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The Microsoft Internet Driving License

Microsoft's Craig Mundie is building on his legacy of advocating terrible "security" policy. This time, he has picked up the Internet Driving License bug.

Microsoft's Craig Mundie is building on his legacy of advocating terrible "security" policy. This time, he has picked up the Internet Driving License bug.


Microsoft executive Craig Mundie has a solid track record for supporting heavily restrictive technologies and technology policies. He has been a vociferous advocate of both the Trusted Computing initiative and DRM, both of which present serious privacy and security issues for individual computer users.

With that track record in mind, it should be no surprise that Mr. Mundie has taken on the mantle of champion of yet another ill-conceived "security" measure that, if implemented worldwide, would have disturbing consequences for individual security and privacy. At the Davos Economic Forum in Switzerland, he called for requirements for individuals to acquire licenses before they can access the Internet. While this sounds like a good idea in theory -- if we could ensure everybody who uses the Internet was competent to do so, we really would have a safer Internet -- it is not quite so palatable in practice.

As any (real) engineer can tell you, theory and practice are the same in theory, but they are quite different things in practice. When was the last time you saw a licensing system that actually guaranteed competence or, for that matter, at least guaranteed that competent people would not be excluded in favor of the incompetent at least some of the time?

As someone who has been licensed and certified in a number of different areas (including Microsoft certifications, physical security and deadly force management licensing, heavy equipment operation, and even hazardous materials transportation, among others), your humble author can tell you with a fair bit of confidence that it does not take much to corrupt a licensing system to the point that it no longer guarantees anything in particular, other than that a lot of money will be spent, and the more money one has to spend the more likely one is to get licensed.

The problems with Mundie's suggestions do not stop with licensing itself, however. He also suggested that the United Nations should be granted the power to "organize the systematic quarantine of computers without their owner’s permission."

Of course, there appears to be little danger of Craig Mundie's fever dreams becoming a reality. Any effective licensing policy for ensuring that only competent people get to use the Internet would probably effectively bar 80% or more of current users (your humble author's guesstimate is something more like 98%), and that certainly will not fly. Even ignoring the tremendous outcry of dissent from the populace at large, ISPs will not stand for having the majority of their customers taken away from them.

The alternative (and more likely) licensing scheme would be one that is wholly ineffective, and more prone to ensuring that only people who like the "right" brands and have memorized the "right" corporate-mandated policies will have access to the Internet, aside from those who gain illicit access. It seems unlikely that this sort of mandatory licensing scheme could come to pass as well, though it is at least a vague possibility if the whole world goes nuts next week.

It also seems unlikely that the UN would be granted the power to arbitrarily cut off Internet access for individuals, if only because many of the most powerful nations simply are not strongly inclined to let the UN cut into their economic sovereignty so egregiously. We should keep our fingers crossed, though, just to be sure.

Let's keep our ears to the ground, listening for the sound of approaching legislation, just in case some technophobes in government might otherwise manage to slip one by us. When dealing with the technologically incompetent in government trying to manage the lives of technical experts in the general populace, there is always the danger that incompetence might win the day.

About

Chad Perrin is an IT consultant, developer, and freelance professional writer. He holds both Microsoft and CompTIA certifications and is a graduate of two IT industry trade schools.

72 comments
Oz_Media
Oz_Media

There would be far more people on the streets, wearing sandwichboards, stating that the end is near or that the government is watching you. :D

apotheon
apotheon

. . . the government might not be watching us. Have you heard about the NSA wiretapping scandal? Did you notice the news about companies like Sprint and Google having law enforcement "portals" to automate government access to private communications between individuals?

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

And I suppose you have a point you are working towards? -NSA wiretapping is of absolutely no concern to me at all, not even the teeniest bit. They could record ALL of my calls for all I care. Any first party, even general public, can legally record a call and use it in court, it's been that way forever. A third party trcking system has been used for decades, with a court order that is very easily obtained, anyway. The numbers behind the US Sprint issue are also easily misunderstood as the numbers are derived for each and every GPS update, therefore even monitoring one -persons movement for one day will rack up thousands of 'tracks. I guess the concept of 'Big Brother' simply doesn't frighten me.

