Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Panoptican of DRM

On the Identity trail has a thought provoking essay on the panoptic power of digital rights management technologies.

"In both DRM and the Panopticon, the objects of surveillance are denied privacy. As a condition of participation in the architectures (as if they had a choice), the objects are required to lay themselves and their activities bare before their supervisors. This requirement ensures that all information is available for the supervisors to see and use. This information is the root of the supervisor’s power and the more information there is, the greater their power...

In terms of its operational mechanisms, DRM is analogous to the Panopticon because DRM systems contain technological components that track and report on the works that they protect. However, this tracking and reporting creates information not only about works but, more importantly, about the people that access or use works. The fundamental premise of DRM is one of authentication – i.e. managing who has permission to do what in relation to a work. DRM requires that users disclose personal information in order access or use works. This means that DRM systems can gather detailed information about the types of works that particular users access as well as fine-grained information about how particular users use works. DRM therefore has the capability to simultaneously ‘backlight’ the activities of every user of DRM-protected works so that they are all perfectly observed at an individual level."

Stefan Brands'has some ideas on privacy enhancing drm.

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