Moral? Or twisted?

Sukrita Rungroj — Shutterstock

Ethics and morality have been having a hard time of it lately.

And no, I’m not specifically referring to Elon Musk buying Twitter.

I fancy, though, that many will have strong opinions about the apparent happenings at certain Apple stores lately.

The stores were filled with mesmerized Apple customers, performing their social duty by browsing and perhaps buying a new iPhone. 

Suddenly, though, these particular stores suffered an invasion.

It wasn’t the sort where lots of young people rush into the store, rip out as many gadgets as they can, and run for it. This was something far more subtle. A company called Back Market claims it created a bot that projected AirDrop messages onto phones inside the Apple stores. 

All the phones, it seems. Display phones and, one assumes, customers’ own iPhones.

Perhaps you’re different from me. For your sake, I hope you are. But I’m not sure I’d welcome any strange messages AirDropped onto my iPhone at any time, never mind when I’m in an Apple store.

Especially commercial messages.

Ah, but these messages were buttressed by a sort of morality.

Back Market, you see, sells refurbished gadgets. It was trying to make the point that it’s better to get one of their touched-up Apple wares. To save the Earth, you understand, not to make Back Market any money.

So, these messages offered links to its site.

There, one of the messages read: “Did you know this iPhone is available in white, black, blue, and greener?”

Moral humor, that. It’s a brand new genre.

Another of the messages offered: “It’s time to go refurbished with a cheaper and greener model.”

On Back Market’s YouTube video recording the event, several alleged customers marveled at this celestial intrusion and said it made them think twice about their habits.

I feel confident that you will have several thoughts about this.

Might you think this is a very poor way of persuading people to click on a possible phishing scam? Might you think it would be terrible if the only people who’d actually accepted the AirDropped link were people paid by Back Market or the video’s producers?

Might you think, too, that the bastion of security and privacy known as Apple wouldn’t take too kindly to this exercise — which apparently occurred in London, Paris, and Berlin?

And wait, Apple also sells refurbished devices.

Naturally, I asked Apple for its thoughts. Sadly, no response was AirDropped in my direction.

Back Market, of course, achieved its aims. (Please feel free to accuse me of enhancing them.) The company’s ad agency declares it was merely sending “the message that there is a much better way for the planet to purchase tech today.”

Yet if the only way you can sell your idea is to perform what a man on Back Market’s video calls “un petit hacking,” then perhaps you’re not going about this in an entirely Earth-positive way.


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