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“Trusted Computing” Shouldn’t Be

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Properly, trust is a two-way street – this isn’t that:

    Your next personal computer may well come with its own digital chaperon.

    ….Silicon Valley – led by Microsoft and Intel – calls the concept “trusted computing.” The companies, joined by I.B.M., Hewlett-Packard, Advanced Micro Devices and others, argue that the new systems are necessary to protect entertainment content as well as safeguard corporate data and personal privacy against identity theft. Without such built-in controls, they say, Hollywood and the music business will refuse to make their products available online.

    But by entwining PC software and data in an impenetrable layer of encryption, critics argue, the companies may be destroying the very openness that has been at the heart of computing in the three decades since the PC was introduced. There are simpler, less intrusive ways to prevent illicit file swapping over the Internet, they say, than girding software in so much armor that new types of programs from upstart companies may have trouble working with it.

    ….Critics complain that the mainstream computer hardware and software designers, under pressure from Hollywood, are turning the PC into something that would resemble video game players, cable TV and cellphones, with manufacturers or service providers in control of which applications run on their systems.

    In the new encrypted computing world, even the most mundane word-processing document or e-mail message would be accompanied by a software security guard controlling who can view it, where it can be sent and even when it will be erased. Also, the secure PC is specifically intended to protect digital movies and music from online piracy.

    ….”Microsoft’s use of the term `trusted computing’ is a great piece of doublespeak,” said Dan Sokol, a computer engineer based in San Jose, Calif., who was one of the original members of the Homebrew Computing Club, the pioneering PC group. “What they’re really saying is, `We don’t trust you, the user of this computer.’ ”

    ….Apple has developed the popular iTunes digital music store relying exclusively on software to restrict the sharing of digital songs over the Internet. Apple’s system, which has drawn the support of the recording industry, permits consumers to share songs freely among up to three Macintoshes and an iPod portable music player.

    Apple only has a tiny share of the personal computer market. But it continues to tweak the industry leaders with its innovations; last week, Apple’s chief executive, Steven P. Jobs, demonstrated a feature of the company’s newest version of its OS X operating system called FileVault, designed to protect a user’s documents without the need for modifying computer hardware.

    Mr. Jobs argued that elaborate hardware-software schemes like the one being pursued by the Trusted Computing Group will not achieve their purpose.

    ….Indeed, the effectiveness of the effort to protect intellectual property like music and movies has been challenged in two independent research papers. One was distributed last year by a group of Microsoft computer security researchers; a second paper was released last month by Harvard researchers.

    The research papers state that computer users who share files might use the new hardware-based security systems to create a “Darknet,” a secure, but illegal network for sharing digital movies and music or other illicit information that could be exceptionally hard for security experts to crack.

    “This is a Pandora’s box and I don’t think there has been much thought about what can go wrong,” said Stuart Schechter, a Harvard researcher who is an author of one of the papers. “This is one of those rare times we can prevent something that will do more harm than good.” [NY Times]

What fools these control freaks be.

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About Eric Olsen

  • Mark Saleski

    my next computer will not have microsoft software on it.

    i am so done with those clowns.

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