:


Several years ago cell phones started getting good at knowing where they were.  Anyone with a pulse knows that “secrets” stored on a computer are always at risk of  winding up on the front page of a newspaper.  I assumed that sooner or later there would be a big media circus event where a cell phone tracked a criminal or a celebrity (or both) doing something bizarre, disturbing, criminal, or all three.  I gleefully pictured something funny; a corrupt Senator’s cell phone tracks him to a Nicaraguan Bordello, the data gets cracked by a teenager in New Jersey who blabs it everywhere, and in some hilarious turn of events it turns out to be a disturbingly kinky orgy involving  Ralph Nader, Rush Limbaugh’s Neighbor’s Attorney, seven kangaroos, and Charles Manson.  Come on folks you know the 2012 election season is coming and stories like that always liven things up.

I’ll admit I’m smug about cell phones and their legitimate threats to privacy.  I keep cell phones contained and deliberately dis-empowered.  Electronically tracking me is possible but it’s a pain in the ass.  If you want to spy on me I expect at least the effort of a gumshoe peering at me over a newspaper in a dingy cafe…possibly with a Sam Spade voice over and a soundtrack.  A database on a banker’s iDevice is so…lame.

Your's truly (pictured at left) explaining the significance of privacy to a cell phone salesman.

Defeating Steve Job’s evil plans are easy (at the basic…non-spy levels).  I rarely carry my cell phone, it’s usually off, and I don’t give out the number.  I only grudgingly answer the damn thing .  (In fact I only grudgingly answer any phone anywhere…I’m friendly that way.)  Oh yeah…and I don’t buy shit that does stuff I can’t control…which pretty much rules out every Apple product ever conceived.

I have a second, unexpected, reaction to this story:


Did you notice that the US Government is still busily chipping away at the constitution.  Legal wrangling with those boring squares in the Supreme Court and whining that warrants (and other limits on Government spying) are such a hindrance to the noble Government that does so much good work.

Is Apple doing that?  Nope.  They just built the evil machine, sold it to people, and weren’t really all that secretive about it at all.  Talk about balls of steel!  They even mention the “super secret tracking feature” in their EULA.  Basically Apple said “we’re making this thing which could track you and give your worst enemy access to whatever skeletons are in your closet.  You’re so goddamn dumb you’ll pay for it, charge it up, stuff it in your pocket and carry it around.  We’re awesome and Orwell was a pussy!”

Steve Jobs demands formal attire at his secret lair.

I’m rather impressed with Apple.  Orwell’s 1984 postulates hell on earth but he never imagined people would wait in line to pay for a telescreen that they would have to carry around everywhere they went.  Apple is truly staffed by visionaries that are totally willing to look at any ethical line and say “we’d better cross that”.  Why shouldn’t they?  It’s their product, they can make it do anything they want…up to and including an app which tazers anyone who tries to install Linux.  Unlike a government, when a company screws with their customers all I can think is that customers are volunteers that brought it upon themselves.

Maybe the Apple should just release a free app for iPhones called “Orwell” and wait for criminals and innocents alike to voluntarily upload it.

About Adaptive Curmudgeon

I will neither confirm nor deny that I actually exist.
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3 Responses to Orwell’s Telescreens Were Bush League

  1. kx59 says:

    “Orwell’s 1984 postulates hell on earth but he never imagined people would wait in line to pay for a telescreen that they would have to carry around everywhere they went.”
    K.W. Jeter covered the concept pretty well in a sci fi novel titled “Noir”
    The corporate oligarchy has a concept referred to as “TIAC”, or turd in a can.
    Essentially the concept of hype and advertising to the point the populace become zombies that will by a turd in a can if the packaging is flashy enough.
    Whenever I see the word “content” in relation to advertising, phone apps, or websites it immediately makes me think of TIAC.

  2. TIAC? Brilliant!

    I wish I knew TIAC when I discovered that cell phone users paid for the notes that their phone made when it rang. Paid ringtones = TIAC!

    On an unrelated note I wonder if there is a similar acronym for the misbegotten belief that getting a tax refund is a “free money windfall from the government”? That’s a similar level of detachment from reality.

  3. Pingback: It’s Just A Phone | The Adaptive Curmudgeon's Blog

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