The mumblings of a Christian autistic husband, dad, IT guy and amateur radio operator - Will Brokenbourgh / AF7EC
Paying the 'Apple Tax' No Longer Makes Sense
Note from the future (May 2023)
Evidently Apple has reversed course on the decision I discuss below, but my view of them still isn't very good. It is obvious they are allowing others to access your iDevice usage, including monitoring of private verbal conversations! Apple, I have the proof -- you need to come clean! I will write an article about this privacy issue soon, God willing.
If you talked to me months ago, I sometimes would suggest that the higher price of Apple products (often known as 'The Apple Tax') is okay by saying something like "Well, yeah, Apple's gear costs a bit more than some other company's comparable product, but because they seem to respect customer privacy, the higher price might be worth it." Thanks to Apple recently implying that I might have child porn on my devices, I no longer feel the 'Apple Tax' is worth it.
Financial Times recently released a story, and Apple later confirmed, that Apple will soon scan U.S. customer devices (iPhones and iPads for sure, maybe others later) for child exploitation pictures and similar materials. They say they will just compare hashes of your files with a database of hashes computed from known illegal and offending child exploitation pictures. In theory, this sounds all fine and dandy, but I have some problems with this...
As anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, I love and follow Jesus Christ. Holy Spirit resides within me. Whatever isn't addressed in the Bible is clarified by Holy Spirit's leadings and convictions. Child porn is not specifically mentioned in the Bible as it didn't exist in its present state back then, but if you read the Bible, God is very clear that sexual impurity is wrong (Galations 5:19, Ephesians 5:3...). Sexual impurity is basically any lusts, desires, intercourse and similar outside of the marriage of a man and woman. Sooo...since I am a follower of Jesus, and want to please him, even thinking about something impure is wrong. I definitely wouldn't think child exploitation is okay or even let my mind go there...it's just too disgusting!
If you know me personally, even hearing about child porn and other exploitations of children make me sick to my stomach, and very angry. As a dad, hearing that people are doing such sick things to kids makes me want to slam head-on into these predators like a freight train smashing through a brick wall at full speed.
So when I hear that Apple, a company I've given a lot of money (and loyalty) to throughout the years, is now implying that I am just as guilty as some mentally deranged person who preys on kids, who abuses them and who enjoys watching such abuse with pictures and video -- Apple, you don't deserve my business anymore. Apple, if you're so mentally deficient that you think everyone could be guilty of such horrible acts, you are no longer entitled to any of my remaining respect, or my money.
All my Apple stuff is paid for!
Every Apple product I own is paid for and belongs wholly to me. We aren't renting these things from Apple, they are completely paid off. Now if I missed some tiny clause somewhere in the user agreement about allowing this scanning to happen when I purchased these Apple products, shame on me, but really -- who has all day to read these things besides lawyers?
I'm sure the Apple user agreement says that they are just licensing iOS, macOS and iPadOS to me, but the physical device belongs to me. If I'm wrong and the device doesn't belong to me, I will gladly return my Apple gear to Apple and they can refund me! I did not knowingly give permission to Apple to rifle through my device, a physical device completely paid for with my money, with them trying to find incriminating evidence against me! Whew, if the tables were turned and consumers were allowed to scan through Apple's private devices, servers, cloud storage and so on, I'm sure we'd find some pretty 'interesting' stuff!
They probably have an out
There's probably some slick legalese somewhere that states that 'continued usage of Apple services means you agree with whatever the heck we want to do now, or in the future'. Well, if I missed that, I'll own up to it, but Apple has gone too far this time. It's time for me to take real action. Do you know what I need to do now? Get rid of my Apple gear, cancel any services I may have with them, get (a copy, I'm sure) of my data off their servers, and go with someone else. But where would I go?
Sounds scary, but there are alternatives
The internet and YouTube have some interesting ideas for device and service alternatives, so I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader. If I didn't care about my privacy so much, I'd just go all-in with Google and their services and products, but Google and friends also have shown how invading our privacy is part of their day-to-day operations. Now, the search is on for someone that truly cares about user privacy. That 'someone' might just be me!
