Daniel Eran Dilger
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Unraveling Anti-Apple Panic: iPhone Activation Privacy Scare

Unraveling Anti-Apple Panic: iPhone Activation Privacy Scare
Daniel Eran Dilger
CNET’s Michael Tiemann desperately wants your attention before you activate your iPhone. It’s apparently a matter of Internet Safety, if his blog tags are not just random words to bait the attention of Google.

Don’t dismiss Tiemann just because he blogs for the notoriously anti-Apple CNET. He’s also president of the Open Source Initiative and vice president of open source affairs at Red Hat.

What did Tiemann discover to share with the rest of humanity? “Apple and AT&T are demanding customers reveal SSNs to activate their iPhones. That should be the lead of every technology and business article written this week. If you don’t believe me, read on.”
Michael Tiemann
Tiemann refers to this as a “consumer protection disaster in the making” and goes on for many paragraphs about identity theft and the EFF’s ongoing case against AT&T.

The EFF has filed suit against AT&T for “violating the law and the privacy of its customers by collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in its massive, illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans’ communications.”

[EFF’s Class-Action Lawsuit Against AT&T for Collaboration with Illegal Domestic Spying Program – EFF]
Panic First, Think Later!
The problem with rattling off so many paragraphs of nonsense is that Tiemann fails to grasp that no problems are solved by his panicking, nor by his attaching them to the iPhone in perhaps a desperate bid to meet CNET’s anti-iPhone story quota. We expect more, Tiemann.

Identity theft and domestic spying are certainly very real and important issues. However, they are not related to the iPhone, and shame on Tiemann for falsely suggesting that a Social Security Number is somehow unique to Apple in the world of credit reporting. What an absolutely fantastically ignorant thing to say.

Any credit application–which includes any mobile service contract–asks for the users’ SSN. It isn’t required to get an iPhone, it’s required for credit. That’s why its related to identity theft: thieves use SSNs to obtain credit, because credit is assigned based on a record held unique by the user’s SSN. Specious absurdity, Tiemann.

The activation session through iTunes is just as secure as any online order, which due to SSL encryption is far more secure than placing an order over a landline telephone call. Tiemann’s SSN panic is just as foolish as those who like to create fear that drives people from the web to their wide-open phone to place credit card orders.

Shame on you, panic mongers and purveyors of ignorance, taking advantage of people who assume you know what you are talking about simply because some corporation has assigned you a way to spread your ignorance.

But wait, are you really being ignorant Tiemann, or just devious? You are an executive right, and likely have a bank account? Perhaps a line of credit? Maybe you have a cell phone service contract with your SSN on it?

AT&T and the NSA.
Charges that AT&T supported government spying on American citizens by allowing the NSA to conduct illegal wiretaps are certainly a serious concern. However, AT&T didn’t need to obtain SSNs to do this. It’s a phone company, and controls phone lines. It doesn’t need an SSN to allow the spooks to listen in to your conversations.

If wiretapping is a real concern, Tiemann should warn everyone who relies on AT&T for any type of service, not conflate a routine SSN credit check with spying. Does the NSA need some help in discovering a citizen’s SSN?

Tiemann, you do realize that the government already knows our SSNs, right? It granted them. It doesn’t need to align with AT&T and wait for a person to activate an iPhone to discover their SSN. It already has access. It’s the freaking NSA, not a phreaking essay.

The real solution to government spying is to demand a government that isn’t hellbent on trying to make Nixon look like a saint in comparison. Without a corrupt government spying program, we won’t need to worry about whether AT&T is sheepishly following orders mandated by an insanely power mad administration.

If AT&T is letting the NSA listen in, it really won’t matter if its an iPhone or a BlackBerry or a pay phone or your mom’s kitchen phone. If we’re content to live in a criminally Orwellian, militarized police state, we can’t really blame it all on Apple for delivering the iPhone.

I’m pretty sure Steve Jobs voted for the other guy anyway. He sits on Apple’s board, you know.

What do you think? I really like to hear from readers. Comment in the Forum or email me with your ideas.

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