I’m from the Netherlands. That may sound like a weird statement to start a column with– don’t worry, at the end of this week’s Sunday Eve Column you’ll understand why I put my nationality so bluntly up front.
You see, being Dutch implies a few things. Besides it implying you are a know-it-all, it also implies a certain pride in knowing that in your country, everybody is legally equal, whether he or she be black, white, or polka dot; whether he or she be heterosexual, homosexual, or both; whether he or she be a rich banker, a hard working carpenter, or a chronic patient of whatever disease unemployed at home. That equality stems from the first article of the Dutch Constitution [.pdf], which states:
“All who are in The Netherlands, will in equal cases be treated as equals. Discrimination on the grounds of religion, way of life, political orientation, race, sex, or any other ground, is prohibited.”
This is the very basis on which this little country is built. This 1st Article can be seen shining through Dutch society everywhere; be it same-sex marriage, euthanadicsia, or our liberal (but very successful) drug policies.
However, there’s enough to complain about too, of course. And this brings me to two Dutch people who complained a lot, in the past few years, and got murdered because of it. You have all heard about them; politician Pim Fortuyn, and film maker Theo van Gogh. Even though I highly disagreed with both of them on fundamental issues, I respected, and still respect them, for their guts, honesty, and openness. They were not afraid to say what they thought, even though they had to pay for it with their lives.
You might not realise it, but in the tech world today, there’s something going on that bears a striking resemblance to the above cases. It might not be as far-fetching on a personal level (as in, nobody is getting murdered), but if you break the three cases (the two murders in The Netherlands, and the case I’m currently talking about) down to their bare essentials, they are practically the same.
Pim Fortuyn got murdered because of what he said. Someone, and in The Netherlands we all know his name, murdered someone else because he did not agree with him. In essence, the murderer attacked the very concept of democracy. The killer got what he deserved, a life sentence, but that of course does not reverse the suffering he has caused among Fortuyn’s family, and his followers.
Theo van Gogh also got murdered because of his opinions. He made films which spouted critique, and because of that, he was murdered. His murderer also got a life sentence, but again, this does not bring Theo van Gogh back to his family and friends.
And the case in the tech world is about the same. Certain websites, certain individuals and journalists, have said certain things which a certain company didn’t like. These websites, individuals, and journalists got their hands on information which wasn’t supposed to be out yet; new products, future plans for the company, you name it. For the company in question, secrecy and mystery concerning its products is part of its marketing campaign, and as such, anything that dispels that secrecy and mystery is considered dangerous to sales and thus to shareholders.
Hence, this company is doing something which, as I said, on the personal level might not compare in any way to what the two murderers have done, but in purpose and results is the same: to silence people, to stymie the concept of free speech, not only of the said individuals, but also of any individuals who in the future might have information they want to share.
You all know, by now, who I’m talking about. I’m talking about the tech world’s teddy bear, the goody two-shoes of computing, the big innocent of .mp3 players: Apple Computer. Apple is trying to silence people, trying to work its butt around free speech, just because the company itself is failing in keeping information from leaking to the outside world.
The deal is this: Apple lets its employees sign an NDA. People break this NDA by giving information under that NDA to certain websites such as AppleInsider and ThinkSecret. Apple then wanted those websites to disclose their sources, to “tell mom”, so to speak, because websites do not deserve the same protections as the “legitimate press”. They succeeded.
But what constitutes as the “legitimate press”? A university degree? Publication method? Number of readers?
And that is where the problem lies. In the modern day world of the internet and blogging, anyone can be a journalist. Every blog, no matter how small or insignificant, is a little newspaper in its own right. Therefore, they deserve the exact same protection as the New York Times or De Volkskrant. Charles Cooper of CNET News.com put it best:
“The real subtext is this: Apple is directed by a collection of control freaks who would have found themselves quite at home in the Nixon White House. The big difference being that reporters had the constitutional freedom to report on the Nixon White House.”
Later this month, Apple will face an appeal on behalf of blogs and online journalists, who demand the same protection from subpoenas that the “legitimate press” enjoys.
As managing editor of OSNews.com, and as Dutchman who experienced first-hand what attacking the freedom of speech can lead to, I am very, very, deeply worried about the current chain of events in this case. Apple is attacking the freedom of speech as well as the freedom of press, and they must not succeed in doing so.
If you would like to see your thoughts or experiences with technology published, please consider writing an article for OSNews.
First, the part of the Netherlands constitution is no different then what the constitutions of most democratic countries have. I don’t know when yours was put in place though, I’m guessing its a newer one, unlike the US constitution which took a few upgrades to get it there. I don’t see the need for calling it out like it is somehow different then many other countries. I’m also sure like any other countries, its implementation doesn’t always work as well as what is stated.
Secondly, and this is in no way a dis on the Netherlands, just wanting to explain something. What may sound like big news or well known in the Netherlands, will probably be a completely unknown thing to much of the world. Your country is very small and no news within it travels very far. So its very hard for people to follow your story since they have zero idea of what you are talking about. I would guess only those from the Netherlands and those regions right around it have any idea what you were talking about. It has to be a really really big event with some global consequences to go far. I have zero idea of what you were talking about for events in the Netherlands. I would guess the bulk of people here are in the same boat.
Anyways. To the later part. Yes, people do give apple to much slack on stuff. When they do something its fine, but if MS was to do it, MS is evil. That does bother me and needs to stop. And as a mac user it bothers me more to see the insane mac users go off like that how Apple is so great.
But on the subject of NDAs, its simple. Companies have them, probably most all tech companies do, I don’t want to think about how many I have to obey. If you don’t want to sign one, you just don’t work for that company. Very simple. If someone does break one, a company has every right to take action. What you see as minor may have huge implications for the company. Also all their suppliers and so forth that are involved. It does effect stock prices and so forth. Also there is zero reason for this to be leaked.
The whole reason apple has succeeded so much in the last few years is they run a tight ship. They don’t produce vapor ware, or leave people hanging. Thats how it should be, say nothing till your shipping. Also means you don’t let people down. (as in people rumor that such and such device is coming, interest gets driven up, then it doesn’t happen and people are for some reason mad at apple).
You not liking NDAs is not a reason for complaining a company in-forces them. Without them and the trust between people and companies created by them, industries such as the tech industry would move very slow.
Furthermore, sites like apple insiders and other rumor sites, aren’t news sites. They have no right to publish stuff that was obtained through improper channels. If you are going to post something about a forth coming product to the level of a rumor, it better becoming from a press release or approved interview. Yes, we all like to read a rumor, but we have no right to know that info. But a company like apple definitely has a right to find out where it came from so they can take action. If a site was called “defenseinsider” and got leaked rumors on military hardware from people who broke NDAs, do you think the Government and contractors have no right to track down that person?
Furthermore, if you had a company, would you want your employees leaking info, especially if it could cause the competition to react early and thus torpedo your product before launch and maybe destroy your company? That may sound extreme, but companies put a ton of money into some products, and if someone is able to react before it, they could loose everything.