santeewelding
santeewelding

I came across a mention of Ayn Rand and, paraphrasing, her description of the individual as atomic. Don't know if she repeated what someone else said, or if she came up with it herself, but it was, to me, one of the several things she got right, in comparison to the rest.

apotheon
apotheon

There are benefits to the Canadian Charter of Rights and the US Constitution's Bill of Rights, each relative to the other. One major technical benefit of the Bill of Rights that lacks in the Charter, however, is its integral status as part of the very definition of US government. Another is the fact that the Canadian Charter reads a bit like the ACLU's preferred rewrite of the Bill of Rights, complete with the ACLU's tendency to ignore certain rights. Canada doesn't seem to have gotten as far in its descent into trying to undermine its Charter as the US has its Bill, but give it time. The Charter is less than thirty years old, after all.

apotheon
apotheon

Many US citizens are quite complacent about things. Many of them think the US is all rights and liberties and everywhere else isn't. That doesn't mean your generalizations hold much water. Some of us see things as they are: incredibly oppressive here in the US, and getting worse all the time; incredibly oppressive everywhere else, and getting worse all the time there too. There are basically two reasons I haven't moved out of the US. 1. There is a stronger culture of liberty in the US than anywhere else I've been (and I've done a hell of a lot of traveling). It isn't the dominant culture here, but many places elsewhere in the world don't really have a "culture" of liberty at all -- so it's all relative. 2. The Bill of Rights is the closest thing to a guarantee that some rights simply will not be infringed that I've seen anywhere. It's being undermined constantly and increasingly, but I guess it's better than nothing. You talk about the courts upholding the rights of the people over those of organizations (you specifically identified corporations). There are cases where US courts find in favor of the people where Canadian courts would do nothing of the kind, as well -- such as DC v. Heller, a decision that would never be made in the highest court of Canada the way it was in the US. It wasn't a clear win, but it included a key statement about the sanctity of an individual right that the Canadian government (and its people, for that matter) never recognized. It's give and take. This childish BS about "my country is better than yours" isn't really worth the time I've just taken to point out its flaws.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Is that we don't boast our freedoms the same way many Americans do. It seems that there are still a lot of American residents who have no idea that they aren't the only country with such freedoms. It's as if that's what they were told/lead to believe and have never questioned it, 'we are the best, we are the biggest and we are the land of the free'. While at one time that may have been SOMEWHAT true, or at least patriotic enough to sell war bonds, so many people actually believe it and feel it is true today. As you said, our government isn't perfect, I'll add "far from it". However, our government DOES stand firmly behind our Charter of Rights, while it seems US judges just throw out people's rights at the first sniff of any corporation that wants to sue a citizen. They HAVE rights, they just aren't respected and simply get tossed aside, with some BS excuse that illustrates a need to violate people's rights.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Try googling "Facebook Privacy Canada" and see the first link. http://www.priv.gc.ca/media/nr-c/2009/nr-c_090827_e.cfm Look, our evil Canadian government is trying to protect our privacy, and surprise, surprise, they got the American company to make some significant changes. Our government isn't perfect (whose is). But we have a Charter of Rights as part of our constitution which has protected the rights of many Canadians. James

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

As we have seen proven here countless times, Canadians have far greater protections of their freedoms than Americans do. Our courts support citizen's rights LOOOOONG before taking the corporation's side, as is all too commonly seen in the US. Why do you think file sharing is an issue in teh US and not here? They can get whetever info they want from your ISP in the USA, in Canada the ISP faces far greater repercussions from breaching privacy rights than they would by ignoring the MPAA or CRIA's demands for customer data. Having worked for Canada's telecom regulations commission (CRTC) for a few years, I learned first hand how many "freedoms" your courts simply throw to the wind with regards to civil rights, including TV Censorship, phone privacy (both land line and cellular network), radio broadcast governing, Internet usage etc. Getting a mix of US based, Canadian and worldnews, I see how reports are so often censored on US networks to show only one side or viewpoint. Video feeds and Interviews from Iraq are often cut short or edited/spliced together in US news, wheras other stations show the entire unedited report/interview etc., illustrating a very different side of the US version. You boast freedom, your parade freedom, you see nothing but repression elsewhere, but the truth is, most people who experience the US find that it is not very free at all and find far greater freedoms in their homeland. It's not a matter of my complacency at all. In fact, I think it is Americans that have become complacent in that they just assume they have greater freedoms and simply listen to the media and don't find out for themselves just how far 'freer' others really are. When I had US offices, it was a free for all in the USA but times have changed and you are far more restricted and monitored than others are.

