4They Can Turn Your Device into an Expensive Brick
We've gotten spoiled by personal computers; they'll do pretty much any damned thing you tell them to do, that's the whole fun of having one. With a PC, fiddle with the code a bit and you can play a version of Skyrim where all of the characters are nude (Google it!). Computers are like cars -- you're free to customize and tweak to your heart's content. So when smartphones came along, the geekier ones among us wanted to do the same thing -- get creative and customize them in some way the manufacturer could never have imagined.
"What this needs is a dick."
With phones, the practice is often referred to as jailbreaking, and a ruling by the U.S. copyright regulators made doing it perfectly legal. But much like Rollerblading or wearing skinny jeans, the fact that it's legal doesn't make it a great idea.
What You Agreed To:
Most companies have paragraphs in their terms of service that say you promise not to mess with the software. If they find out you did, you have effectively given them the right to unleash hell.
"We've got another jailbroken iPhone. Send a team out to shatter his pelvis."
For instance, Nintendo, after realizing people were installing software to pirate games on the Wii, released an update that would brick the system upon installation. Microsoft, meanwhile, will merely permanently ban your console from connecting to the Internet if it finds any modifications done to the system. Now, not only can you not use any of your multiplayer games or the XBox Live download service (which is most of the machine's functionality these days), but you'll be forced to go around the neighborhood and pay 12-year-old kids to scream racial slurs at you in person.
You'll find almost identical "We can remotely kill your gadget" clauses in everything from e-readers to smartphones to portable gaming systems. It's kind of like if every car came with a device that, if it ever detected you speeding, would eject the engine through the hood.
"Finally, the streets are safe!"
Hey, speaking of intrusive car monitoring ...
3OnStar Is Narcing You Out
OnStar is that incredibly convenient product many drivers would literally be lost without. Its automatic crash-response system, stolen vehicle tracking and roadside assistance are just some of the features that make this system so popular. In fact, they field over 15,000 lifesaving calls per year. They're like guardian angels of the highway. So what could they possibly be doing that's so terrible?
"Global domination? We'd rather use the term 'global coverage'."
How about the fact that it's legally spying on everything you do? And it's a damned tattletale.
What You Agreed To:
First of all, just for OnStar to do what it advertises, it has to include a machine inside your car that tracks your every move. It knows where you're going, how fast you got there and can, at an instant, connect you to someone who can relay all of this back to you. In the hands of a less trustworthy company, it could amount to installing a slightly more helpful version of Big Brother right in your car's rearview mirror.
"If you want to see the future of humanity, imagine a bored woman at a desk tallying up every time you fart in traffic. Forever."
There's also a fine chance that, much like the GPS company TomTom, they could receive a subpoena ordering them to release your data to the police. And since we're talking about technology that can basically record everything you do and say inside your vehicle, OnStar offers so much more information than your typical GPS. In other words, if you're fleeing from justice, don't do it in a newer vehicle.
"No, sir, I'm afraid we don't have any models without the spying feature."
And all of that terrible stuff is just covered in the first update to their terms of service. Things get even more police-state-like with the second update. See, even if you decide that having a set of eyes monitoring you from inside your vehicle and waiting to tell the feds every time you send a text message at a red light is more than you're willing to put up with, it might be too late to do anything about it. Because that second update basically states that, even if you cancel your OnStar service, they'll still probably go ahead and keep watching you.
A forensic scientist recently canceled the service and found it extremely difficult to sever the data link between his vehicle and the OnStar headquarters. And that guy is a scientist! Regular people would probably have better luck just driving their car straight off a cliff than trying to figure that shit out.
So before you click "I Agree," make sure you've got nothing to hide. Because you are being watched.