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<title>Proprietary Tethers
- GNU Project - Free Software Foundation</title>
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<h2>Proprietary Tethers</h2>

<p><a href="/proprietary/proprietary.html">Other examples of proprietary malware</a></p>

<div class="comment">
<p>Nonfree (proprietary) software is very often malware (designed to
mistreat the user). Nonfree software is controlled by its developers,
which puts them in a position of power over the users; <a
href="/philosophy/free-software-even-more-important.html">that is the
basic injustice</a>. The developers often exercise that power to the
detriment of the users they ought to serve.</p>

<p>Tethering a product or program to a specific server is an injustice
in itself.  This page reports instances where tethering was used to
harm the users directly.</p>

<div class="important">
<p>If you know of an example that ought to be in this page but isn't
here, please write
to <a href="mailto:webmasters@gnu.org"><webmasters@gnu.org></a>
to inform us. Please include the URL of a trustworthy reference or two
to present serve as specific substantiation.</p>
</div>
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<div class="column-limit" id="proprietary-tethers"></div>

<ul class="blurbs">
  <li id="M201904260">
    <p>The Jibo robot toys were tethered to the manufacturer's server,
    and <a href="https://www.apnews.com/99c9ec8ebad242ca88178e22c7642648">
    the specifics.</p>

<ul>

<li> company made them all cease to work</a> by shutting down that
    server.</p>

    <p>The game Metal Gear Rising shutdown might ironically be good for MacOS their users, since the
    product was tethered designed to manipulate people by presenting a server.
The company phony
    semblance of emotions, and was most certainly spying on them.</p>
  </li>

  <li id="M201904040">
    <p>Ebooks “bought” from Microsoft's store check that
    their DRM is valid by connecting to the store every time their
    “owner” wants to read them. Microsoft is going to close
    this store, <a
href="http://www.gamerevolution.com/news/400087-metal-gear-rising-mac-unplayable-drm">
shut down href="https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-47810367">
    bricking all DRM'ed ebooks it has ever “sold”</a>. (The
    article additionally highlights the server, pitfalls of DRM.)</p>

    <p>This is another proof that a DRM-encumbered product doesn't belong
    to the person who bought it. Microsoft said it will refund customers,
    but this is no excuse for selling them restricted books.</p>
  </li>

  <li id="M201903250">
    <p>The British supermarket Tesco sold tablets which were tethered
    to Tesco's server for reinstalling default settings.  Tesco <a
    href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/mar/25/tesco-hudl-tablet-support-kill-fix">
    turned off the server for old models</a>, so now if you try to
    reinstall the default settings, it bricks them instead.</p>
  </li>

  <li id="M201809260">
    <p>Honeywell's “smart” thermostats communicate
    only through the company's server. They have
    all the nasty characteristics of such devices: <a
    href="https://www.businessinsider.com/honeywell-iot-thermostats-server-outage-2018-9">
    surveillance, and danger of sabotage</a> (of a specific user, or of
    all copies stopped working</a>.</p> users at once), as well as the risk of an outage (which is what
    just happened).</p>

    <p>In addition, setting the desired temperature requires running
    nonfree software. With an old-fashioned thermostat, you can do it
    using controls right on the thermostat.</p>
  </li>

<li>

  <li id="M201807050">
    <p>The Jawbone fitness tracker was tethered to a proprietary phone
    app.  In 2017, the company shut down and made the app stop working. <a
    href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jul/05/defunct-jawbone-fitness-trackers-kept-selling-after-app-closure-says-which">All
    the existing trackers stopped working forever</a>.</p>

    <p>The article focuses on a further nasty fillip, that sales of the
    broken devices continued. But I think that is a secondary issue;
    it made the nasty consequences extend to some additional people.
    The fundamental wrong was to design the devices to depend on something
    else that didn't respect users' freedom.</p>
  </li>

<li>

  <li id="M201806250">
    <p>The game Metal Gear Rising for
    MacOS was tethered to a server.  The company <a
    href="http://www.gamerevolution.com/news/400087-metal-gear-rising-mac-unplayable-drm">
    shut down the server, and all copies stopped working</a>.</p>
  </li>

