Who should your computer take its orders from?
Most people think their computers should obey them, not obey someone else. Yet, with a plan they call "trusted computing" and software they call Windows Genuine Advantage, Microsoft and others are planning to make your next computer obey them instead of you, and this has serious consequences for your privacy.
Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) is Microsoft's system for remotely checking your computer. WGA scans various parts of your hard drive to reassure Microsoft that you are running an "approved" version of Windows. WGA is mandatory monitoring system and if Microsoft decides you are not "approved" they can disable your computer's functionality. Currently Microsoft confirms that WGA checks:
WGA has caused a number privacy related problems, including deletion of software. WGA gets automatically updated as part of Microsoft's critical update procedures, giving users little choice but to accept changes to the systems Microsoft can monitor. Many have claimed that WGA is spyware, and although Microsoft have denied such intent, they retain the power to decide what counts as an invasion of your privacy.
For Windows 7 they are changing the name of the product to Windows 7 Activation Technologies (WAT), but the functionality remains the same.
Microsoft's version of a "Trusted Computing" scheme is called "Palladium". Proprietary programs have included malicious features before, but Palladium would make it universal.
Hollywood and the record companies will use Palladium to ensure that downloaded videos and music can be played only on one specified computer and the sharing of 'authorized' files will be entirely impossible.
Making sharing impossible is bad enough, but it gets worse. There are plans to use the same facility for email and documents--resulting in email that disappears in two weeks, or documents that can only be read on the computers in one company.
Imagine if you get an email from your boss telling you to do something that you think is risky; a month later, when it backfires, you can't use the email to show that the decision was not yours. "Getting it in writing" doesn't protect you when the order is written in disappearing ink.
Treacherous computing puts the existence of free operating systems and free applications at risk, because you may not be able to run them at all.
Some versions of treacherous computing would require the operating system to be specifically authorized by a particular company. Free operating systems could not be installed. Some versions of treacherous computing would require every program to be specifically authorized by the operating system developer.
You could not run free applications on such a system. If you did figure out how, and told someone, that could be a crime.
© 2009 Free Software Foundation, Inc
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