“Proprietary software makes it possible to design products to cheat ordinary users…” writes Richard Stallman — linking to a new essay by Cory Doctorow:
Carriers adapted custom versions of Android to lock customers to their networks with shovelware apps that couldn’t be removed from the home-screen and app store lock-in that forced customers to buy apps through their phone company. What began with printers and spread to phones is coming to everything: this kind of technology has proliferated to smart thermostats (no apps that let you turn your AC cooler when the power company dials it up a couple degrees), tractors (no buying your parts from third-party companies), cars (no taking your GM to an independent mechanic), and many categories besides.
All these forms of cheating treat the owner of the device as an enemy of the company that made or sold it, to be thwarted, tricked, or forced into conducting their affairs in the best interest of the company’s shareholders. To do this, they run programs and processes that attempt to hide themselves and their nature from their owners, and proxies for their owners (like reviewers and researchers). Increasingly, cheating devices behave differently depending on who is looking at them. When they believe themselves to be under close scrutiny, their behavior reverts to a more respectable, less egregious standard. This is a shocking and ghastly turn of affairs, one that takes us back to the dark ages.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.