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Apple disables Egyptian iPhone GPS

Wandering in the desert

If you buy your iPhone 3G in Egypt, don't expect it to help you navigate the trackless wastes of the Sinai or Akabat.

According to a story published by The New York Times, the Egyptian government has demanded that Apple disable the iPhone 3G's GPS capability as a condition of offering it for sale in that tightly-controlled country.

The Times reports that Apple has "apparently" acceded to the government's demands, even though GPS-enabled iPhone 3Gs are freely available for sale to Egyptians on eBay and elsewhere.

The Egyptian government's reported rationale - that GPS functionality should be limited to military purposes - indicates that Mubarek and Co. are living in a bygone age. For example, The Times article quotes one Egyptian blogger, Ahmed Gabr, as calling the de-GPS-ing of the iPhone "totally pointless" due to the fact that Google Maps "works flawlessly" in Egypt, allowing unfettered access to views of "places you’re not supposed to see."

Not that the Egyptian government is alone in its desire for control. Witness, for example, Google's self-censoring in response to the Chinese government's demands - or, for that matter, today's news that the Chinese government is continuing its efforts to have foreign computer companies disclose details of their security technologies.

As hard as repressive governments may try to keep their citizens in the dark, however, they're fighting a rear-guard action. The simple fact is - as Stewart Brand famously said back in 1984 - that "Information wants to be free." Although Brand used the word "free" in a financial sense - as in "without cost" - Webster's first definition of the word includes the phrase "enjoying civil and political liberty."

Information is a powerful solvent, dissolving shackles wherever it flows freely. The Egyptian government and its repressive brethren worldwide know that and are doing their best to keep it from liquefying their hold on power.

They're going to lose. It may take decades or longer, but the cat is out of the bag. The train has left the station. And the horses are out of the barn. Info-Elvis has left the building.

It's just a matter of time.

And when info is fully free, Apple will certainly be ready to adjust its marketing strategies and sell you the technology you'll need to access it. Even if you're an Egyptian. ®

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