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Monday, December 18, 2006

Kosher Phone Lawsuit

This is an interesting little story:
In 2005, a group of rabbis formed a council to find a way Hasidic Jews could use cell phones without getting exposed to soul-corrupting text messages and spam. They enlisted the help of Sprint Nextel in developing something called a Kosher Phone: a so-called "plain vanilla" voice phone that would preclude the very possibility of going online, and the attendant temptations. Of course, it didn't work.

One would think this could be easily accomplished by using older-model phones, but one would, apparently, be wrong. After a year of negotiations and $150,000 spent, Sprint acquiesced and issued a limited batch of phones with text-messaging functions blocked and SIM cards taken out. Then, horror: "Some users reported instances in which devices had the ability to send and receive text messages." The lawsuit charges that Sprint, somewhat understandably nervous about the commercial prospects of this retarded (in the very literal sense) technology, went behind the rabbis' back and switched the texting functions back on.
So the whole much-publicized and highly-touted "Kosher phone" hack didn't actually work, apparently. I guess trusting Sprint to keep the phones "kosher" just didn't produce results.

This story may seem absurdly overprotective to some readers - why are text messages considered "un-kosher", and how far with some people go to keep out seemingly harmless outside influences? But I am not so quick to judge. This inability to protect oneself or much more commonly, one's children, from the dangers of the internet is something I hear a lot these days. People install the latest in filters, firewalls, and parental controls on their computers, for example, and yet their children manage to find a way to get around them (not necessarily to anything inappropriate - but even if they find a way onto a sports site that hasn't been approved, the filtering software has failed). The few actual horror stories I've heard about kids stumbling onto truly inappropriate online content (and I'm not talking about ESPN) have forced me to completely prohibit internet access to my kids except under very infrequent, closely supervised sessions. Some may find that overly protective. I do not. So the grounds for this lawsuit, the claim that the Sprint company did not adequately protect their consumers from the dangers of text messaging capability as outlined in their contract, is a quibble I can understand even if it is not a standard I myself require.

Just another example of how hard it must be to deal with the encroaching modernity of today for those who are determined, at any cost, to keep as far behind the dangerous effects of the onward march of technology.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do you need a cell phone at all? For years and years peopel survived without cell phones. Just don't buy one.

9:33 AM  
Blogger Gil Student said...

I agree. I used to think the complaints about cell phones are overkill until I started playing around with mine. It is incredibly easy to download pictures of swimsuit models on the simplest of phones and without being mischievous.

In the end, though, after installing all the filters etc., you still have to teach your children how to use this technology responsibly. Ultimately, that is the final answer. Although keeping temptation a little farther away is also important.

10:00 AM  
Blogger joshwaxman said...

for an example of how text messages can be unkosher, see this Wired article.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Charlie Hall said...

Text messages are kosher:


12:41 PM  
Blogger Charlie Hall said...

Text messages are kosher:


12:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just another example of how hard it must be to deal with the encroaching modernity of today for those who are determined, at any cost, to keep as far behind the dangerous effects of the onward march of technology.

Seriously, why don't the Hasidic just move into a cave and completely remove themselves from the 21st century?

Do you even realize how fanatical and absurd this whole "issue" with cell phones sounds?

8:45 AM  
Blogger nikki said...

so what about the renegade who discovered that his or her phone could still support sms? the problem does not lie with the phone. it's the user.

11:24 AM  
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db stole this link. no hattip. again. fun.

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't beleive that that someone spent some much money to block text messaging. These rabbis are foolish for wasting somemuch money

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