Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Axis of Evil

I’ve been keeping this black book in my head, accounting for the good and the bad things the leading technology companies do. I am referring to the companies that have direct impact on my life as I know it, as an avid technology fan.
I couldn’t avoid noticing a certain trend with this black book of mine. As a result of this notion of a trend I thought I’d lay cards on the table for all to see. Have a look, and let me know if you have any contributions or corrections to contribute to my exercise.
Here we go, in alphabetical order – my list of good/bad technology companies:

Amazon:
Good:
  • Responsible for making books available anytime, anywhere.
  • Established the largest collection of ebooks, which they sell at decent prices with a decently priced ebook reader.
  • Provides decent and cheap hosting services, allowing developers to wield a lot of short term power if need be the case.
Bad:
  • Cancelled all Wikileaks’ hosting the second they smelled the whiff of potential favors from the American government’s direction.
  • Used their god like ability to remove books from readers’ Kindle devices.
  • Enforce annoying DRM on their ebooks that's unique to Amazon and forces their customers to totally rely on Amazon, unlike other ebook sellers who use common formats.
  • I had a personal experience with Amazon where they charged my credit card for no particular reason other than them having it on file; it took a while for me to get a refund.
Verdict: Minor evil with good redemption potential.


Apple:
Good:
  • Apple have always been on the innovative side of things. From the Mac’s superior UI through inventing the web enabled smartphone and in a single sweep doing to the tablet market what Microsoft was unable to do in decades, Apple has been a major pusher of technology for the laymen.
  • If it weren't for them legal music downloads wouldn't have existed.
Bad:
  • The most major advocate of the closed garden philosophy, manifested mainly through apps, which blocks access to content and prevents those with lesser means from being able to adequately express themselves.
  • It seems like Apple couldn’t care less about anything other than its bottom line. It took control over legal music downloads, and now – through its closed garden – it’s trying to do the same for ebooks and magazines.
  • Has a very annoying rental model for video content.
  • Divides and conquers: for reasons unclear to anyone (including Apple’s very vague spokespersons), they sell the same song for $1.70 in Australia and $1 in the USA.
  • Privacy invasive: the first thing you need to provide when opening an iTunes account is your credit card number, even if you were never planning on buying anything; from that point onwards, Apple will track every move you make.
  • Likes to abuse Chinese slave labor. Although they're not alone there, their very image of pure cool is in total contradiction to the way they produce their products.
Verdict: Distilled evil.


eBay:
Good:
  • Auction site gives power to the people.
  • PayPal is a good step towards secure financial transactions over the web.
Bad:
  • Pretty nasty small letters on PayPal user agreements.
  • These small letters are put into effect too often.
  • PayPal is forced on all eBay users.
  • PayPal was one of those financial entities that were all too happy to close Wikileaks' donation line. Later they did the same for Bradley Manning (but quickly went back when they smelled the wind's direction).
  • Gradually but surely eBay is made into a big retail store at the expense of the small time second hand sellers that made it what it is today.
Verdict: Evil.


Facebook:
Good:
  • I guess you can say they provide a tool to help people who don’t know any better keep in touch.
  • Famously used as a revolutionary tool against oppressive regimes.
Bad:
  • Exhibits total disrespect for privacy.
  • Continuously abuses its users’ privacy.
  • Supports third parties’ abuse of its users’ privacy.
  • Doing its best to dominate the web at the price of taking it all down to its standards.
Verdict: Gives Satan private tutoring on being evil.


Google:
Good:
  • Offer nice services like Gmail and Google Docs while promising to do good.
  • I like the Chrome browser's interface and I like its speed even more.
Bad:
  • Tracks all of searching activities and has been willing to share their info with authorities without too much of a hassle. Yes, didn't you know it? All your Google searches are stored against you.
  • Didn’t come up with anything good of its own for a few years now. Google Wave, anyone?
  • Likes to sniff private data from passing cars.
  • Recommends people change their name at the age of 18 to rid themselves of their documented web history with Google.
  • Routinely says its search results are objective when clearly they aren’t (or else why do Google's own facilities tend to always be at the top?).
  • With all the data in its disposal it can do some serious damage if it were to become, say, an Apple in attitude.
  • Took upon itself the authority to break net neutrality for mobile Internet access.
  • Tries too hard to copy Facebook and Facebook’s disregard for privacy with its Buzz and other non voluntary infestations.
Verdict: Already evil, Google has the potential to become our worst nightmare.


Microsoft:
Good:
  • The Kinect is one impressive piece of hardware signalling the future of gaming and entertainment in general.
Bad:
  • Microsoft is single handedly responsible for forcing us all to settle for expensive yet mediocre computer systems.
  • Since then they’ve been mostly printing money off Windows and Office, not having much of an effect on our lives’ progression.
Overall: The face of old evil.


Sony:
Good:
  • Provides an extensive music videos library for free on the PS3.
Bad:
  • Tries to scare people that tweak their own PS3s by wielding major lawsuits.
  • Got the courts to allow it to collect information of people who merely accessed a website where the breaking of the PS3's DRM was discussed.
  • Will happily infect your PC with Trojans in the name of copyright protection.
  • Is behind too many DRM schemes that make consumers’ lives hard (e.g., regional coding on Blu-rays).
Overall: Evil.


Twitter:
Good:
  • Connects people to those they really want to be in touch with.
  • Regularly proves to be the best source for news.
  • Resisted when USA authorities demanded the private details of Wikileaks operatives.
Bad:
  • Nothing, really.
Verdict: Nice guys.


Yahoo!:
Good:
  • Flickr.
Bad:
  • They’re too small a player now to cause much harm.
  • Don’t you dare sell Flickr like those rumors say!
Verdict: Incompetent.


As you can see, the trend is clear: the forces of evil are dominating our technological agendas as they go on dictating the way we live in the 21st century. Personally, I associate a lot of importance to the technology under the control of these companies, and not only because I'm a technology freak. Web technology is now my primary connection to the great big world, including keeping in touch with friends and family; damaging my civil liberties on the virtual world means damaging me directly in the physical world.
I chose to be active in my struggle against those that try to impose their version of freedom on top of mine. I encourage you to follow suit and join the EFF and/or the EFA.


Image by EFF, who encourage everyone to reproduce their electronic media

3 comments:

wile.e.coyote said...

Blizzard:
Good:
*I am never bored at work, I can always check what is new with WoW
Bad:
*Took my life
*Lack of sleeping hours

Overall: It is not like I had life to begin with

Moshe Reuveni said...

I'm jealous: you can actually play at work? At our place everything remotely related to games is blocked (and since the iPhone doesn't do flash I can't access it there, either).

wile.e.coyote said...

I don't play at work and got no idea if the proxy will allow me to do so or not.
I just read that tacts of the game and watch the youtube vid describing the fights.
The web is full of WoW related websites, so these 9 hours pass real quick