My good Internet friend and blog mentor Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit falls victim to the Internet rumor that Apple has patented a technology that will allow anyone to disable an iPhone’s camera against the wishes of the user.
Of course Apple did no such thing, but for the purposes of discussion let’s assume that they did. Now, should I be panicking that I will someday have pranksters, evil concert promoters, corrupt police and authoritarian governments disabling my iPhone camera anytime they want?
Nope, not worried in the least. Why? Is it because I think the people who run Apple are so good and noble that they would never do such a thing? No, it’s just the opposite. I am confident I will always control my iPhone camera because I think Apple is run by a bunch of “greedy” bastards.
Let me put it this way: Everyone who would pay hundreds of dollars for an iPhone that had such a camera-disabling “feature” in it, please raise your hand.
Economic self-interest (that’s “greed” for you leftists) is the most powerful protector of liberties that exists.
Apple is in business to make money and there is no conceivable way they could make money by including such a stupid functionality into their products, so they most definitely won’t. Neither will any other manufacture of any other devices, present or future.
Even if every executive at Apple did suddenly wake up brain dead one morning and decided that people really wanted to pay good money for a mobile devices whose camera could be disabled by an overly bright 14 year old, the problem would be immediately self-correcting. Apple would go down in history as the corporation that committed suicide.
There are literally hundreds of technological means inherent in the computing device you are using right now which would allow the company that sold you the device to seize control over one or more functions against your wishes (and yes, that include Linux boxes as well). The primary and most effective protection you have against that possibility is the economic self-interest of the people who sell you the hardware and software. If they piss you and their other customers off enough they go out of business and someone who won’t piss you off will take their place.
Don’t believe me? Try this: Everyone who has at any time stopped using a company’s products or services because the company did something you didn’t like, raise your hand.
Look at that, every single one of you raised your hand.
Each time you pay someone good money for some product or service, you run a golden chain through their nose and that golden chain gives you a direct means of control over them. When you yank, they follow. It’s not perfect control but it is a major source of control whose effects dwarf those of the government, trial lawyers or self-appointed crusaders. The control failures that politicians and activists like to crow about represents a microscopic fraction of all possible failures. 99.99% of the time it works so perfectly we are not even aware the control exists.
No, if you are worried about losing control over your devices, the people you should be afraid of are power-mad politicians and “activist” do-gooders. For example, all TVs shipped in the last decade have the “V-Chip” installed which is intended to provide parental control. TV manufactures fought the chip because it didn’t make them any money. They didn’t care who watched what when, they just cared if people bought their TVs. In the end, the “greedy”, “uncaring” and “socially irresponsible” TV manufactures lost the fight and now we all have a potentially hackable override built in to all our TVs.
You don’t need an advanced degree in computer science to know that the speculative technology in Apple’s patent application is utterly harmless. You just need a little basic economic horse-sense. Until you start running into a lot of people who say, “Gosh, I wish I had a smart phone that would let complete strangers turn off the camera against my wishes,” you have an iron-clad guarantee that you will always control your iPhone’s camera.
“Greed” will protect us.