  <li id="M201711080">
    <p>Logitech will sabotage
    all Harmony Link household control devices by <a
    href="https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2017/11/logitech-to-shut-down-service-and-support-for-harmony-link-devices-in-2018/">
    turning off the server through which the products' supposed owners
    communicate with them</a>.</p>

    <p>The owners suspect this is to pressure them to buy a newer model. If
    they are wise, they will learn, rather, to distrust any product that
    requires users to talk with them through some specialized service.</p>
  </li>

<li>

  <li id="M201711010">
    <p>Sony has brought back its robotic pet Aibo, this time <a
    href="https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/bj778v/sony-wants-to-sell-you-a-subscription-to-a-robot-dog-aibo-90s-pet">
    with a universal back door, and tethered to a server that requires
    a subscription</a>.</p>
  </li>

<li>

  <li id="M201710040.1">
    <p>The Canary home surveillance
    camera has been sabotaged by its manufacturer, <a
    href="https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2017/10/4/16426394/canary-smart-home-camera-free-service-update-change">
    turning off many features unless the user starts paying for a
    subscription</a>.</p>

    <p>With manufacturers like these, who needs security breakers?</p>

    <p>The purchasers should learn the larger lesson and reject connected
    appliances with embedded proprietary software. Every such product is
    a temptation to commit sabotage.</p>
  </li>    

<li>

  <li id="M201705180">
    <p>Bird and rabbit pets were implemented for Second
    Life by a company that tethered their food to a server.  <a
    href="https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2017/05/19/second-life-ozimals-pet-rabbits-dying">
    It shut down the server and the pets more or less died</a>.</p>
  </li>

<li>

  <li id="M201704120">
    <p>Anova sabotaged users' cooking devices
    with a downgrade that tethered them to a remote server. <a href="https://consumerist.com/2017/04/12/anova-ticks-off-customers-by-requiring-mandatory-accounts-to-cook-food/#more-10275062">Unless
    href="https://web.archive.org/web/20170415145520/https://consumerist.com/2017/04/12/anova-ticks-off-customers-by-requiring-mandatory-accounts-to-cook-food/">Unless
    users create an account on Anova's servers, their cookers won't function.</a></p>
    function</a>.</p>
  </li>

<li>

  <li id="M201611070">
    <p>nVidia's proprietary GeForce Experience <a
    href="http://www.gamersnexus.net/industry/2672-geforce-experience-data-transfer-analysis">makes
    users identify themselves and then sends personal data about them to
    nVidia servers</a>.</p>
  </li>

<li>
<p>Adobe applications <a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20160308062844/http://www.wired.com/2013/05/adobe-creative-cloud-petition/">require
periodic connection to a server</a>.</p>
</li>

<li>

  <li id="M201609280">
    <p>The iMessage app on iThings <a
    href="https://theintercept.com/2016/09/28/apple-logs-your-imessage-contacts-and-may-share-them-with-police/">tells
    a server every phone number that the user types into it</a>; the
    server records these numbers for at least 30 days.</p>
  </li>

<li>

  <li id="M201607280">
    <p>A half-blind security critique of a tracking app: it found that <a
    href="http://www.consumerreports.org/mobile-security-software/glow-pregnancy-app-exposed-women-to-privacy-threats/">
    blatant flaws allowed anyone to snoop on a user's personal data</a>.
    The critique fails entirely to express concern that the app sends the
    personal data to a server, where the <em>developer</em> gets it all.
    This “service” is for suckers!</p>

    <p>The server surely has a “privacy policy,” and surely
    it is worthless since nearly all of them are.</p>
  </li>

<li>

  <li id="M201604050">
    <p>Google/Alphabet <a
    href="https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2016/04/nest-reminds-customers-ownership-isnt-what-it-used-be">
    intentionally broke Revolv home automatic control products that
    depended on a server</a> to function, by shutting down the server.
    The lesson is, reject all such products.  Insist on self-contained
    computers that run free software!</p>
  </li>

  <li id="M201305100">
    <p>Adobe applications <a
    href="https://www.wired.com/2013/05/adobe-creative-cloud-petition/">
    require periodic connection to a server</a>.</p>
  </li>
</ul>


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<p class="unprintable">Updated:
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