Are EFF Critics Missing The Point?

Last week we brought you a story about the Electronic Foundations Frontier (EFF) and how they’ve declared iOS to be a “Crystal Prison”: Beautiful, but restrictive. They went on to declare that they want a mobile computer user’s “Bill of Rights”. Overall, we made counterpoints about where they went wrong and why. As a manifesto, the EFF falls somewhat short by over-focusing on the wrong elements, exaggerating restrictions and just plain getting a lot of facts wrong. But with that having been said, they may be getting some facts right as well.

An interesting commentary from Frabjous Dei takes a look at the EFF’s tirade and gives a nod to the logic criticisms put forward by pundits such as Jon Gruber and John Moltz in their own respective soapboxes. Frabjous Dei blogger  Robert Atkins goes on, however, to point out that while the EFF may bring a whole bag of crazy… they may also have a point.

It’s not about the neckbeards intent on destroying their own productivity by installing Linux on their iPhone, it’s about what Cory Doctorow calls the war on general purpose computation. Doctorow makes a compelling case that copy protection, DRM, the DCMA, SOPA, PIPA and ACTA are not battles that have been fought and won but skirmishes in a war whose endgame makes it actually illegal to own a completely programmable piece of general-purpose computing hardware.

While we have always looked at the curated nature of the iPhone’ missing file or side-loaded app systems as affecting very few users (how many people really want to install a legal app that isn’t already offered by Apple?), it begs the question of “If not here, then where?” In other words, if you buy a computing device, are you actually in outright possession of a computer or are you simply buying a terminal through which you gain controlled access to certain media and functions? One may not have a great need to install exotic apps on their phone (once in a while we still need to stop and say “it’s just a phone”), but as controlled and channeled user actions become a defacto part of modern computing — phones, tablets, PCs, anything — we may start to forget there was a time when turning on a new computer meant looking at a blinking cursor waiting for you to tell it what you want to do, rather than the other way around.

It may not be a human rights issue if you can’t install what you want on your iPhone, but maybe it becomes one if you can’t install what you want on anything at all.

Source: Frabjous Dei

Corey has been been a tech journalist with a focus on Apple since 1998 and has written for The Loop, MacHome magazine, and as games contributor for The Mac Bible, and co-hosts the iGame Radio Podcast. He works as a… Full Bio