No, really. I mean, not that you’re really a national security threat, but Apple really did say that. Ok, they implied it. Whether it’s true or not…well, we’ll get to that in a minute. First, I’d like to focus on a more immediate threat to consumers—companies not taking responsibility for their actions, or more specifically, their lack of action. You might as well get comfy. This practice is especially troubling when a company’s inaction causes problems for the customers they depend on, the ones who keep them in business, the very reason for their existence. Let’s be frank: No business has any chance of succeeding without its customers. Period. A business exists to make money, but where does that money come from? But worst of all, worse than simply not taking responsibility for their lack of business acumen, planning, or just plain mistakes is when the business blames its failings on its customers. A few weeks ago, right after Apple released the new iPhone 3GS, the company began receiving complaints about the device overheating. Numerous complaints. We’re not talking just a couple of isolated incidents. Even a blogger at PC World had an experience with his new iPhone 3GS overheating and, as bloggers are wont to do, he wrote about it, wondering aloud whether Apple might have to consider an iPhone 3GS recall. Apparently, the overheating problem was so bad that some people reported the backs of their devices becoming discolored, mostly the white ones. In many cases reported in discussion forums across the Internet, the phone also died in the middle of performing functions, for no other apparent reason than it overheated. It was not specified whether the “death” was permanent. It wasn’t long before Apple responded publicly, albeit via its own support knowledge base. They admitted that yes, many people were having problems with their iPhones overheating, and Apple knew exactly why that was. Well, those people must have left their phones inside closed vehicles, or out in direct sunlight, where the phone was undoubtedly exposed to temperatures higher than the 113 degrees Fahrenheit it’s designed to withstand. Um, excuse me? Apple’s customers, loyal customers, willing to put up with substandard service from AT&T just to own an iPhone come to the company with a real problem they need solved, one that is affecting their everyday use of one of Apple’s most popular and sought after devices, and the best Apple can do is, “It’s your own fault, buddy. Shouldn’t've left it in your car.” Wow. Not only did they ignore that the overheating occurred during regular, everday use, they pretty much implied their customers were stupid. As if iPhone users were leaving their devices in closed, hot cars in droves, oblivious to the damage intense heat can inflict on electronics. Fast forward to just a few days ago. Apple submitted 45 pages of comments to the United States Copyright Office, in response to that Office’s questions regarding the Exemption to Prohibition on Circumvention of Copyright Protection Systems for Access Control Technologies. That document is basically a response to the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) petitioning of the Copyright Office to legalize phone jailbreaking. Within the 45 pages of responses submitted to the Copyright Office, Apple states that users who jailbreak their phones undoubtedly “encounter functional problems with the phone that result from jailbreaking. Such users often call AT&T to report such problems, believing that they may be the result of problems on AT&T’s network. AT&T is then forced to spend significant resources investigating and diagnosing the problems to determine whether, in fact, there is a problem with AT&T’s network or service.” So you see, there’s no problem with AT&T’s network. It’s all those silly people who have jailbroken, or essentially broken, their phones tying up AT&T’s resources, calling with phantom problems, wasting the company’s time and money that could be spent on real network problems. You know, if they existed. I’m a little confused. This sounds like Apple defending AT&T. Yet when Apple announced the release of the iPhone 3GS, and touted all its wonderful new features, the speakers went to great lengths to mention all the companies out there that offer tethering and multimedia messaging (MMS). Then, with looks of great disdain on their faces, they publicly admonished AT&T by admitting that no, the iPhone’s carrier still doesn’t do either of those things, and wouldn’t until later this summer. By the way, it’s about to be August. Just how late in the summer are we talking? But I digress. It boils down to Apple once again blaming a failing on their customers. Granted, Apple doesn’t control AT&T’s network, and cannot directly be held responsible for its spotty service. But they are the ones who signed that exclusive deal with AT&T, much to the chagrin of many Apple fans who now wait with bated breath to see whether that deal will be extended beyond its 2010 expiration date. So next time your iPhone call fails, or drops, or it’s November and you still don’t have tethering or MMS, you know whom to blame—all those people who jailbroke their phones. But surely not AT&T. But that’s not even the worst of it. Remember back at the beginning, where I mentioned Apple having said users who jailbreak their phones pose a threat to national security? Also within those 45 pages Apple provided to the Copyright Office is an explanation as to why jailbreaking phones cannot and should not be legalized. They say jailbreaking allows hackers to alter the baseband processor chip, known as the BBP chip. It is this chip that enables phones to connect to cell towers. According to Apple, if a hacker changes the BBP chip’s code, “More pernicious forms of activity may also be enabled. For example, a local or international hacker could potentially initiate commands (such as a denial-of-service attack) that could crash the tower software, rendering the tower entirely inoperable to process calls or transmit data. In short, taking control of the BBP software would be much the equivalent of getting inside the firewall of a corporate computer—to potentially catastrophic result.” Who knew the iPhone was a weapon of mass destruction? The EFF says these claims are ridiculous. One of their attorneys speculated there are as many as one million jailbroken phones out there, and not just iPhones. If Apple’s doomsday scenario were true, wouldn’t it have happened already with that many hacked phones in the general public? Or are they just trying to keep jailbreaking from being legalized, and using the threat of cyberterrorism to support their case? If cell towers are in imminent danger from hackers and jailbroken phones, don’t worry—the government is on the case. And Apple didn’t go to just any government agency with this potential catastrophe that threatens the very fabric of the wireless universe. They skipped right over the puny law enforcement agencies, the FBI, the CIA, and went straight to the big guns—the Copyright Office.
Have you jailbroken your iPhone? Apple says you’re a threat to national security.
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