You won’t find the words ‘government’ or ‘regulation’ in this post at EFF’s blog by Micah Lee and Peter Eckersley. They’re just appealing to Apple’s better angels to drop its closed ways. I’ve explained before why that’s a rational thing to do. But will the EFF assure supporters like me that it will never endorse government enforcement of a “bill of rights” like the one Lee and Eckersley propose today?
What I like about EFF is that it is a pro-liberty group, but I hope I’m not wrong in assuming that they view liberty as I do: as a negative concept. They never come out and say it, but it sure sounds like the authors believe that if Apple doesn’t come around to seeing the virtues of openness and provide an escape hatch, then maybe they should be forced to. I get that impression from passages like this:
When technology and phone companies defend the restrictions that they are imposing on their customers, the most frequent defense they offer is that it’s actually in their customers’ interest to be deprived of liberty: “If we let people do what they want with their pocket computers, they will do stupid things with them. You will be safer and happier in our walled compound than you would be outside.”
Imposing on their customers? Seems to me like the vast majority of Apple’s customers are choosing these restrictions. It’s not Apple that thinks its customers are stupid, and is therefore “imposing” a locked phone on them, it’s Lee and Eckersley who seem to have a low regard for customers’ preferences and want to impose an open device on them.
We can of course debate whether customers are being short-sighted in the choice they’re making, whether the benefits of closed platforms outweigh the costs, and whether we have the best of both worlds right now, but you can’t say that customers are being “deprived of their liberty.” What liberty are they being deprived of? Does the EFF believe there is a positive right to mobile computers that run arbitrary code?
I repeat my plea: Can EFF assure us that it will not support government regulation of computer manufacturers?