Moving mail, calendars and so-on from one service to another is not very fun. Some companies allow the export of your data so you can take it elsewhere. It gets tiring as I've had to do this before with someone else. I'm really thinking I might just put together mail, calendar, reminders and the like on my own server. I'll need to find non-Apple devices that can consume these self-hosted services and then I'll finally be (mostly) free from the whims of mega companies.
I really do care about the kiddos. I care that so many have gone missing, have been abducted and forced to do unimaginable things for the sick pleasure of some depraved individuals. My grief and complaints are NOT against those men and women who work tirelessly to track down and find missing and exploited kids. Nor am I against the law enforcement folks who constantly scour every corner to find those sick and demented people who trade child porn, who produce it and anyone else involved in this disgusting abuse. My issue is with Apple, the self-proclaimed 'Champion of Privacy' who is now turning on ALL of their customers, innocent or not, and treating them all as if they are guilty of something so heinous. I don't do that nasty crap, and I shouldn't be treated by Apple like I do!!
Besides Apple's whole "You're probably just as guilty as everyone else" treatment, there's also the real threat that Apple will comb your device to look for whatever they want, under the guise of "Oh, law enforcement forced us to". Where will it end? What if some government agency decides that Christians are too much of a threat and they should be singled out for close scrutiny? I can imagine Apple replying "No problem! We can scan for Christian-related items and give you a list". The government du jour could claim that people from Thailand, Finland or India are probably terrorists, so they go to Apple again and Apple "does what they're told to do". Where does it stop?
For years, these large tech companies have become more brazen with their attempts at accessing your personal information. And if they're not appropriating your personal data, they are 'helpfully' changing your device's settings to what the company believes is good for you, not what you set it to. (I've seen this first-hand, frequently and constantly with operating system makers, it's not just some unfounded opinion).
Oh, BTW, yes, tech companies do listen to your private conversations!
Don't get me started on how you verbally mention a product or service within ear-shot of a device with a microphone running Facebook or YouTube and about 20 minutes to 12 hours later, an advert will come up in your feed for what you talked about earlier. I'm not talking about mentioning the product or service during a phone conversation, nor do we search these things up on the device, it's all during the course of private verbal conversations in our home. My wife, son and I personally see this happen all the time, while the companies say "We don't do that!". I'm sorry, I don't believe you. It's happened too many times to be coincidental. If companies are bothered so little about lying so easily and frequently, why should you trust them with more important things?
While the event that caused me to write this post was Apple's shenanigans, I think we need to hold any company we interact with responsible for their actions. Sure, relying on Apple's ecosystem is very convenient and the integration of their products and services is top-notch, but at what cost? As it is, we mistakenly or unknowingly give out so much private information right now -- shouldn't we at least try to stem the torrent flowing from our homes and work?
Stop hitting the 'Snooze' button
A huge change is necessary...for you, for me and for our friends, family and loved-ones. I don't want to sound like some whacky alarmist, but the call has been sounded. The wake-up alarm has been going off for a while now, it's time to stop hitting the 'Snooze' button!
While I cannot give you legal advice, I encourage you to break ties with these large but untrustworthy companies, find a company that promises privacy and security and has great reviews across the internet, then move your data, messages and services to them. Search the internet for non-Apple, de-Googled devices and have a techie friend or family-member get it set up with your new services. If you can find a well-reviewed Linux smart phone, that certainly would fit the bill. Remember, if you don't know much about the different alternative devices and operating systems, please seek solid technical advice before switching, but do switch as soon as possible!
Apple, maybe the loss of my business will be completely unnoticeable to you. Maybe throwing the years of loyalty down the drain won't even be a blip on your radar. One drop in the ocean doesn't matter much. However, if you have 10,000, 100,000 or 1 million gallons of those drops bearing down on you, things look a lot different. Apple, get sane and earn our trust again, or droves of smart people will drop you like an angry puffer fish -- giving you the boot from their digital lives and not looking back!
God bless you, and thank you for reading!