Paper-towel dispenser with a EULA prohibiting rival brands of paper

John Overholt from Harvard's Houghton Library spotted a paper towel dispenser whose prominent EULA prohibits refilling it with non-Tork brands of towels, with Tork vowing to "enforce its rights under applicable laws and agreements." Read the rest

Adversarial interoperability: reviving an elegant weapon from a more civilized age to slay today's monopolies

Today, Apple is one of the largest, most profitable companies on Earth, but in the early 2000s, the company was fighting for its life. Microsoft's Windows operating system was ascendant, and Microsoft leveraged its dominance to ensure that every Windows user relied on its Microsoft Office suite (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc). Apple users—a small minority of computer users—who wanted to exchange documents with the much larger world of Windows users were dependent on Microsoft's Office for the Macintosh operating system (which worked inconsistently with Windows Office documents, with unexpected behaviors like corrupting documents so they were no longer readable, or partially/incorrectly displaying parts of exchanged documents). Alternatively, Apple users could ask Windows users to export their Office documents to an "interoperable" file format like Rich Text Format (for text), or Comma-Separated Values (for spreadsheets). These, too, were inconsistent and error-prone, interpreted in different ways by different programs on both Mac and Windows systems. Read the rest

How DRM has permitted Google to have an "open source" browser that is still under its exclusive control

A year ago, Benjamin "Mako" Hill gave a groundbreaking lecture explaining how Big Tech companies had managed to monopolize all the benefits of free software licenses, using a combination of dirty tricks to ensure that the tools that were nominally owned by no one and licensed under free and open terms nevertheless remained under their control, so that the contributions that software developers made to "open" projects ended up benefiting big companies without big companies having to return the favor. Read the rest

Americans believe that they should own the mountains of data produced by their cars, but they don't

Your car is basically a smartphone with wheels, and it gathers up to 25gb/hour worth of data on you and your driving habits -- everything from where you're going to how much you weigh. Cars gather your financial data, data on the number of kids in the back seat, and, once they're connected to your phone, data on who you call and text. Read the rest

DRM and terms-of-service have ended true ownership, turning us into "tenants of our own devices"

Writing in Wired, Zeynep Tufekci (previously) echoes something I've been saying for years: that the use of Digital Rights Management technologies, along with other systems of control like Terms of Service, are effectively ending the right of individuals to own private property (in the sense of exercising "sole and despotic dominion" over something), and instead relegating us to mere tenancy, constrained to use the things we buy in ways that are beneficial to the manufacturer's shareholders, even when that is at the cost of our own best interests. Read the rest

Discovering whether your Iphone has been hacked is nearly impossible thanks to Apple's walled garden

This week, we learned that the notorious Israeli cyber-arms-dealer NSO Group had figured out how hijack your Iphone or Android phone by placing a simple Whatsapp call, an attack that would work even if you don't answer the call. Read the rest

Supreme Court greenlights Apple customers' lawsuit over App Store price-fixing

The Supreme Court has ruled on a key question in Apple Inc v Pepper, a class action suit arguing that the App Store violated antitrust law by driving up prices through the monopolistic tactic of prohibiting users from buying apps from third parties, and then taking a 30% commission on every app sold, which led software companies to raise prices in order to remain profitable after Apple had taken its cut. Read the rest

Big Tech lobbyists and "open for business" Tories killed Ontario's Right-to-Repair legislation

In February, Liberal Party opposition MPP Michael Coteau introduced Right to Repair legislation after he was charged $400 to fix the cracked screen on his daughter's Samsung phone; that bill is now dead, as are dozens of Right to Repair bills introduced in US state houses, after Conservative MPs, heavily lobbied by US Big Tech firms, killed it before it could proceed to committee. Read the rest

Talking Radicalized with the LA Public Library: Trump derangement syndrome, engagement algorithms, and novellas as checked luggage

The LA Public Library's Daryl M interviewed me about my new book, Radicalized, specifically, about how my Trump anxiety (created, in part, by the platforms' relentless use of "engagement" tools to nonconsensually eyeball-fuck me with Trump headlines) led to the book's germination, as well as the specific inspirations for each of the four novellas, and the delights of working in novella form. Read the rest

Come see me at UCLA tonight and then with John Scalzi on Sunday at the LA Times Festival of Books!

Tonight, I'll be one of the participants at LA Cryptoparty and README's After Disruption event at UCLA from 7-930PM; it's a panel and workshop on "Big Tech, the future of labor, and how systems have successfully been co-opted in the past." Read the rest

After years of insisting that DRM in HTML wouldn't block open source implementations, Google says it won't support open source implementations

The bitter, yearslong debate at the World Wide Web Consortium over a proposal to standardize DRM for web browsers included frequent assurances by the pro-DRM side (notably Google, whose Widevine DRM was in line to be the principal beneficiary) that this wouldn't affect the ability of free/open source authors to implement the standard. Read the rest

Microsoft announces it will shut down ebook program and confiscate its customers' libraries

Microsoft has a DRM-locked ebook store that isn't making enough money, so they're shutting it down and taking away every book that every one of its customers acquired effective July 1. Read the rest

Researchers find mountains of sensitive data on totalled Teslas in junkyards

Teslas are incredibly data-hungry, storing massive troves of data about their owners, including videos of crashes, location history, contacts and calendar entries from paired phones, photos of the driver and passengers taken with interior cameras, and other data; this data is stored without encryption, and it is not always clear when Teslas are gathering data, and the only way to comprehensively switch off data-gathering also de-activates over-the-air software updates for the cars, which have historically shipped with limited or buggy features that needed the over-the-air updates to fix them. Read the rest

A critical flaw in Switzerland's e-voting system is a microcosm of everything wrong with e-voting, security practice, and auditing firms

Switzerland is about to have a national election with electronic voting, overseen by Swiss Post; e-voting is a terrible idea and the general consensus among security experts who don't work for e-voting vendors is that it shouldn't be attempted, but if you put out an RFP for magic beans, someone will always show up to sell you magic beans, whether or not magic beans exist. Read the rest

HP's ink DRM instructs your printer to ignore the ink in your cartridge when you cancel your subscription

Inkjet printer manufacturers continue to pioneer imaginative ways to create real-world, desktop dystopias that make Black Mirror look optimistic by comparison: one such nightmare is HP's "subscription" printers where a small amount of money buys you ink cartridges that continuously communicate with HP's servers to validate that you're still paying for your subscription, and if you cancel, the ink stops working. Read the rest

Announcing the audiobook for Unauthorized Bread: a DRM-free tale of DRM-locked appliances, refugees, and resistance

Unauthorized Bread is the first of four audiobooks that make up my forthcoming book Radicalized, read by the talented actor Lameece Issaq. The book, published by Macmillan Audio, is a Google Play exclusive, as part of a deal I made to celebrate the launch of a major DRM-free audiobook store that challenges Audible's monopoly on the store. But the Google Play folks have graciously permitted me to sell it with my other DRM-free audiobooks, so you can buy it direct if you prefer. Read the rest

Bird nonpologizes: "we accidentally sent you a threatening letter"

Last week, our lawyers at the Electronic Frontier Foundation sent a reply to Bird, the scooter company, which had sent us an intimidating letter seeking to censor this post on Bird conversion kits, which let you unlock the hundreds of Bird scooters that are auctioned off by cities after Bird fails to claim them from their impound lots. Read the rest

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