U2 4 U

(An essay in tweets)

Say what you will about U2 4 U, it was the most Steve Jobs-ian stunt Apple has pulled in years: heartfelt, egomaniacal, and grandiose.

Personally, I wouldn’t have minded having the U2 album show up in my iTunes if it had actually, y’know, shown up.

After various glitches, i ended up with multiple copies of some songs and none of others. So not quite the best advertisement for Apple Pay.

The album itself is no worse than U2’s other recent work, but no better either.

All that said, there is something to the point that Apple crossed some kind of line by putting the album on people’s devices without consent.

U2 4 U gave users an uncanny glimpse of the power that lies behind cloud technology. It was a Goffmanian gaffe.

In this respect, it’s much like Amazon’s deleting 1984 from Kindles, as @ScottMadin observes: a reminder that someone has such power.

People’s trust in the cloud — in technology — is based on a trust that it will work predictably and at their direction.

So when Apple drops U2 on your iPhone, it shatters the illusion that your iPhone just works on its own, which is deeply unsettling.

Apple of all companies — having invested so much in convincing users that their devices Just Work — should have been alert to the dangers.

It was basically harmless — but in the same way that skidding and then regaining control of your car is “harmless.” You’re still rattled.

The general principle here isn’t quite consent, because to talk about when your consent is needed, we need to know what counts as “yours.”

To take a first cut at it: devices are yours, so are things you paid for access to, and things you make, and collections you curate.

Apple’s flub was the same as Amazon’s with 1984, and Twitter’s with tweet injection. This is what’s wrong with malware, and Yahoo shutdowns.