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Tuesday, Aug 03rd

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Apple's extension of "Activation Locks" to laptops will turn refurbishable electronics into e-waste

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"Activation Lock" is a tool that uses Apple's trusted computing hardware to render systems inoperable if you don't have a login/password; nominally, this is used for theft-deterrence, but when Apple product owners fail to disable Activation Lock when they dispose of their equipment, it becomes effectively impossible to refurbish or repair, dooming it to become e-waste. This is exacerbated by Apple's own poor documentation and UI for Activation Lock, which is most prominently documented in a brief mention at the bottom of this support page. Many users are unaware of Activation Lock, and it's easy to overlook disabling it when wiping and disposing of a device. Activation Lock has been an Iphone-only feature, but as of this fall, Mac laptops equipped with the T2 security chip and running Apple's "Catalina" OS will have Activation Lock on by default, which means that a ton of Apple computers are about to join Apple's phones on the scrapheap. Activation Lock goes beyond the firmware lock that some Apple laptops have used to date -- repairers have been able to bypass firmware locks with a complicated procedure (using special tools similar to those that Apple has previously characterized as illegal under Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which bans bypassing DRM), but that won't work for Activation Lock. Peter Schindler of the repair advocacy group The Wireless Alliance suggests that Apple could fix this by giving certified refurbishers unlock codes for the T2 chip (Apple is able to unlock T2/Activation Lock lockups in its own repair centers). Read the rest

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