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You are not allowed to read this

Digital Rights Management and Trusted Computing is something that is being lively discussed these days. The big vendors such as Microsoft and Adobe all give a positive image of it and how it will help ensure the privacy of one’s documents. There is another side to the story though, and it is far less pleasant.

Even though the computer manufactures do not admit it, the Trusted Computing platform is all about DRM. Information Week writes that Levono is demonstrating a new Thinkpad with support for Microsoft and Adobe DRM. It doesn’t stop there either:

The system is also aimed at tracking who reads a document and when, because the chip can report back every access attempt. If you access the file, your fingerprint is recorded.

What the manufacturers are trying to make people understand is that the creators are in charge of who has access to their documents. The real power though, lies in the hands of the software and hardware vendors since they have the encryption keys. They could even hold your data ransom and blackmail you for money.

And as if this was not enough, with the Trusted Computing platform, the vendors can control what you can or can not do with your own computer. All applications will be signed by Microsoft for instance, which would leave all competing software vendors in the dark and make them unable to compete. And forget about running Linux.

Slashdot user Opportunist had a very interesting remark about this, which sums up the debate rather well:

It’s nice to know that the content industry now trusts my computer and lets it play its crappy movies. The problem is, I don’t trust it anymore. I won’t trust it with my data, I won’t trust it with my files, I won’t trust it with my time.

At least until I find a way to make MY computer MINE again.”

Richard Stallman wrote a story about this some time ago, and it seems that his prophecy is about to take form. The Right to Read is a very interesting and eye-opening fiction story about a student who needs to use another student’s computer. The thing is — It’s now no longer fiction, it’s fact.