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<title>Proprietary Tethers
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<h2>Proprietary Tethers</h2>

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

<div class="infobox">
<hr class="full-width" />
<p>Nonfree (proprietary) software is very often malware (designed to
mistreat the user). Nonfree software is controlled by its developers,
which puts them in 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 and manufacturers often exercise
that power to the detriment of the users they ought to serve.</p>

<p>This typically takes the form of malicious functionalities.</p>
<hr class="full-width" />
</div>

<div class="article">
<p>Tethering a product or program means designing it to work only by
communicating with a specific server.  That is always an injustice
since it means you can't use the program without that server.  It is
also a secondary injustice if you can't communicate with the server in
another way.</p>

<p>In some cases, tethering is used to do specific nasty things to the
users.  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 serve as specific substantiation.</p>
</div>

<div class="column-limit" id="proprietary-tethers"></div>

<ul class="blurbs">
  <li id="M202007280">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2020-07</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>The Focals eyeglass display, with snooping
    microphone, has been eliminated.  Google eliminated
    it by buying the manufacturer and shutting it down.  It also <a
    href="https://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/canadian-smart-glasses-going-offline-weeks-after-company-bought-by-google-1.5042010">shut
    down the server these devices depend on</a>, which caused the ones
    already sold to cease to function.</p>

    <p>It may be a good thing to wipe out this product—for
    “smart,” read “snoop”—but Google
    didn't do that for the sake of privacy.  Rather, it was eliminating
    competition for its own snooping product.</p>
  </li>

  <li id="M202007270">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2020-07</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>The Mellow sous-vide cooker is
    tethered to a server. The company suddenly <a
    href="https://www.slashgear.com/mellow-sous-vide-owners-get-unwelcome-subscription-surprise-27630842/">
    turned this tethering into a subscription</a>, forbidding users from
    taking advantage of the “advanced features” of the cooker
    unless they pay a monthly fee.</p>
  </li>

  <li id="M202005070">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2020-05</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Wink sells a “smart” home hub that is tethered
    to a server. In May 2020, it ordered the purchasers to start <a
    href="https://www.techhive.com/article/3542631/wink-users-revolt-following-its-sudden-shift-to-a-subscription-model.html">
    paying a monthly fee for the use of that server</a>.  Because of the
    tethering, the hub is useless without that.</p>
  </li>

  <li id="M201909061">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2019-09</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Best Buy made controllable appliances and <a
    href="https://www.theverge.com/2019/9/6/20853671/best-buy-connect-insignia-smart-plug-wifi-freezer-mobile-app-shutdown-november-6">
    shut down the service to control them through</a>.</p>

    <p>While it is laudable that Best Buy recognized it was mistreating
    the customers by doing so, this doesn't alter the facts that
    tethering the device to a particular server is a path to screwing the
    users, and that it is a consequence of having nonfree software in the
    device.</p>
  </li>

  <li id="M201904260">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2019-04</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>The Jibo robot toys were tethered to the manufacturer's server,
    and <a href="https://www.apnews.com/99c9ec8ebad242ca88178e22c7642648">
    the company made them all cease to work</a> by shutting down that
    server.</p>

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

  <li id="M201904040">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2019-04</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <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="https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-47810367">
    bricking all DRM'ed ebooks it has ever “sold”</a>. (The
    article additionally highlights the 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">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2019-03</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <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">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2018-09</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <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 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 id="M201807050">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2018-07</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <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 position further nasty fillip, that sales of power over the users; <a
href="/philosophy/free-software-even-more-important.html">that
    broken devices continued. But we think that is a secondary issue;
    it made the
basic injustice</a>. nasty consequences extend to some additional people.
    The developers often exercise fundamental wrong was to design the devices to depend on something
    else that power didn't respect users' freedom.</p>
  </li>

  <li id="M201806250">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2018-06</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <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
detriment of server, and all copies stopped working</a>.</p>
  </li>

  <li id="M201711080">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2017-11</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <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 users 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 ought are wise, they will learn, rather, to serve.</p>

<p>This document reports instances where distrust any product that
    requires users to talk with them through some specialized service.</p>
  </li>

  <li id="M201711010">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2017-11</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Sony has brought back its robotic pet Aibo, this time <a
    href="https://www.vice.com/en/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 id="M201710040.1">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2017-10</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <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 software. Every such product is
    a temptation to commit sabotage.</p>
  </li>

  <li id="M201708310">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2017-08</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>The recent versions of Microsoft Office require the user to <a
    href="https://products.office.com/en-us/microsoft-office-for-home-and-school-faq?legRedir=true&CorrelationId=c9c5b549-11ad-4f71-bf81-b7e069fdb372">
    connect to Microsoft servers at least every thirty-one
    days</a>. Otherwise, the software will refuse to edit any documents
    or create new ones. It will be restricted to viewing and printing.</p>
  </li>

  <li id="M201705180">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2017-05</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Bird and rabbit pets were implemented for Second
    Life by a company that tethered their food to a server.</p>

<ul>
<li> 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 id="M201704120">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2017-04</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Anova sabotaged users' cooking devices
    with a downgrade that tethered them to a remote server. <a
    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>
  </li>

  <li id="M201611070">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2016-11</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <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">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2016-09</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <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">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2016-07</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <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>
<p>Google/Alphabet <a
href="https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2016/04/nest-reminds-customers-ownership-isnt-what-it-used-be">
intentionally shut off home automatic control products

  <li id="M201604050">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2016-04</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Revolv is a device that depend managed “smart home”
    operations: switching lights, operate motion sensors, regulating
    temperature, etc.  Its proprietary software depends on a server</a> remote server
    to function.  The lesson is, don't stand for that! do these tasks.  On May 15th, 2016, Google/Alphabet <a
    href="https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2016/04/nest-reminds-customers-ownership-isnt-what-it-used-be">intentionally
    broke it by shutting down the server</a>.</p>

    <p>If it were free software, users would have the ability to make it
    work again, differently, and then have a freedom-respecting home
    instead of a “smart” home. Don't let proprietary software
    control your devices and turn them into $300 out-of-warranty
    bricks. Insist on self-contained computers that run free software!</p>
  </li>

  <li id="M201305100">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2013-05</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <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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