Links: Google plugin for Mac spyware? GPS-less iPhone in Egypt story hits mainstream

The funny thing about being a modern web worker is that the meaning of vacation has changed — no longer does it mean just stopping work; these day it is merely the right to delay your contribution to the value-chain until you return to your desk and catch up on said work. In the end, you end up doing the same amount of work, vacation or no.

Regardless, I’m grateful for the week I’ve had to rummage around in Middle Egypt, and ended up not paying much attention to the internet (and what a luxury that is). Now that I’ve caught up at work, it’s time to catch up at blog. Cool georeferenced trip photos and tracks will follow later.

  • Google Earth web plugin for Mac comes with, er, spyware: Swedish MacWorld alerts us that the otherwise wonderful and much anticipated Google Earth web plugin for Mac also installs a separate application that runs at startup and is intended to check for updates to installed Google web plugins — but with full root access to your Mac, and by phoning home, as detected by anti-spyware app Little Snitch. So what is the problem? It’s the fact that you are not told during installation that this additional software is being installed, nor given a choice to install it (or not). If anyone else but Google were to do this, we’d be calling it spyware and raking those responsible over metaphorical coals.

    Macworld’s Anders Lundberg wastes no time telling us which files to delete to get rid of the application. Even if your Swedish isn’t any good, the list is easy to follow.

    Soon after, The LA Times came out with a post that puts Google’s updater in a wider context, and also criticizes it for overstepping a boundary:

    The updater doesn’t appear to do anything harmful, per se. But it’s annoying. Although it’s well-hidden, it runs constantly and cannot be disabled unless you remove the software it’s associated with. Only a few apps are supported at the moment — the Talk plugin, App Engine and Google Earth Plugin, among them.

    As the LA Times notes, Google seems willing to correct this transgression in a future update, as implied in this KML Developer Support Google Group post.

  • iPhone in Egypt redux: Six weeks after you read it here on Ogle Earth, mainstream media catches on to the news that the Egyptian iPhone has no GPS functionality, at least not as sold.

    The New York Times kicks off this round with an article that does a good job of asking the bigger questions — is it alright for a technology company to acquiesce to authoritarian dictates for its products, and to what extent is access to GPS a “right” — while the Guardian gets a quote from yours truly.

    Just keep in mind that GPS has always been banned for civilians in Egypt, because of a lack of legislative initiatives by a dysfunctional government and a paranoid military that still has a significant voice in national politics. In other words, the GPS ban is nothing personal, and it’s not enforced (because it is not enforceable). If anything, the high profile of the iPhone may goad the government into some face-saving action.

More updates tomorrow. First, some sleep.