Living two lives no longer

Michael Rogers, over at MSNBC, has an interesting column discussing the TPM chip. It appears that a bunch of hardware and software companies have been getting together to work on the Trusted Platform Module chip that will house your identity information. The TPM chip is installed in the factory and is assigned an unchangable identifier. In fact, some of these are already in place in corporations, with consumer devices - ranging from PCs to cell phones - to be getting them soon. This will effectively remove the anonymity of the web.

I must admit, my kneejerk reaction is probably much like everyone else's: "Ahhhh! There they go again!" But, then, I realize there is a positive to this. The internet is growing up. It is an unruly child no longer and discipline is starting to be pondered. Sure, this does mean that the footloose and fancy-free days may be ending, but a whole new world of opportunities may be opening, just as it did when we grew up, ourselves.

In his article, "Game Design in the Transfigured World," Allen Varney talks about a world with a simulated reputation, somehwat like ebay feedback ratings. The TPM chip maybe a first step in that direction?

Well, it looks like the days of the Wild West are coming to a close. It's a shame, really. Of all the complaining we love to do about the anonymity of the internet, it lent us all some insight. For instance, most people are just two meals away from savagery, but there are always a few tribal leaders ready to rise to the status of an icon.

Seeing things go this commercial, and, well, Orwellian makes me wonder exactly how pure it's all going to feel in 10 years.

Someday, I'll tell the kids about the days when the internet could still be looked to as a frontier relatively unmolested by legistlation and tracking. Of course, they'll more than likely be on to something completely new and amazing brought into prominence in their version of the roaring '90s.

Original Comment by: Randall Fitzgerald
I think that your kneejerk reaction may well hold its weight to serve as an overall feeling. I see no benefit to the end user for tracking purposes. Do you know how annoying eBay style feedback would be all over the net? Say one guy goes to some forum just to be a dick, does that mean people should exclude him because he is a lame ass at one site, but earnestly tries to be helpful and nice at another of his own liking? I don't know how regularly any of you read 4Chan, but there was some drama there recently involving the pre-teens of Gaia Online. This would mean that everyone pissy kid at Gaia Online would start spamming bad karma in the direction of 4Channers and vice versa.

I know it's tacky and older than Jesus, but I have to point to The Hacker Manifesto written so many ages ago by The Mentor. To quote, "We exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias..." This idea speaks to a greater ideal. Are your net friends black? Does it matter? What if you know their tastes outside of your shared interests? All I can see this doing is bringing an air of nose-raising to the internet. Holier than thous can exercise their snobbery without so much as giving you the benefit of having to read what you've said. Moving on from that idea...

How about totalitarian governments? Won't it just be grand to allow them to easily stifle the voices that can barely get out as it is. Won't it be wonderful when those government's goons can easily find and disappear someone's teenage son for looking at the wrong site because he was curious about what else the world held. And in our own country, with the movement away from civil liberties, won't be nice that the government now has to do NO work whatsoever to invade our privacy because they can just call us up by one of our processor ID numbers. How about anti-Bush sites? How many of them would get talkings to by the FBI, just as many already have. Live Journal users have already been harassed over anti-proesidential sentiments, would you have it made easier?

Any benefit brought around by these sort of devices is going to be immediately outweighed by government interference or money hungry advertisers. Oh hey, great! You can track my every more so as to more effectively feed me your advertisements. Hurray! You want to leverage fines against A-list bloggers for violating indecency laws that shouldn't exist in the first place? Sounds like a wonderful future I have to look forward to. Of course, I like to take solace in the idea that it will take all of a week for someone to implement a block on the transmission of those numbers, and I will be on that train for sure.

Original Comment by: Slartibartfast

This thing will be hacked in six months and I'll definitely be disabling/spoofing mine.

Original Comment by: Christopher S. 'coldacid' Charabaruk
The presented reason for this is security, but there's another big reason behind treacherous computing -- economic benefits through forced planned obsolescence and the ability to lock out smaller developers. I'm less worried about the obsolescence (we all replace our computers pretty often to keep on the bleeding edge, right?) but the potential for security backdoors for intelligence agencies, and the possibility of locking out software developers who don't pay the TC cabal's tariffs, make me despise the entire idea of "trusted computing". After all, you should never put a capitalist in a position of trust.

