Sponsored by: This story appeared on Network World Fusion at http://www.nwfusion.com/columnists/2002/0715bradner.html 'Net Insider: Not quite Independence Day Network World, 07/15/02 The editions of this magazine and Newsweek that came out closest to July 4 each had articles about the recently divulged Microsoft Palladium project to secure computer systems and intellectual property rights. But neither article spent much time exploring another aspect of the proposal: the user's ability to control his own computing environment. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Your reaction Join the discussion on Palladium. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ For those with short memories, or who did not read either of those articles, Palladium is Microsoft's project to implement the Trusted Computing Platform Alliance's trusted computing architecture. The aim of the project is to develop a hardware/software combination that can be used to identify the user of a computer and give the user control over what software gets run on the machine and over who can read or forward material the user creates or transmits. The latter feature can be used by copyright holders to control distribution of their material. But Palladium is a tool and, like many tools, could be turned into a weapon. And not just a weapon against copyright violations. In the era of Internet dependence and rampant vulnerability of the computers on the Internet, something needs to be done to protect us against viruses, invasions of privacy, the information on our machines and maybe even spam. It has been said Palladium-equipped systems will do all of that plus protect Disney if someone wants to run off with a copy of "The Little Mermaid." So why do I worry? For one thing, to deliver on these promises Palladium implementations will have to be bug-free. "Bug-free" and Microsoft are not often associated concepts. But a bigger worry is that Palladium could be too good at what it's designed to do. Microsoft could use Palladium to control what software could run on your computer, a government could use it to control what you could see on the Internet, or a PC vendor could make it impossible for you to sell your used computer. People could send e-mail that only the intended recipient could read, a neat feature if you are Bill Gates about to be hauled into court, but not so good if you want to prove that someone is harassing you. Not exactly Independence Day concepts. I might be a bit less worried about these scenarios if the Microsoft Media Player update that came out about the same time as these articles did not require the user to agree to let Microsoft "automatically"(such as without your knowledge or permission) update software on your computer, not limited to Media Player. This could keep you from using software Microsoft does not approve of on your computer. Palladium will be a success if it is widely adopted and that will require people to trust it and the organizations that will be able to control it. With the Media Player update, Microsoft has shown again that trust will not come easily. Disclaimer: Ask our neighbors - trust in Harvard improves with distance. But the university has not expressed an opinion on this topic. Related Links Reaction: Here's what some Fusion users are saying about this article:What do you think? Add your comments to the thread All contents copyright 1995-2002 Network World, Inc. http://www.nwfusion.com