Out in the cold on December 17

An entry on Monica Helms’ blog
remembers and laments two fine human beings who perished in part
due to cruel and thoughtless homeless shelter management. The
anniversary of the deaths of both is rapidly approaching: December

On 2008 December 17, it was Jennifer Gale, the frequent political
candidate of Austin, Texas. She was found on the streets and
presumed to have died while sleeping on a bench. Why was Jennifer
sleeping on a bench when there was a women’s shelter run by the
Salvation Army in Austin? Therein lies the problem: that shelter
refused to admit her because she was a transsexual; to gain entry
to a shelter, Jennifer would have to use her old male name and
dress like a man, a complete and total assault on her dignity.
This, despite the fact Austin’s laws prohibit housing and public
accomodation discrimination based on many criteria including
“gender identity.”

On 2002 December 17, a passer-by in Atlanta, Georgia, found Alice
Johnston dead. Unlike Jennifer, Alice didn’t wait to quietly die in
the cold; she shot herself in the head. Her final e-mail from her
Yahoo account read simply: “I will soon be homeless. Since women’s
shelters in Atlanta don’t take transsexuals, I’m a goner.” Like
Austin, Atlanta’s laws also included the same anti-discrimination
ordinance, yet Alice’s inquiry to every women’s shelter in Atlanta
all met with immediate rejection once Alice, being as honest and
transparent as one could reasonably expect, told them about her
transgender situation.

When an issue such as transgender status is used to treat someone
as less than human, it is a tragedy. It is the same misguided logic
used by Hitler at the Nazi concentration camps, and it is just as
wrong today as it was then. I can only imagine how many other
senseless deaths, either self-inflicted or at the hands of the
elements, go unpublicized or under-publicized.

Regardless of the misunderstandings due to lack of awareness
regarding transgender status, it is a failure of our society when
any human being is treated as less than human. Those indirectly
responsible for the deaths of Jennifer and Alice should be ashamed
of themselves for the blood on their hands.

Absolutely shocking iPhone privacy holes

Following on the heels of the Writing for the City Brights blog, Yobie Benjamin pens a very damning attack against the iPhone from a privacy advocate standpoint. His article is an easy read even for those relatively unfamiliar with concepts such as cookies.

The single most horrifying thing I have yet to read about Apple or the iPhone, however, is summed up by this quote from the article:

I know what these tracking tools can enable iPhone developers and it’s pretty powerful and devious. If you’re privacy advocate, it’s bad. It’s really very bad.

Why is it bad?

For the most part, if you like your privacy – there is no opt-out feature unless you have a jailbroken/unlocked (more later on this) iPhone.

Combine this with the fact that jailbreaking is something Apple really doesn’t want you to do (from their point of view, the iPhone still technically belongs to them in a way because of the OS on it, another reason to condemn the use of the misleading and loaded term “intellectual property”), and all of a sudden, Apple doesn’t look a whole lot better than many other large corporations when it comes to concern for the privacy of their customers.

Yobie goes on to give a specific example using TwitterFon in which the iPhone’s UDID (serial number) is sent no less than three times to three different places. And unless one is willing to roll the dice and jailbreak one’s iPhone, there is no way to opt-out of this.

There is no “privacy” menu on a standard iPhone; this is something added by those who made the jailbreaking programs. The single most responsible thing Apple can do to regain some of my respect–and the respect of just about anyone with any significant concerns about their privacy–is add this option to the stock iPhone OS.

I’d like to think Apple hasn’t grown too big to give a damn. Especially in light of the fact Apple charges a premium for their hardware and software, I think Apple should be held to a higher standard than most similar companies. Not surprisingly, I think they have fallen far short of it.