By Martin Bosworth
For everyone who is slavering with anticipation at the debut of the shiny new Apple iPhone, keep this in mind: If you buy one of those admittedly slick new devices, you’re essentially subsidizing efforts to violate your privacy and restrict your ability to use the Internet freely.
Because when you sign up for an iPhone, you’re not just getting a phone from Apple–you’re locking yourself into a two-year exclusive contract with AT&T, the sole carrier of the iPhone at present. The phone carries a hefty price tag, and you’ll incur an equally nasty $175 termination fee if you decide to break your contract early. Most people I know don’t have the scratch to pay as much as $675 for testing a phone, so you’re pretty much stuck with it.
And that means for the next two years or so, your bills are going to support a company that is turning over your calling records to the government without your knowledge or consent. AT&T also provided extensive assistance to the NSA in developing and facilitating its massive illegal wiretapping initiative, which violates everything from FISA to the Constitution.
Not to mention that AT&T is a staunch foe of net neutrality, and has spent millions of dollars in faux grassroots lobbying designed to convince the public that it’s preferable to prioritize Internet traffic by who pays the most, and that it’s better to be a passive consumer of content through high-priced services like AT&T’s U-verse, which can facilitate targeted marketing right down to the individual home. (Indeed, it was former AT&T chair Ed Whitacre’s famous rant about Google paying for using his pipes that first set a match to the whole NN debate.)
Most recently, AT&T announced that they would be happily emulating their friends at the RIAA and aggressively monitoring their networks for signs of “piracy,” which means that anything that gets you on their radar–even if it’s completely innocent–could result in loss of Internet access, threatening letters, and the turning over of your information to law enforcement authorities.
It’s disheartened me to watch a lot of so-called progressive political leaders and pundits join the masses in slobbering over the iPhone, apparently forgetting what it’ll REALLY cost you if you buy one. Yes, it’s shiny, and yes, it’s cool, but I’m a techie guy, so that doesn’t go very far with me anymore. When you have a universal bad actor like AT&T trampling on your rights and your privacy, that’s more important than all the cool features in the world.
And besides, if you really want iPhone functionality, you can use a little elbow grease and turn your Windows Mobile phone into an iPhone–or at least a good facsimile! 🙂