Stanford students protest Apple over device addiction, demand OS fixes



A group of Stanford University students launched a public protest against Apple this weekend, claiming that Apple has failed to take “common sense” steps to curb technology addiction, reports the Stanford Daily. Citing multiple studies and noting Apple’s ability to spur industry-wide changes, the Stanford Students Against Addictive Devices (SSAAD) campaign marks an escalation of concern over device addiction, which has expanded from worried parents to include affected young people speaking out on their own behalf.

Led by three Stanford computer science majors and a Stanford Hospital medical student, SSAAD protested outside Apple’s Palo Alto store, a location that historically has been personally visited by key Apple executives. The group handed out pamphlets and engaged with the public, calling on Apple to take specific actions to decrease the addictiveness of iPhones.

According to the pamphlet, titled “Apple holds us captive,” half of teens feel addicted to their iPhones, and over two-thirds of adults check their iPhone hourly, collectively causing stress, harming personal relationships, and undermining productivity. “Even though Apple’s business model does not rely on device addiction,” SSAAD said, “they fail to take common sense steps to address the issue.” SSAAD proposed that iPhones include a usage pattern tracker to clearly show time spent in various apps, add granular controls for notifications, and offer an “essential mode” that restricts iPhone usage to calls, texts, and photos.

This protest is noteworthy because of both the protesters and their specific target. While the topic of device addiction was previously raised by Apple shareholders who also happened to be concerned parents and educators, SSAAD’s protest comes from students concerned about themselves and their friends. Apple has previously said it will enhance parental controls in iOS 12, without providing specifics. The Stanford Daily reported that unaffiliated passersby stopped to agree with the protesters, noting that many younger people have become addicted to their phones without realizing it.

Apple has a longstanding, positive relationship with Stanford. Headquartered in nearby Cupertino, Apple has for years hired engineers from the university’s computer science department, entrusted the school with its historic archives, and more recently collaborated with Stanford medical teams on health-related initiatives. One of SSAAD’s founders suggested that Stanford’s proximity to the tech industry compelled the protest. “We are going to go work for these different companies, and we need to have some sort of ethical footing,” said SSAAD’s Sanjay Kannan. “I’d say this is one of the more uncontroversial issues out there. I think a lot of people agree that people are addicted to their phones.”

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