Privacy Police

Your Cell Phone is a Robot That Wants to Destroy You, Says Eben Moglen

The robot invasion is upon us, and it fits in the palm of your hand.
 Your Cell Phone is a Robot That Wants to Destroy You, Says Eben Moglen

Mr. Moglen, robotic soothsayer. (Photo: Columbia)

FreedomBox cofounder and Columbia law professor Eben Moglen is widely recognized for his controversial ideas about the Internet and privacy, so it was unsurprising when we learned that he’s not really that into Facebook and Twitter. But did you know that he thinks your cell phone is out to kill you? Or maim, at the very least.

Mr. Moglen certainly believes that smartphones are more foe than friend. This is because, according to Forbes, smartphones still don’t have the first rule of robotics encoded into their technological makeup. That rule, written by scifi writer Isaac Asimov, is, “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.”

Mr. Moglen told Forbes:

We imagined that robots would be designed so that they could never hurt a human being. These robots have no such commitments. These robots hurt us every day.

They work for other people. They’re designed, built and managed to provide leverage and control to people other than their owners. Unless we retrofit the first law of robotics onto them immediately, we’re cooked.

They take our money. They take our autonomy. They spy on us. And around the world, they result in our arrest, beating, torture.

Remember that whole Carrier IQ scandal, where everybody freaked out that the service was sending private data to Verizon without telling you, and then the holidays came and we promptly forgot about it? Carrier IQ is a great example of what Mr. Moglen is talking about: The robot in your phone is beholden to one master, and you ain’t it.

Might we suggest some light reading?

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