- 52 months ago
This is a copy-paste of a post I wrote on The Book of Faces last night.
Screaming Into The Void (Chapter 18, Volume 108)
I'm starting to wonder if there is any longer any point in publicly calling out the perfidy of software companies as they seek to intrude on our privacy and personal information, with such intrusions predicated on the thinnest reasoning, if indeed any thought was given to the matter at all -- the only animating principle discernible in this pattern appears to be, "Because we can."
I have been a user of Razer mice since their very first product, the Razer Boomslang opto-mechanical mouse, over 15 years ago. (If I dig in my pigsty long enough, I may even be able to find the original cookie tin it came in.) I have gotten newer units over the years -- a Viper mouse, an Ouroboros Bluetooth mouse -- and despite the brand having acquired a reputation for being more flash than substance, the product line has served me well. But that may have changed last night.
Yesterday, my Razer Copperhead finally keeled over, and refused to enumerate on the USB bus (how a solid-state mouse could wear out and die is something of a puzzle -- the only one in my possession ever to do so -- but whatever, we'll run with it). On the strength of a review appearing on The Wirecutter, I ordered a Razer Deathadder Chroma, which arrived last night. I plugged it in to my desktop, which was booted into Linux at the time. The mouse enumerated immediately, lit up colorfully, and moved the pointer around. 10/10. Later that evening, I crashed the machine into Windows so that I could install the Razer configuration software, called Synapse 2.0, which lets you adjust the mouse settings. I ran the utility and was immediately confronted with...
...A login prompt.
In the interests of complete disclosure, Razer will hastily point out that, once you've configured your mouse, you don't need to login again (unless you want to change something again). This bewildering and frankly self-serving response completely ignores the fact that the need for a login to an external site, or the need to store hardware configuration settings anywhere other than the local machine, is completely gratuitous, and confers no benefit whatsoever to the user.
If I had done my homework dilligently, I would have known about this and avoided the mess. And it's true that I could use 10minutemail.com to create an account under an ephemeral email address and get access to the settings. But what's throwing me, and leading me to think, "What's the fscking point in saying anything at all?" is that, upon closer reading, I discovered this controversy was mentioned in the very Wirecutter article that recommended the mouse, and dismissed it as No Big Deal.
So what is "wrong" with me that I happen to think that it is a big deal? What is "wrong" with me that I am considering sending the mouse back to Amazon for a refund? I have never been especially good at picking hills to die on but, as a software engineer, I know mouse drivers and configuration tools can run entirely locally. I know the Cloud component is entirely gratuitous and unnecessary. And even if the Cloud thing could be shown to be beneficial (it can't), I know that a working email address is also unnecessary, since they could just as easily key config data to the mouse's serial number. I am offended that an industry colleague actually wrote this, that a member of my profession actually inflicted this on his users.
But does it matter? Hell, millions of users of this misbegotten site happily furnish personal data and psych profiles (masquerading as quizzes) without a second thought, to people and computers they will never meet. Coughing up an email to use a mouse seems like peanuts in comparison.
Is it worth the time and expense to pack up this bit of plastic and ship it back to the manufacturer just to make a principled point?
When journalists, writing in the role of consumer advocacy, shrug off invasive, wholly gratuitous demands for personal information, is it worth the energy to care about this stuff anymore?