Whether its smartphones, tablet PCs or video games consoles, the EFF wants it to be legal and safe to "jailbreak" the devices. Last week, it asked the U.S. Copyright Office to grant an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for the practice, and has explained its reasoning for it.
The EFF finds that jailbreaking has delivered in areas of innovation, security, privacy, usability and more, across all the devices it affects.
With video game consoles, the EFF cites the U.S. military supercomputers made up of PS3s. The low-cost (relative) of the PS3 clusters wired together, is enabled by using OtherOS, a feature originally available for all fat PS3 consoles. It allowed a user to install an alternative operating system on the console.
In 2010, however, Sony decided to kill off the OtherOS functionality with a network update, effectively removing an entire function that was available at the point of purchase for millions of customers. The EFF points out that the only way for those customers to regain the feature is to hack the console, and it wants exemptions to the DMCA to allow any owner of a PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii or other consoles, to run their own homebrew software or alternative operating system.
The group also points out that jailbreaking has had a positive effect on smartphones. Jailbreakers were the first to successfully configure keyboards to sync with Apple's iPhone, and also to enable older iPhone models to record video. Apple later officially adopted both features.
It also helped Smartphone security during the DigiNotar situation. DigiNotar was a certificate authority that issued digital certs to authenticate and secure communications between various services online. When DigiNotar was hacked and fraudulent certificates were created, software updates were pushed out across browsers and platforms to revoke DigiNotar certificates. However, older versions of Android were not configured to update in this way, and so users had to jailbreak their phones just so they could protect themselves.
Jailbroken iPhones also got an unofficial working patch for a serious PDF flaw that affected the iPhone's Safari browser, long before Apple got an official patch out.
The EFF also applauds the jailbreaking community for developing homebrew tools and solutions to aid with privacy. With the iPhone, for some time only jailbroken handsets had a solution to stop text messages from appearing automatically on the screen for anybody to read. They also got unofficial patches to stop Apple logging detailed location data on iPhones.
For Android, an application called LBE Privacy Guard allows for personal research and monitoring of sensitive data that third-party applications may try to access. But these privacy-protective applications are only available to users who jailbreak their devices.
The EFF is encouraging Apple, Sony, Microsoft and all other manufacturers to support the exemptions to the DMCA, though probably realize there is not much chance of that happening.
Written by: James Delahunty @ 6 Dec 2011 8:36