Original Comment by: Andrea Appel (a.k.a. Alexandra Erenhart)
Hahahahah good comment Slartibartfast!!

I think like Randall. Internet has been for me like a place where it doesn't matter where are you from, what colour your skin is, what religion you follow, whatever social tags can you bear. You're always going to find a place for you here, and you'll only be judged by important things like your opinion, your hobbies, etc. Stupid issues like racism doesn't belong here.

But with that sort of device, good bye to that! Everybody will know everything about you.

Until I can ensure my rights over the Internet (specially the rights of privacy), I hope nothing like the device commented here gets implemented soon.

Original Comment by: Christopher S. \\\'coldacid\\\' Charabaruk
Andrea, you'll be sad to note that TC enabled computers are already available in enterprise situations, and should be on the shelves in time for next Christmas, at this rate. Hopefully, good new PCs will still be available then, but expect them to be phased out if there's not a huge backlash against this.

Here's a good link explaining more on why TC is bad:

I've always been of two minds about this. On one hand, sure, there's the whole privacy thing. And of course, it'll never work anyway, we shouldn't forget about that. But the whole preserving anonymity thing? Anonymity sucks. Most of the annoyances, assholes, and atrocities on the internet can be traced directly back to it. Sure, anonymity worked fine when the only people around were scientists and researchers, but it just doesn't work now.

Spam? Anonymity. Online game cheaters? Anonymity. Forum trolls? Anonymity. Skript Kiddiez? Anonymity. Child porn? Anonymity.

I would love a 'reputation economy' - a single identity on the internet. Because it would give me more control over who I'm associated with, before the fact. And I'm not worried about how my own would end up.

Of course, I don't delude myself into thinking I'm important enough for any government to spy on. If I was, I'd probably have enough money to just move to the Grand Caymans and nap in a hammock on the beach (and play games) until I die, at which point it would be irrelevant. Plus, I doubt they'll ever be able to do it anyway - they can't even manage to get electronic voting machines to work.

Advertisers? Hell, go right ahead - show me ads for crap I might actually buy. Please! I could use less advertising for credit cards, mobile phone service, finding my classmates, and penis enlargement. I'll even tell you what ads I'd rather see, if it means I can avoid the ones I'll never ever buy from. Just cut down on the Flash, OK? Right now I'd like to see some ads comparing HDTV's - I'm not yet in the market, but think I could be worn down and cave to an impulse if you showed me a good enough deal.

Plus, it's not like they couldn't learn everything about us from google, like everyone else ;)

Original Comment by: Randall Fitzgerald
This seems to be a pretty big strike at just about everything I had hoped computers would be safe from, for at least a good while. I think this marks just one shot at consumers among the many that are flowing out every day. DRMs, hardware locks, Sony's rootkit, Blu-Ray's phone home features. The problem is, the average consumer will just roll over and buy it, unless the major media outlets point it out and make it seem like what it is, an affront to freedom to do what you want with what you purchase. When does the customer start to matter? Will no judge stand up for the rights of the consumer? They don't want to allow cell companies to lock us into 2 year contracts, but it's fine to make us use specific hardware and software?

But then, look at what happened to the Intel Mac OS. Their locks were circumvented, and rightly so, damnit. I'm not against closed-source, or making money or whatever, but I am against corporate strong-arming. I just want to make decisions based on anything that's out there rather than what is approved for my consumption. Which, by the way, makes me wonder, who the hell is the TCPA to tell me what I can and cannot consume? This sort of thing makes me concerned also because they've just gotten linux on the Treo650. Maybe I want tux on my Treo instead of PalmOS. It's my right damnit! *stomps off to my room and listens to angsty punk music*

Original Comment by: Andrea Appel (a.k.a. Alexandra Erenhart)
Jason, I do think you have a lot of good points there, and I do have a part of me that thinks like you do.

