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Re: Retracting the term ownership

From: Christian Stüble
Subject: Re: Retracting the term ownership
Date: Sat, 2 Sep 2006 17:07:27 +0200
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Am Freitag, 1. September 2006 19:16 schrieb Marcus Brinkmann:
> > I must admit I'm a bit confused here: what argument shows that the
> > technology fundamentally doesn't work in the long run? And what do you
> > mean exactly by this?
> "Trusted computing" is the attempt to put information into a box,
> providing only restricted views on the data inside it.  It is the
> attempt to turn information into something material, that only exists
> once, and that can be alienated by giving it from one person to
> another.
I disagree. "Trusted Computing" is the attempt to (i) verify the configuration 
running on a remote computer (e.g., to be able to derive its trustworthiness) 
and (ii) to ensure that data can only be accessed under certain 

I don't say that it is not possible to implement based on TC what you are 
saying, but TC is much more. You focus on one derived use case that was and 
is, imo, not even the main motivation behind TC.

One TC implementation, a TPM, does not allow users to access the bits of the 
keys stored insode. But this is only am implementation detail, similar to 
smartcards. BTW, I never heard all this critics regarding smartcards..

> However, the nature of information is very different.  As Thomas
> Jefferson pointed out:
>   If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of
>   exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an
>   idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he
>   keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself
>   into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess
>   himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses
>   the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who
>   receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without
>   lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light
>   without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to
>   another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man,
>   and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and
>   benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire,
>   expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any
>   point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our
>   physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive
>   appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of
>   property.
> I recommend the whole letter:
> http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/a1_8_8s12.html
> Note that Jefferson not only correctly identifies the very different
> nature of ideas as opposed to matter, but also draws the correct
> consequences for how society should handle and regulate ideas.  Please
> read the whole letter for more details.
> This observation goes back way before Jefferson.  St Augustinus
> remarked in De doctrina christiana, in the context of teaching
> material:
>  "For if a thing is not diminished by being shared with others, it is
>  not rightly owned if it is only owned and not shared."
> St Augustinus thus also realized the peculiar nature of information,
> which separates it from ordinary matter, and drew the right
> conclusions about how society should handle it (in that particular
> case).
> This nature of information is also apparent in many other domains or
> applications.  It is not an accident that every single copy protection
> measure in history has been broken.  It is simply impossible to
> distribute information to other people and at the same time restrict
> its distribution.  It can be made difficult, yes, but it can not be
> made impossible.  The only way to make it impossible for others to
> distribute or use information is to not give it to them in the first
> place.
> If the history of copy protection measures does not convince you,
> there is a related observation that may.  It turns out that it is
> extraordinary hard to remove information from a system (that's the
> basis for watermarking techniques).  Statistical analysis allows one
> to recover even traces of information from a data set.  For example,
> you need to suppress 88% of the data from an online moving rating
> system to successfully hide the identity of the people rating the
> movies, if those people also participate in an online discussion forum
> about movies [1].  It is not an accident that the anonymization of
> data sets is a hard theoretical problem: I believe it is related to
> its very nature.  But note that similar techniques can be used to
> recover information from "trusted computing" systems, for example by
> analog to digital conversion.
> [1] You Are What You Say: Privacy Risks of Public Mentions
>     Frankowski, 2006, SIGIR
> What happens once you recovered the data that "trusted computing"
> tries to lock away?  It ends up on the next P2P network, where
> everybody can download it.  This is why even strong restrictions do
> not amount to very much: Only one person or group needs to recover the
> data once to make it available to everybody.  Have you ever tried to
> delete something from the internet?
> Of course, if confronted with these arguments, "trusted computing"
> supporters point out that absolute restriction is not necessary, but
> that it suffices to make it sufficiently difficult.  But that is
> beside the point.  I agree that techniques can be used to make it
> harder, maybe even arbitrarily hard.  However, the critical point is
> that the attempt alone is against the nature of information, or, to
> put it more bluntly, pervers.  It is reactionary.
> It is my believe that we will achieve a much more just, responsible
> and efficient society by not fighting against the very nature of
> information, but by exploiting its genuine properties to our
> advantage.  This is already happening.  More people use file sharing
> software in the USA than vote for the presidency[2].  Well, that tells
> us something about the perceived respective values of these actions.
> [2] According to http://www.eff.org/share/
> But it is not only the economy of information that calls for a
> reaffirmation of the nature of information in society, after a
> somewhat dark age of corporate control over our culture.  There are
> many other factors to consider as well, for example empowerment of the
> workers at their workplace, government transparency, accessibility,
> just to name a few.
> Thanks,
> Marcus
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