AlexNagy
AlexNagy

When you grow up with it, it can seem natural. Good luck with that. (:

AlexNagy
AlexNagy

Where does Microsoft find these people? Do they grow them in vats? I mean seriously. An Internet license? I've joked about it sometimes, but wow.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Alex, I would have to kill you if I told you. Best you leave this undisturbed.

rgoeken1
rgoeken1

Reminds me of divestiture of telephone service. American Bell (AT&T) had plans to keep track of all the serial numbers of all associated equipment. After a few months of flopping around trying to keep track of moves, changes, and paperwork they gave up. To implement such a plan as a Internet Driving License would be a fools errand. Yet, if Microsoft would realize that the platform they have been building on from 3.1 is flawed, stop trying to make spaghetti patch code with a dead horse, and commit with the same enthusiasm to producing a new conceptual operating system that doesn't use the windows concept----people would really listen. Windows is so complex that I think there is no one there that fully understands what will happen elsewhere one one line of code is changed by them in their section. Reminds me of when Bill Gates was doing an introduction to the press and he got the Blue Screen Of Death. In other words Mr. Mundie, clean your own house first-----don't try to blame someone else for its condition.

Yam Digger
Yam Digger

the name and cell phone number of Mundie's drug dealer? To be talking drivel like this, he must smoking some seriously GOOD S__T!!! Dude! I want some of that!

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I'd have to suggest that the average for competency is much higher among those who have Pilot's Licenses. Maybe it's the required hours or the result of a pretty effective natural selection outcome. Any idiot may be able to drive a car but few idiots will continue to fly for very long. ;)

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...license, there'd be a small fraction of the accidents and far less traffic on the roads. Besides the hours of actual training involved, it's probably because it's possible to fail a pilot's exam, whereas driving is too often considered a "right" and little more is required than breathing and a pulse.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Carved into a desk at flight school and I've never forgotten it.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

She was asking to be raped, just look how she was dressed! It's the same damn argument. If MS was at all serious about security, then they'd secure their platform!

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I spotted this originally over on another website. They have an interesting writeup on it though with the expected magazine's spin. http://www.freesoftwaremagazine.com/columns/microsofts_internet_driving_licence_stupid_unworkable_and_unenforceable I can only hope that such a bad idea never becomes reality but this is sadly the kind of control that promoters are going to keep trying to push under new names every few years. Even if it's never accepted under each new name given, an internet equivalent to Sept 2001 will justify all kinds of bad policy including this gem.

jimmeq
jimmeq

How do insane people like Mundie achieve such a high position in their company? Next we'll hear suggestions on a License to watch TV. I've already typed too many words on this stupid idea. 'Nuff said.

apotheon
apotheon

You need a license to use a television in the UK.

neilb
neilb

even if you don't own a TV, you still need a license to watch TV output on your computer if you watch or record it as it is being broadcast. Oh, and one for your mobile phone if you don't already have one for your TV or computer... You even need a license if you're blind. But they do reduce the cost a little. :)

apotheon
apotheon

You even need a license if you're blind. But they do reduce the cost a little. That's simply horrifying. It sounds like a bad joke. Well . . . I guess it is a bad joke. It just happens to actually be true, too, I suppose.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Still not sure why the bulk of it pays for three 'stars' and crap american tv programs, but once the guvmint has got your money they can do what they like with it. As in give it to their mates...

robert
robert

Have you guys ever heard of selection pressure? This article really makes me laugh. Imagine that Mundie really was successful in getting all members of the UN to enact laws that implement what he prescribes for an Internet driver's license. Suppose, also, that they even are able to legislate the penalty of death for violating that law. What would be the outcome? The outcome would be that almost overnight, some very talented, well-connected people, with plenty of money will go and build out a parallel internet that will not facilitate the enforcement of any of those laws. Thus another set of laws honoured more in the breach than in the observance.

wbranch
wbranch

Let's just simplify this. Who the hell do these people think they are that they have the right to dictate who does and doesn't have internet access? I can see why we need automotive licenses. You're essentially driving a 1 to 2 ton missle on the roads, you'd like to make sure the person has a certain level of competence before operating a car or truck. With the internet, besides yourself, who exactly are you hurting if you're using it incorrectly? This is basically the typical far left "Let's protect people from themselves" nonsense that tries to tell me what I can eat or do. I figure this will go nowhere, but the fact that there are idiots out there that think you should have to be licensed to have access to information is frightening.