I want to make one point clear though: Privacy doesn't mean anonymity. All the bad things you mentioned there, yes, they'd probably be caught sooner if we lose some of that "online privacy". But that would be the same as seeing cops and government agents go into our house and check our stuff just because, without us being able to stop it. That really freaks me out. I do want a place where I cannot be disturbed, off and online.

The bad thing is, there will always be people doing bad things in their own privacy. And I don't want to go to the extreme I mentioned to remove them.

Regarding a reputation economy or trust network, there are already such systems in place, although not easily spread around to the general public. Check out GPG and some of the (a bit technical) info on their "Web of Trust" system.

I know of some IRC networks that either won't let people connect if they aren't using a trusted GPG key, or flag the user as "untrusted/unsecured" when they do connect. There's others that allow users to do it on a per channel basis, or allow people to only accept messages from other registered/trusted users. Of course, none of it is easy to do for the average person, as it is all written by geeks and for geeks. But the capability is there, and the capability is also there to only allow the preople you trust to have such info.

Original Comment by: Randall Fitzgerald

I hardly agree about advertising. Mostly because there is too damn much of it anyway. I don't read them, I don't click them. I read reviews for items I may well be interested in, and then I pick them up at my local retailer. If you can believe it, I refuse to buy my HDTV from regardless of how well tailored a google ad might be. To that end, I don't want ads in my game at all. If the price of the game doesn't come down drastically because of the ad subsidy, I get absolutely no benefit other than to bump EA's stock. Tailored or not, I am sucking the corporate wang and paying $50 to do it when what I wanted was to drive around in a fictional city.

On to your bit about spam and skript kiddiez, etc. Child porn was going on before most of us were born and will go on even after the net loses privacy for everyone. Spam isn't illegal. Do you think a spam king cares if his net feedback is bad? No. Do I read the spam I get now? No. Online game cheaters and trolls are an effect of the scene. They are annoyances at best. And again, I ask, does cheating at one game (Counter Strike comes to mind) mean that you should be alienated from a rousing game of Star Craft, which you would never cheat at. What is wrong with the current system of banning that player from the server? He's not your problem anymore. So hey, let's ruin someone's entire online enjoyment because we don't like how he plays games. That is a sense of entitlement that leads to bigger problems than privacy issues. That's ruining someone's good time because he pissed you off a little. The whole point of the internet is that most of it is harmless BS. Once that BS starts sticking with you, you're attaching real consequence to opinions. Welcome to the Internet. Here's your brand. *presses a hot iron "flamer" brand onto your digital ass*

Anyway, it's not so much that the government WOULD want to spy on me, or anyone else here, it's that they could. It's not within the bounds of rights for the government to follow me around. It's called freedom, and it used to mean something in this country. It's a slippery slope, and it's what people have been fighting to protect since religious zeal and delusions of increased security started trying to take it away to begin with. There's a reason that you are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, and it's to protect personal freedoms.

I used to think that losing a bit of freedom for greater security was ok, but then they passed the DCMZ and the patriot act. They are the result, and they are law. That scares me, and I want to keep my information as far away from the government as possible, and everyone else too. It's none of your damn business who I flamed and if I wasn't an "A+++++ user. would frag again"

It's between me and them, and when they've forgotten how I acted shitty in a single game of Quake 4, my profile will still display their pissy attitude, forever. YAY!

Original Comment by: Slartibartfast

If you give a government or a corporation a means to spy on you, they will. Send an email with the words "bomb" and "president" in it, and somebody will read it. The patriot act gives the FBI the power to monitor all internet traffic in the u.s. I am %110 against this. Fortunately, the advent of wireless and wimax offers an interesting alternative: secondary internets. In theory it should not be too hard to create a parallel network. Use wireless technology so you don't need somebody else's cable. Sure it would not be as widespread, but if someone started such a thing, and it grew, people would take notice.

Original Comment by: Munir

As in Allen Varney's article, the reputation economy would be just like money. A lot of people are already annoyed they have to work and contribute to society to make money and eat. God forbid they have to be nice to each other too hehe!

