Last episode (less than an hour old now – you might want to read it first) was about a case of computer rental companies engaging in truly horrifying invasions of privacy. The article I cited finished with a mention of an interview with an anonymous representative of the company DesignerWare, in which he said that he felt his company had done no wrong. DesignerWare is the company that created the software used to steal passwords and get pictures of unsuspecting nekkid people.
They say they’ve done no wrong!? Are you shitting me? They were pure evil!
Wait, no, that’s not quite right. They enabled pure evil. They didn’t activate “Detective Mode” on those computers, the mode that allowed such terrifying transgressions. They wrote the software, and they sold it, but it wasn’t they who turned it on in situations where it wasn’t warranted.
How do we assess the responsibility of DesignerWare? People tried to sue gun makers when people were shot, but with no success. Is Detective Mode like a gun, where the manufacturer can’t be held responsible for the behavior of its customers?
On DesignerWare’s site, they even tout the features they’ve added to protect users’ privacy. But behind the scenes they put in this super-spy-mode feature to help rental companies recover their hardware.
It wasn’t DesignerWare who turned on Detective Mode when it wasn’t warranted. That was something the dickheads at their client companies did. Those bastards deserve to be strung up by their short-and-curlys. No doubt there. But was DesignerWare wrong?
The key word, I believe, is ‘warranted’. Is such an invasion of privacy ever justified? The DesignerWare people would say yes, there are legitimate cases where the rental company has the right to use every means at its disposal to recover its property. Funny thing about ‘warranted’, though – law enforcement would have to get a warrant to conduct similar surveillance. (Well, not any more, but that’s another rant.)
My argument is this: if there’s no legal or ‘warranted’ way to use that software, then at the very least DesignerWare is guilty of fraud for selling it without telling their customers that use of that feature is illegal, rendering it valueless.
Detective Mode is not a gun. Gun companies argue that it’s not their responsibility if their customers use the product illegally. They can do this because there are legal uses of the product, and most gun owners follow those laws. DesignerWare can’t argue that they’re not responsible if their customers use the product illegally, because there is no other use.
So, yep, DesignerWare is evil.