Yam Digger
Yam Digger

this Mundie fellow was a Closet Commie back in the Cold War. You have to be the kind of person who hates letting anyone have the freedom to chose what they do with their own lives to love the kind of s__t this guy is promoting. Hopefully, if this nonesense ever sees the light of day, our courts will have the good sense to declare it anti competitive in nature. Of course, you have backward places like China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Burma, etc., who would just love this kind of stuff.

madox99c
madox99c

He has a good ideal. Let's also make people have licenses for the following: 1.Watching TV (so they would be able to pick the right shows to watch) 2.Riding Bikes (Ever come close to running one down because they were riding in the street instead of on the sidewalk) 3.Wearing bathing suits (many should be banned) Having children ( common sense fix) The list could go on and on. I mean, a license would ensure a safer and more stable world not to mention a more visually pleasing one too.

apotheon
apotheon

2.Riding Bikes (Ever come close to running one down because they were riding in the street instead of on the sidewalk) Bicycles are "vehicles" under the law -- and with good reason, since riding a bicycle on the sidewalk is a danger to pedestrians (and the cyclist for that matter). I suspect that if you almost ran down a bicyclist because he was riding it on the shoulder (say, in a bike lane), the real reason you almost ran him/her down is that you weren't paying enough attention to your driving.

Bronte G
Bronte G

Not to be TOO off topic, just think what it would be like 40 years after those rules were applied. There would only be old people (like me) kwft. No old people would have enough grey matter left to use computers. No one would want to see anyone wearing the bathers of today. What a horror sight it would be. No one would be steady enough to ride a bike anyway. In our state we are not supposed to ride on footpaths. We'd mostly be short sighted and hard of hearing, so TV would not be much use anyway. And, in passing, Australia is trying very hard to catch up with Burma, Iran, China and so forth with it's proposed internet regulations.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Cyclists are SUPPOSED to ride in the streets. Sidewalks are for pedestrians. Satire loses its edge when it's factually incorrect.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Rome was also a pretty heavy influence on how your government system was developed. (now why do I hear flute and drum music coming down the street..)

apotheon
apotheon

It was military needs that led to the development of the US interstate highway system, too.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Paved roads in Europe became popular because of cyclists. The automobiles are actually the road-immigrants rather than natives. (though, if you go back even further, the invention of paved road was to move marching soldiers more quickly)

wbranch
wbranch

So you want to license people to think like you basically? They should pick the TV shows YOU find acceptable. They should have children if YOU find them to be acceptable parents. Hey, I know, maybe we should also license them to speak, but only if they have ideas that YOU like. Oh, wait, that would violate freedom of speech. But hey, that Constitution is just a pesky document that gets in the way of good legislation, right? Not sure why you hate freedom, but don't worry, there are plenty of countries you can move to that will share your ideals.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...when it's promulgated by like-thinking people, at least for a little while.

neilb
neilb

Unless [b]you[/b] are being so subtle that I missed it. :)

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

After all, the testing, regulating, certifying, etc will cost money and millions of people will need to be hired to manage it. In the end, we'd end up with an Internet version of the DMV, where the only purpose will be to collect revenue and information on people, with little demonstrative effect on safety.

don.gulledge
don.gulledge

Why is it that email and web page addresses don't have country of origin? Couldn't locality be used to block a lot of the bad stuff occuring over the internet? Why is all XXX not relagated to one domain like .XXX.RU or .XXX.GE or .XXX.US Wouldn't it be a simple matter to block access? Why do I have to receive email from Nigeria from someone who can't spell and calls themselves a Barrister? I don't know anyone in Nigeria, so why can't I block all Nigerian traffic? Seems like the big boys want to over complicate and make us dependent upon them for the least thing, when some simple changes to the system could go a long way in controlling the bad stuff happening. Regional information requirements on addresses would allow for easier pinpointed of malware computers and god forbid, give users awesome power to regulate their own interface with the world. MS doens't want to help us, they want to use our addiction to make money. Just like all the others like Google, Amazon, and adobe. God forbid they do anything to kill off their distribution chain.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

of UN bureaucrats so that MS will have the final say over who gets a licence via a requirement being to be using MS Windows to access the system.

