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

"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. Read the rest

One Weird Law That Interferes With Security Research, Remix Culture, and Even Car Repair

How can a single, ill-conceived law wreak havoc in so many ways? It prevents you from making remix videos. It blocks computer security research. It keeps those with print disabilities from reading ebooks. It makes it illegal to repair people's cars. It makes it harder to compete with tech companies by designing interoperable products. It's even been used in an attempt to block third-party ink cartridges for printers. Read the rest

Checkm8: an "unstoppable" Iphone jailbreaking crack

Last month, a developer called Axi0mx released an Iphone crack called Checkm8, which attacks a defect in the Ios bootrom, a low-level piece of code that has not been successfully attacked since 2010. The bootrom is read-only, making its defects effectively unpatchable, short of removing the chip and swapping it for one with more robust code (the attack also works on version 1, 2 and 3 Apple Watches). Read the rest

Apple reverses ban on HKmap.live app tracking Hong Kong protests & police

A bit of good news for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, and the app developers trying to help them not get injured or killed by police. Read the rest

Adversarial Interoperability

“Interoperability” is the act of making a new product or service work with an existing product or service: modern civilization depends on the standards and practices that allow you to put any dish into a dishwasher or any USB charger into any car’s cigarette lighter. Read the rest

Apple bans an app because Hong Kong protesters might use it to avoid the murderous, out of control police

Hkmap Live is a crowdsourced app that uses reports from a Telegram group to track the locations of protesters, police, and traffic, as well as the use of antipersonnel weapons like tear gas, mass arrests of people wearing t-shirts associated with the protest movement, and mass transit closures in proximity to demonstrations (it's a bit like Sukey, the British anti-kettling app). Read the rest

Nerf unveils "DRM for darts"

Hasbro's got a new foam dart gun, the $50 Nerf Ultra One blaster, and to make sure that owners of this toy arrange their affairs to the benefit of Hasbro's shareholders, the company has engineered a digital rights management system that detects and refuses to fire third-party darts, which sell by the hundreds for just a few bucks (the official darts are $10 for 20), which means that party organizers running Nerf wars will have to scale back their ambitions or shell out like crazy. Read the rest

Podcast: DRM Broke Its Promise

In my latest podcast (MP3), I read my new Locus column, DRM Broke Its Promise, which recalls the days when digital rights management was pitched to us as a way to enable exciting new markets where we'd all save big by only buying the rights we needed (like the low-cost right to read a book for an hour-long plane ride), but instead (unsurprisingly) everything got more expensive and less capable.

The established religion of markets once told us that we must abandon the idea of owning things, that this was an old fashioned idea from the world of grubby atoms. In the futuristic digital realm, no one would own things, we would only license them, and thus be relieved of the terrible burden of ownership. They were telling the truth. We don’t own things anymore. This summer, Microsoft shut down its ebook store, and in so doing, deactivated its DRM servers, rendering every book the company had sold inert, unreadable. To make up for this, Microsoft sent refunds to the custom­ers it could find, but obviously this is a poor replacement for the books themselves. When I was a bookseller in Toronto, noth­ing that happened would ever result in me breaking into your house to take back the books I’d sold you, and if I did, the fact that I left you a refund wouldn’t have made up for the theft. Not all the books Microsoft is confiscating are even for sale any lon­ger, and some of the people whose books they’re stealing made extensive annotations that will go up in smoke.

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Podcast: A cycle of renewal, broken: How Big Tech and Big Media abuse copyright law to slay competition

In my latest podcast (MP3), I read my essay "A Cycle of Renewal, Broken: How Big Tech and Big Media Abuse Copyright Law to Slay Competition", published today on EFF's Deeplinks; it's the latest in my ongoing series of case-studies of "adversarial interoperability," where new services unseated the dominant companies by finding ways to plug into existing products against those products' manufacturers. This week's installment recounts the history of cable TV, and explains how the legal system in place when cable was born was subsequently extinguished (with the help of the cable companies who benefitted from it!) meaning that no one can do to cable what cable once did to broadcasters. Read the rest

A cycle of renewal, broken: How Big Tech and Big Media abuse copyright law to slay competition

As long we've had electronic mass media, audiences and creators have benefited from periods of technological upheaval that force old gatekeepers to compete with brash newcomers with new ideas about what constitutes acceptable culture and art. Those newcomers eventually became gatekeepers themselves, who then faced their own crop of revolutionaries. But today, the cycle is broken: as media, telecoms, and tech have all grown concentrated, the markets have become winner-take-all clashes among titans who seek to dominate our culture, our discourse and our communications. Read the rest

Interoperability and Privacy: Squaring the Circle

Last summer, we published a comprehensive look at the ways that Facebook could and should open up its data so that users could control their experience on the service, and to make it easier for competing services to thrive. Read the rest

Podcast: Interoperability and Privacy: Squaring the Circle

In my latest podcast (MP3), I read my essay "Interoperability and Privacy: Squaring the Circle, published today on EFF's Deeplinks; it's another in the series of "adversarial interoperability" explainers, this one focused on how privacy and adversarial interoperability relate to each other. Read the rest

DOJ indicts man for paying AT&T employees to help him unlock millions of customers' phones

When Congress legalized phone unlocking in 2014, they added a bunch of carve-outs that let phone companies veto your attempt to unlock your phone, with the big one being that you couldn't unlock your phone while you were still in a contract that provided it to you at a reduced price. Read the rest

Podcast: "IBM PC Compatible": how adversarial interoperability saved PCs from monopolization

In my latest podcast (MP3), I read my essay "IBM PC Compatible": how adversarial interoperability saved PCs from monopolization, published today on EFF's Deeplinks; it's another installment in my series about "adversarial interoperability," and the role it has historically played in keeping tech open and competitive. This time, I relate the origin story of the "PC compatible" computer, with help from Tom Jennings (inventor of FidoNet!) who played a key role in the story. Read the rest

"IBM PC Compatible": how adversarial interoperability saved PCs from monopolization

Adversarial interoperability is what happens when someone makes a new product or service that works with a dominant product or service, against the wishes of the dominant business. Read the rest

Judge rules that EFF's DRM lawsuit can proceed!

In 2016, EFF sued the US Government on behalf of Andrew "bunnie" Huang and Matthew Green, both of whom wanted to engage in normal technological activities (auditing digital security, editing videos, etc) that put at risk from Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Read the rest

Debunking Microsoft's anti-Right-to-Repair FUD

Microsoft is no stranger to the use of "Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt" in the pursuit of monopolistic goals; the company perfected the tactic in the early 1990s as a way of scaring enterprise customers away from GNU/Linux; today, the company shows off its mastery of FUD in its filings to the Federal Trade Commission condemning proposals for Right-to-Repair rules. Read the rest

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