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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Technological Consumerism and Ethical Questions

   
Author Topic: Technological Consumerism and Ethical Questions
AchillesHeel
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The following link will take you to a review of a new iphone app called Burner. Anyone who has watched a crime show in the last seven years knows exactly what a "burner" is. It is a cheap pre-paid cellphone that is great for use in criminal activities, because when you are done you can simply toss the phone and unless someone can prove you ever had that exact physical phone then it cannot be used to incriminate you.

Article.

Burner, by Ad Hoc Labs allows you to make an unlimited amount of new and fully functional numbers to use as you see fit and then delete all trace of it from your iphone (as it is only available on iphone so far.) Calls made to the temporary burner number are automatically directed to your phone, but to my understanding when you "burn" the temporary number all information of it is deleted from your phone. I don't necessarily believe that all connections can be removed but it is not impossible.

This would be very useful for drug dealers, sex trade, traffickers (drugs, weapons, sexual slavery including but not limited to international/intercontinental and under-age) and especially stalkers.

This is being sold via itunes app store.

Is Apple in anyway acting unethically by selling this? Itunes has refused to sell apps before, "graphic nudity" will make itunes think twice about selling a product but Burner seems to have had a great opening.

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Mucus
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Not sure it is smart to trust a cloud service to "forget" which burner numbers you've bought. Particularly in the States, cloud services haven't had the best record of standing up to law enforcement, warrant or no warrant.
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scifibum
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quote:
Not sure it is smart to trust a cloud service to "forget" which burner numbers you've bought.
Exactly - deleting the information from your phone is one thing, but the service provider knows what you've done. So it's not going to be much of a shield when it comes to criminal activities.

In fact, law enforcement probably LOVES this concept for catching dumb criminals.

Where this will probably find the most (potentially damaging) use is infidelity. You can post a temporary hookup number on Craigslist and it would be difficult for a spouse to discover it by looking at your phone.

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Strider
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You guys may be right, but your responses are slightly tangential to the ethical question posed by AH.

This is tough, the idea isn't that there is something inherently wrong/criminal about the app right? It's that the potential for abuse with it is high. But there's a high potential for abuse with alcohol and guns and we don't tend to think it's unethical for stores to sell them. So one question would be, when is the potential for abuse with something high enough that the moral responsibility for its use shifts, at least in part, to the distributor?

Another question would be, is Apple being consistent in their policy of accepting or rejecting particular apps. What's their criteria?

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Strider
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quote:
Where this will probably find the most (potentially damaging) use is infidelity. You can post a temporary hookup number on Craigslist and it would be difficult for a spouse to discover it by looking at your phone.
Well, they would still see unrecognizable numbers making calls to you right? I don't see how it would all that different. The calls still show up on your usage statistics, correct? Or no?
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Orincoro
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I think the idea is no, the app directs calls from an anonymized service tht doesn't reveal your number to the caller- likely it would hide the caller's number as well by blocking ID. You'd still get calls from "blocked".
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Strider
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Right, so if you already have a suspicious spouse who's looking at your phone log, a blocked number won't be substantially different from an unrecognized number. They just couldn't follow up on it and try to call it themselves.
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Kwea
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What is the nominal purpose of this, the benefit of it is you are NOT a drug dealer or cheating spouse?

Millions of people drink, and shoot guns for sport and recreation, and do it safely and responsibly, so while abuse can and does happen there are plenty of activities that are legit.

What is the legit purpose of this app, and how many people will be using it for that purpose as opposed to abusing it?


Those questions seem more more to the point of the question...

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AchillesHeel
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If you are listing something on Craigslist for sale it could be nice to not have your personal number published. But then again you could have used a physical burner anyway.
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Dan_Frank
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quote:
Originally posted by Kwea:
What is the nominal purpose of this, the benefit of it is you are NOT a drug dealer or cheating spouse?

Millions of people drink, and shoot guns for sport and recreation, and do it safely and responsibly, so while abuse can and does happen there are plenty of activities that are legit.

What is the legit purpose of this app, and how many people will be using it for that purpose as opposed to abusing it?


Those questions seem more more to the point of the question...

I assume: To make a dopey pimple faced kid or a tubby middle aged man feel a little bit more like Michael Westen?
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AchillesHeel
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I don't necessarily understand how having a temporary phone number translates to pretending you are a spy. Trying to blow up every car you come across sounds more like Michael Westen behavior, either that or using fake accents to become friends with strangers.
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Emreecheek
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Honestly, the first thing I thought of upon hearing about this app is "This would be really handy for hookups."

While I can picture somebody being able to easily erase it from their phone, I doubt the service provider "forgets" as easily. [Smile]

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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Strider:
Right, so if you already have a suspicious spouse who's looking at your phone log, a blocked number won't be substantially different from an unrecognized number. They just couldn't follow up on it and try to call it themselves.

Not necessarily, since it's an app, they could be using something like VoIP rather than routing an actual phone call (assuming that Apple allows that, but you can definitely do it on Android).

(But yes, it seems like a resource-intensive hassle compared to just getting a cheap pay-as-you-go phone)

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Stephan
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My father, in his old age, has become incredibly paranoid about "big brother" government. He would love something like this, for no illegal activities.

It is sort of like torrent software. Most people use it for illegal purposes. But because it is not used just for copying movies and music, it isn't illegal in itself.

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Strider
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If your father is paranoid about big brother, his first cause for concern would be the iPhone in his pocket. [Smile]
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Stephan
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quote:
Originally posted by Strider:
If your father is paranoid about big brother, his first cause for concern would be the iPhone in his pocket. [Smile]

He actually doesn't have one yet.

But that raises a good point. Can't the phone company pinpoint the location of where a call was made if the police want them to?

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