rquance
rquance

If this were put in place almost everyone of the people that I do computer service for would be banned from Internet use and I would be out of work. Not a good idea. I do feel that maybe a requirement of getting training or having required software installed on the computer would be a wiser move. Preventing Internet access is just WRONG. Stop drinking the Koolaid.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It's still adding third party programs to patch something that should be fixed in the base OS platform by default. Secunia PSI is a fantastic little program and even found a laundry list of outdated programs on my own machine buried several layers deep in "old computer" directory trees from various upgrades and rebuilds. But it's still filling a gap that exists only because the OS designer refuses to fix the problem at its' source. (ha.. didn't mean that pun but it works) Something as simple as a repository system including vetted Windows software and drivers combined with more open developer specs would make an incredible difference. (as much as I hate to give up one of the advantages of *nix systems over Windows)

Phillip.Webster
Phillip.Webster

Does Microsoft want to lose market share? I can see the reaction of users where they would switch O/Ses. I step up to the counter to get Windows 8 and get asked, 'Can I see your license? No not your motor vehicle license but your internet license.' How do I take the test? If I don't have an internet license would I be allowed online to take it? Just the thought of ideas like this one make me want to switch.

charleswdavis6670
charleswdavis6670

The article referred to Internet Driving License, not Microsoft Internet Driving License.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Also, this is the same rep and company who've been trying to get similar changes put through under new names every few years. I also don't see it being implemented in an open way that allows any OS to join in so now the true networking platforms are barred from the very network they've been essential in creating. End result; Microsoft Internet.

Bronte G
Bronte G

"Pre" seems to mean "put before" when I check the world's language guides I can reach on the internet. And "mote" comes out as a "speck of dust", usually in the eye. Well, it seem that Microsoft wants to do just that by Pre Moting more controls. It could make you cry. They often Promote things we do not really want. Like the end of any competiton they can eradicate. It certainly makes it harder to see what we are doing when we have to go through all the limitations put on us by legalistic government and software people. Roll on open-source, even if I am stuck with Microsoft.

Snak
Snak

I was under the impression that the internet was designed to be fetterless. It annoys me when money-minded businesspeople pop up and demand rights, changes, limitations and other 'necessities' to safeguard (or create) their profits. It annoys me when arrogance makes demands. The Microsoft Internet Driving Licence? Microsoft? What bloody right do they have to even think such a thing? There's a simple two-word response, one of which is of course, 'off'.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The Internet was designed to facility data exchange between universities with US Dept. of Defense research contracts. Everything else has been fringe benefits.

cameron.pollock
cameron.pollock

There is merit in the idea of educating users, since it has to be acknowledged that threats will always exist on the Internet, and systems will always be vulnerable. So learning how to navigate around the Internet in a safe way has value. But the threat landscape changes so rapidly in the online world. You'd need to recertify every 12 months, I feel, to make it applicable. Don't Microsoft still have the larger onus to do a better job at architecting their systems so they reduce vulnerabilities and are better at "self" defending? Perhaps the certification should also be on their products and their developers, so we know the software they deliver is robust and built in accordance with independent quality standards? Looks like blame shift to me.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

.. Naw, they are a publicly traded production and retail company who's product happens to be some software programs. They have an onus to increase profits for investors above and beyond all else including ethical behavior so far as they can remain within, bend or outrun the law. Onus on delivering high quality product with the end user's safety and functionality as primary requirements? hahahahahahahahahaaaaa ----------- Seriously though, I'd love to see Windows continue to improve in terms of quality and open interoperability. They can keep the code closed provided they stop trying to force there brand name through the network wire to every other interacting system. Just fix the system architecture from the metal up including a default deny approach. Drop the lock-in strategies. Don't force them to reduce the security of there platform to support bad coding by third party AV developers. But I'm dreaming.. back to reality; didn't you get the memo? It's always the consumer/user's fault for not being able to write there own vulnerabilities patches for esoteric and undocumented areas of the OS. :D