Joking aside, money has actually done well to dictate our behaviour without actually convincing us we are being dictated upon. Maybe a reputation economy is a step too far and will finally convince us of this or, done subtley, it might work just as well as money. Personal freedom is important but it has its price. Its just about striking the right balance between order and our precious perceived freedom. That's why over here in the UK, CCTVs have suddenly become more acceptable after the bombings in London. However, if they're too imposing people feel threatened, so they're usually subtley hidden. People still know they're there but its acceptable. It's not 'fool' proof but it does change behaviour. Still it's interesting how things change. But changing the internet is a big deal!

Original Comment by: Randall Fitzgerald
If money is the show of what this can do, and things like Black Friday after Thanksgiving are what we should accept as the norm(stomping, pushing, shoving), I'd just as soon take the anti-social behavior.

But that would be the same as seeing cops and government agents go into our house and check our stuff just because, without us being able to stop it.

See, I don't see that as really being a key element in an argument against the removal of online anonymity. I imagine that, if said government ninjas wanted to, they could find all that out anyway. They would have my address and my credit card records already. Through those, they'd know every single online purchase I've ever made, including any websites I subscribe to. Assuming there were no laws against that.

I'm sure my ISP keeps logs of some sort, or they could, and they certainly know my IP at any time (because I know they can look at my cable modem status remotely, which means they know which one is mine). Therefore, they could watch every site I visit, everything I post, and I'd never be the wiser. Assuming there were no laws against that.

And it doesn't involve trusted computing - or any hardware or changes at all. It could be done today, now. Right now, the government could go in my apartment, ransack it, and I couldn't do anything about it (except after the fact). Hell, a random person could do the same thing, as long as they're in and out in a few minutes. The only thing that stops them is that there are consequences, and changing the technology doesn't change that any more than me leaving the door unlocked - sure, it might make it easier to do, but the consequences would still be the same. Privacy is only protected by laws governing what information can be collected and kept.

I hardly agree about advertising. Mostly because there is too damn much of it anyway. I don't read them, I don't click them.

You're imagining a world without advertising, like anything we do would ever change that. You can't stop it - it's not going to go away - so at least I can hope they'll someday show me things I might care about. I look at the ads in video game magazines, and to a lesser extent on websites I read. Why? Because (if they're good ads) they're probably advertising something relevant to me, and there's a chance I might be interested. Advertising is just one way to learn about new things.

Plus, I have a different perspective on things. I've done work both as an advertiser, and as a person who sells ads. I've also seen what good advertising can do as a side effect - like allowing things like The Escapist to exist. If I could get a good price on a Sony KD-34XBR960 while also supporting a site/store/something I like, that's just a bonus.

And again, I ask, does cheating at one game (Counter Strike comes to mind) mean that you should be alienated from a rousing game of Star Craft, which you would never cheat at.

Yes! Without question, yes. Or at least, you should be alienated from playing a game with me. Other people might not mind - the choice could be up to them, or their server, but I, personally, would rather play against other people who don't, and won't, cheat. Sure, it's draconian, but in my world I get to be the crotchety man shaking a rake at people that wander into my yard.

Again, I also might have a different perspective here. Working in charge of CS for an online game required, occasionally, the banning of 'bad people' - cheaters and the like. Even with being able to block a credit card, or a billing address, most people would be surprised how difficult it is to get rid of someone. That doesn't even come close to measureing how difficult it is to block a bad user from an online forum - with dynamic IPs, free email addresses, and unlimited time to act like an ass, one person can cause a lot of problems that I'd just as soon see go away.

"I imagine that, if said government ninjas wanted to, they could find all that out anyway. They would have my address and my credit card records already. Through those, they'd know every single online purchase I've ever made, including any websites I subscribe to. Assuming there were no laws against that."

As Jason said, yes, they could likely track us and see what we're all up to, if they wanted. There are some privacy laws, but those are not as all-encompassing as I have believed. On the front page of today's Wall Street Journal (which I read a bit of while waiting in line for my Friday Morning Mocha), there's a story about Bush allowing, and a federal judge approving, the monitoring of civilian phone calls and emails since 9/11. So, yes, as Jason is right - they have a lot of access to our private information.


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