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Apple Recipient of Not So Coveted Big Brother Award

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BIELEFELD (Rixstep) — The accredited jury of the Big Brother Awards have decided to bestow recognition on Apple for 2011 in the category 'communication' for their work with the iTunes store and the iPhone.

This is not an award to be coveted. The jury single out Apple for violations of basic human and consumer rights.

The Big Brother Awards Germany were launched to encourage public debate about privacy and data protection. It is their purpose to highlight abusive uses of technology and information. The eleventh annual ceremony took place on 1 April in Bielefeld.

The sculpture for the Big Brother Awards Germany was designed by Oerlinghausen artist Peter Sommer. It shows a figure tied by a lead band and bisected by a glass pane which is inscribed with a hexadecimal encoding of a passage from Aldous Huxley's 'Brave New World'.

Following were the Big Brother Awards jury for 2011.

√ Peter Wedde, Akademie der Arbeit
√ Andreas Bogk, Chaos Computer Club
√ Frank Rosengart, Chaos Computer Club
√ Sönke Hilbrans, German Data Protection Association
√ Rolf Gössner, The International League for Human Rights
√ Werner Hülsmann, Computer Science Forum for Peace and Social Responsibility
√ Rena Tangens, Verein zur Förderung des öffentlichen bewegten und unbewegten


The award in the category 'communication' went this year to Apple GmbH 'for taking their customers hostage by way of expensive hardware and subsequently blackmailing them into accepting a questionable privacy policy'.

The jury point out that an iPhone is 'a fancy piece of hardware' and 'once you bought it, of course you'll want to actually use it for a wide variety of tasks'. Of course. Now here comes the Cupertino Catch™.

'After switching it on for the first time, the device welcomes you with the request to enter your 'Apple ID' or at least to give your user account details for iTunes.'

'Without entering this data, you can only use the gadget for telephony. For nothing else. You won't be able to use any of the functions for which you actually chose to buy the iPhone.'

Privacy Policy — One Hundred Seventeen Pages

At least the German edition of the iPhone has a 117 (one hundred seventeen) page privacy policy.

Apple reserve the right to share your personal information with affiliates. This isn't limited to credit card numbers for music purchases but includes 'occupation, language, zip code, area code, unique device identifier, location, and the time zone where an Apple product is used'.

Apple claim they want to 'better understand customer behaviour and improve products, services, and advertising'. Further, Apple and their 'partners and licensees may collect, use, and share precise location data, including the realtime geographic location of your Apple computer or device'.

Things aren't as easy in Germany as they may be in the US.

'Whenever a company wants to collect such data, the German Federal Data Protection Law requires the user's explicit consent. A simple checkbox 'I agree' during the phone's update procedure will probably not suffice here. Also, it is completely unclear how one might declare one's dissent to the sharing of data. The Federal Data Protection Law explicitly requires the consent to be voluntary in §4a. But imagine you just bought a device for several hundred euros and might not be able to use it unless you declare your consent to the 'Privacy Policy' - it is questionable, to say the least, that your consent will be voluntary.'

'You might wonder what you actually bought into when you acqured such a gadget. Which customer rights apply? Could you claim for a 'defect' when the terms and conditions are modified, possibly even at a later date, to the customer's disadvantage? Apple seems to be very confident - and most customers will reluctantly bite the bullet.'

'Other manufacturers prove that it is possible to offer such a product without compulsory assimilation of customer data. With Apple, though, the customer has no choice. To add software, he is forced to use iTunes or the AppStore, and therefore consent to Apple's conditions. It's a matter of sink or swim.'

Apple Customers — It's Sink or Swim

Apple are focused on devouring user data, something eager iPhone and iPad users might not have realised. They're right up there with Facebook (who also won a Big Brother Award for 2011). User positioning data seems to be the cherry on the tart.

'Since evidently not enough customers are complaining about Apple's use of customer data, we hereby raise this complaint by presenting a Big Brother Award in the category 'Communication' to Apple GmbH.'

'If you build a walled garden, they will come - in fact, they'll rush inside.'
 - Ray Kinsella
'Watching an elite hacker sit at the keyboard of a Mac is like watching Dirty Harry threaten two-bit thieves with a water pistol.'
 - Sam Sundberg
'There's one in every crowd, but in the Apple marketplace you can have as many as you want.'
 - PT Barnum

See Also
Big Brother Awards
Big Brother Awards 2011
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