You purchased a Tesla Model S and live the %1 eco-warrior dream. Now imagine if GM purchased Tesla and sent an over-the-air update to disable all Tesla cars because they’re working on their own electric substitute? Literally even if you were on the freeway to pick up your fajita skillet from Chili's To Go. You’d be pretty sassed, right? Google is doing just that and setting a new precedence of poor choices. Arlo Gilbert recently reported his discovery of Nest’s decision to permanently disable the Revolv home automation tool that parent company Google acquired 17 months ago.
To clarify, if you bought the Revolv device, not only will it no longer be supported for future updates but Google is going to disable existing models already purchased and in use. The app will stop to function and the hub will cease operating. There’s no logical business reasoning stated on Revolv’s FAQ, but Google's very visible middle finger is another recent example of exercising the terms and conditions of the rarely read or understood EULA. The End User License Agreement or EULA is a masterful contract, washing away ethical and legal responsibilities of the issuing body. In this example, it allows Google to disable a service you purchased even before Google acquired the company.
You'd think this is just another tin-foil hat security rant...
Increasing coverage on various EULA’s terms of acceptable use and ownership are coming to light; specifically when related to corporate disclosure of personal data. What's more disturbing are the increases in terminology for allowances to actively track you beyond metadata analytics. Oculus’s new RIFT VR headset has some rather unsettling EULA conditions, made more creepy due to the very nature of the device’s intended use. U.S. Senator Al Franken recently wrote an open letter to Brendan Iribe, CEO of Oculus VR (owned by Facebook, masters of the EULA) questioning the depth of “collection, storage, and sharing of user’ personal data”. Given the intended use of Oculus as an immersive input device, their EULA is akin to a keyboard manufacturer being allowed to record your keystrokes, for the purpose of “making sure heavily used keys are strengthened for future clientele”. The exhausted cries over NSA intrusion into our lives are muffled by the petabytes of voluntary metrics we provide private companies to share and sell, all decided by clicking “I Agree” to the EULA.
So where’s the backlash?
It’s taken some time, but as Fortune noted this week, people are finally realizing that sharing their most intimate secrets on the internet may not be such a wise thing to do (I'd say stupid or dumb but that’s insensitive). People are now recognizing that everything posted on the internet comes at a cost of privacy and privacy isn’t such a bad thing. Yet now we have corporations disabling products, justified by esoteric clauses defined in ammended EULAs, so maybe it’s time to reevaluate where we stand as end users. You don’t have to update iTunes or use Apple’s App store, but that makes owning an Apple device pretty difficult. You don’t have to agree to Windows default telemetry settings but it’ll be difficult to disable everything in Windows.
Yea, I can run Bastille Linux and wear a trilby in my dark cave of knowledge but I’ll miss out on some pretty neat advances in technology, and life in general. So what do we do? Read the fine print and make educated and logical choices based off our desired needs for the product or service’s intended use. Yea right.... I need my Instagram filters more than my privacy. Ok, maybe making sure people don’t use iTunes to produce biological weapons is a good idea, but “how” would be something interesting to see. That person should receive a grant or something.