Digital Stockholm Syndrome

Wired has a interesting, if shocking, piece on users who willingly infest their computers with spyware to get some crappy program.

I’m tempted to put on my Arrogant Mac-User hat, but I’ll resist the urge.

No, wait, f*ck that.


There, that’s better.

This kind of thing is the digital equivalent of saying “Gee, why should I use a condom? It’s not like I’m going to be in Haiti again!” It’s essentially taking your computer and turning it over to someone else. Installing crapware with Marketscore essentially means that every single site you visit, every place you go, they know. They have access to your credit card information, any files you might be sharing, anything. It’s all theirs. And people are stupid enough to let them get away with it so they can do something that Firefox will do for them without turning their computer into some fly-by-night company’s personal bitch.

I admit — I cannot fathom the level of abject stupidity involved in such a decision. If someone did this with Mac users, they’d get run out on a rail. The same applies for Linux users. We just don’t tolerate that kind of crap.

Yet it seems like people have been trained to accept that their computers should run slow, send all their personal data to God knows where, blast them with porn popups (including their children’s computers), and end up being used as a spam relay to add to everyone’s problems. The vast majority of computer users are suffering from a digital Stockholm syndrome. They’ve accepted their hijacking in favor of some asinine little gewgaw that lets them see what temperature is outside. And because of it, the people who are smart enough to give a damn about their property are forced to deal with the constant stream of spam, worms, and support calls.

So long as this problem remains, it’s only getting worse. How long until someone gets it into their head to start using all this crapware to commit mass identity theft? How long until someone finds their computer stuffed full of child pornography thanks to some stupid little casino game they’ve downloaded? How long until someone gets so sick of all this crap that they create a truly destructive program that erases people’s hard drives? How long until someone writes a program that changes every value in every Excel spreadsheet by +/- 10% — imagine what that would do in a Fortune 500 company.

Sadly, we’re going to find out sooner or later, thanks to the fact that a certain company has created a climate in which people accept such things as the norm rather than a gross and disgusting breach of personal privacy.

UPDATE: This comment from Slashdot seems draws a perfect analogy:

You shouldn’t need to get another piece of hardware to protect a computer that’s perfectly capable of protecting itself, running the right software.

Performing workarounds for Windows is what leads to acceptance of worms (just buy a hardware firewall) what leads to acceptance of viruses (just buy an antivirus) and what leads to acceptance of spyware (just buy an antispyware) and what leads to acceptance of systems so bogged down by combinations of the above (just reinstall every 6 months).

It’s a bit like living in a really bad neighbourhood and denying it’s a problem. “Oh we’re OK, we live in a safe area. As long as you put bars on all your windows, don’t leave the house when it’s dark, put up bullet proof windows, and don’t make eye contact with the neighbours you’re perfectly safe”

Apart from how it’s broken, it works perfectly

3 thoughts on “Digital Stockholm Syndrome

  1. Ah, and I remember in high school when you bashed me for liking Macs (now, if only I could afford one)…

    I’ll be looking forward to seeing you in the Democratic party in 2012. 🙂

  2. Sorry, NM, but that’s not an ipso facto kinda thing.

    Here I am, a mac using graphic designer/illustrator, and, yes, a Republican, too.

    But don’t give up hope, man!

    = )

  3. Nicholas,

    You can certainly afford a Mac now. It is called Mac Mini. By the way I am not a Republican.


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