Sunday, June 26, 2011

These four items are connected, because this... (#1)

On Thursday, the Supreme Court handed the pharmaceutical industry a major victory and consumers and privacy advocates a major defeat by striking down a Vermont law that banned the sale of prescription drug records for marketing purposes.
The court, in a 6-to-3 ruling, said Vermont violated the free speech rights of drug manufacturers by forbidding pharmacies from selling doctors’ prescription information to them yet allowing the data to be sold for other purposes, such as research. ...

Pharmacies collect information about prescriptions that they fill, including the names of patients and doctors, dosage, patient’s age, gender, and drug history. They sell the information, with patients’ names encrypted so companies cannot see them, to data-mining firms such as IMS Health, one of the companies that sued the state of Vermont. The companies compile each doctor’s prescribing history for each patient and sell the information to pharmaceutical companies, which use the data to devise plans on how best to sell drugs to individual doctors.
In short, what is involved here, without question, is the desire of corporations to obtain information that they can use to sell drugs. Period. And the Supine Court says they can't be stopped because "It's free speech, baby!" Free speech, my ass. Just when the hell did commercial speech become the same as free speech? Actually, I think I know: It was probably when corporations became "legal persons" with similar rights of free speech in election campaigns.

In fact, in the view of the Injustices, is there any longer any such thing as "commercial speech," which can be regulated? Perhaps not:
“Fear that speech might persuade provides no lawful basis for quieting it,’’ [Anthony] Kennedy wrote [for the majority].
In that case, how can advertising be regulated? I'm serious. After all, "speech to persuade" is exactly what advertising is. What we have right before us is a case involving obtaining information for the specific purpose of selling a product, that is, to persuade. If that can't be regulated, then I ask again, how in hell can any advertising be regulated? Is the FTC about to be deemed unconstitutional?

Meanwhile, as SCOTUS hands more power to corporations, other corporations are just going ahead and trying to grab what control they can.
Apple is developing software that will sense when a smartphone user is trying to record a live event, and then switch off the device's camera.
The idea is that concert promoters would have infrared lights installed at the venues and if anyone held up their iPhone to record the show, sensors on the phone would detect the beams and shut down its camera function.
[T]he real reason Apple is developing the technology is to placate broadcasters upset that members of the public are posting footage of events on websites including YouTube when they have bought the exclusive rights. ...

Assisting record companies in this manner is likely to help Apple secure more favourable terms with labels when negotiating deals to place music for sale on its iTunes website.

It could also potentially provide Apple with another source of revenue by charging people to film live events.
So again, it's about the money, about the profits. But there is another fundamental point here, because it's also about something else: the control. If I have bought an iPhone, then I own it. I paid for it. What I do with it is neither Apple's legal responsibility nor its concern - nor, frankly, is it any of Apple's damn business. But none of that matters because Apple wants the ability to continue to control your phone even after you buy it.

Those of us who remember Apple's famous "1984" commercial remember how the company liked to present itself as the challenger to, the underminer of, corporate hegemony. That was always a fantasy, of course, but it is still disappointing to see how determined it is now to become an enabler of that same corporate control.

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