My latest Guardian column, The FBI wants a backdoor only it can use – but wanting it doesn’t make it possible, draws a connection between vaccine denial, climate denial, and the demand for backdoors in secure systems, as well as the call for technologies that prevent copyright infringement, like DRM.
The thing all these issues share is that the relevant scientific communities view them as settled questions: vaccines don't cause autism, humans are warming the world, you can't make a copy-proof bit, and you can't make a backdoor that only good guys can fit through.
But in policy circles, each of these is still viewed as controversial, though the backers of the controversy have different motives and power relationships. My column examines two interventions that have made a difference in climate and vaccine denial, and asks what we might do about mathematical denial.
Computers only ever work by making copies: restricting copying on the internet is like restricting wetness in water. Nevertheless, big corporations with hawk-eyed activist investors get away with buying “digital rights management” technologies that purport to prevent unauthorized copying.
Cryptographers (who don’t work for DRM companies) think this is ridiculous, the alternative medicine of computer science. But just as the NHS funds homeopathic “medicine” in public hospitals, legislatures continue to treat digital locks as going concerns, because orthodoxy and political expedience demands it. The entertainment industry is a powerful adversary, the security services are more powerful still.
It’s tempting to play along with them here, offer them more magic beans in the form of backdoors that we pretend only the good guys can fit through, or in the form of purportedly copy-proof bits, but the stakes are awfully high, and climbing steadily.
The FBI wants a backdoor only it can use – but wanting it doesn’t make it possible
[Cory Doctorow/The Guardian]
The World Wide Web Consortium has announced that its members have until April 19 to weigh in on whether the organization should publish Encrypted Media Extensions, its DRM standard for web video, despite the fact that this would give corporations the new right to sue people who engaged in legal activity, from security researchers who […]
States across America are considering “Right to Repair” legislation that would guarantee your right to choose who fixes your stuff (or to fix it yourself); but they’re fighting stiff headwinds, from the motorcycle makers who claim that fixing your motorcycle should be a crime to Apple, who feel the same way, but about phones.
My latest Publishers Weekly column announces the launch-date for my long-planned “Shut Up and Take My Money” ebook platform, which allows traditionally published authors to serve as retailers for their publishers, selling their ebooks direct to their fans and pocketing the 30% that Amazon would usually take, as well as the 25% the publisher gives […]
All the filters in the world won’t save your smartphone pics from a shaky hand. To really step up your mobile photography game, you’ll need some kind of mount to hold it steady. You could buy a smartphone attachment for a conventional camera tripod, but who wants to carry that kind of gear everywhere they […]
The forced transition from analog to digital TV signals was probably met with relative indifference from people with Netflix subscriptions and the “I don’t even own a TV” snoots. But anyone living in the vast swaths of the country that don’t have guaranteed high-speed internet, broadcast TV is a perfectly valid (and 100% free) way […]
When Apple revealed the new MacBook in 2016, one of the biggest issues raised with the notebook’s new design (aside from ire over the slew of new adapters you’d inevitably have to buy) was the removal of one of its most beloved proprietary features, the magnetic charging cable. Thankfully, third-party peripheral makers have taken up […]