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The Future Has a Kill Switch 284

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-literally-i-hope dept.
palegray.net writes "Bruce Schneier brings us his perspective on a future filled with kill switches; from OnStar-equipped automobiles and city buses that can be remotely disabled by police to Microsoft's patent-pending ideas regarding so-called Digital Manners Policies. In Schneier's view, these capabilities aren't exactly high points of our potential future. From the article: 'Once we go down this path — giving one device authority over other devices — the security problems start piling up. Who has the authority to limit functionality of my devices, and how do they get that authority? What prevents them from abusing that power? Do I get the ability to override their limitations? In what circumstances, and how? Can they override my override?' We recently discussed the Pentagon's interest in kill switches for airplanes. At what point does centralizing and/or delegating operational authority over so much of our lives become a dangerous practice of its own?"
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The Future Has a Kill Switch

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  • Slippery slope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 29, 2008 @08:56AM (#23989549)

    "At what point does centralizing and/or delegating operational authority over so much of our lives become a dangerous practice of its own?"
    Already at day 1, as soon as the slippery slope is hit ... From that point onwards, the battle between the controllers of the kill switches, and everybody who wants to gain control of them starts. Of course the normal user is left back in the middle.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 29, 2008 @09:12AM (#23989681)
      A well-known security expert (some say it was Bruce Schneier) once gave a public lecture on kill switches.
      He described how the kill switch is triggered by the authorities, and how the kill switch, in turn, is a component in a vast collection of kill switches called our formerly free culture.
      At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The kill switch is really a flat-out plate of poo supported on the back of a tortoise-like electorate."
      The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What are the tortoise standing on?"
      "You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down!"
      She then showed the security expert the kill switch controlling his pacemaker, and he turned a whiter shade of pale.


      (a shameless mooching from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turtles_all_the_way_down [wikipedia.org])
    • Re:Slippery slope (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wkk2 (808881) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @09:56AM (#23989943)
      Beyond the security risk, the kill feature will be abused. The first time there is a big snowstorm some official will declare the roads are closed and order the kill switch. If you need to go to the hospital call an ambulance. Oh, sorry we stopped them too. Oh, your jury summons was lost in the mail. Issue a warrant and disable all of your cars. Your taxes are over due or your child support is late and you can't get to work. The abuse will be endless.
      • Yeah. Take the freedom away one bit at a time and almost nobody will notice, until it's too late. Remember the "09 f9..." incident last year? It's only outbreaks like that that are our chance. We need the "authorities" to make another such mistake.

        ((This message is encrypted with double-ROT13 to ensure security and privacy.))
    • Re:Slippery slope (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 29, 2008 @12:28PM (#23991241)

      We already have this.

      I just stopped a consulting job at a well known software company in Redmond, WA. - a man has to eat and feed his kids after all - On the day after my last workday, I booted the laptop I had used for the contract - it had company installed operating system software on it from over the network as that was a requirement - expecting it to log in and extract my "hours worked" data before I flattened it and formatted the NTFS partition. I was going to do the right thing. Turns out I did not need to; It had just stopped working. No login worked at all, and my IRS data that had been kept on the laptop per contract requirements had to be extracted via a "INSERT Linux" boot disk and a USB thumdrive so I could flatten/format the NTFS partition like I was going to anyway before I sent the hardware back (INSERT Linux is great for this, btw), minus any sensitive data.

      They already have the power to time-bomb and kill switch your computer; It's already happened to me, and most people just don't know its possible yet and wont expect it - as I did not - when it happens to them.

      • Re:Slippery slope (Score:4, Insightful)

        by lastchance_000 (847415) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @01:04PM (#23991539)

        Well, the owners of the laptop have that capability, which seems to me to be just fine. The question is, should the government?

        • Re:Slippery slope (Score:4, Informative)

          by bit01 (644603) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @06:33PM (#23993961)

          Well, the owners of the laptop have that capability, which seems to me to be just fine.

          Circular reasoning. Ownership, by definition, is the right to control.

          The question here is, who has ownership? The contractor here has the not unreasonable expectation that his laptop would continue to operate so he could get his own stuff (ie. stuff that he owned long term) off it, stuff that his contract required him to put there. There should have been some level of protocol before ownership of the laptop returned to the corp so that his own stuff could be disentangled from it. At a bare minimum they should have told him this was going to happen.

          The problem with DRM like this is that it usually has only a tenuous relationship with the complexities of the real world. It often interferes with one set of ownership rights while claiming to protect another.

          ---

          You're a fool if you think advertising pays for anything at all.

      • Re:Slippery slope (Score:4, Informative)

        by RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @06:46PM (#23994031)

        Uh, I work at Microsoft right now, and I can flat out say that there's nothing odd about this.

        Active Directory has the ability to expire accounts at a certain date/time. Your account was set to expire when you left the company. One side effect of this is that you can't log in to your notebook.

        You could have logged in as local administrator, had you known the password. I don't know the local admin password to my system at Microsoft. This is also not unusual.

        When you join your machine to the AD domain, the company gets to take control. That's the way it has been in every company that I've worked for. That's why FTEs at Microsoft get company-provided hardware. I'm not sure what the policy is for contractors.

        I had to give back my company-owned notebook at Agilent when I left. God forbid.

  • OnStar (no thanks) (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @08:56AM (#23989551)

    When I bought a GM vehicle for my wife a couple years ago, the FIRST order of business was to disconnect the antenna to the OnStar box. I don't need big brother being privy to conversations in the car, or tracking my movements. I'm normally not a tin foil fedora kind of guy, but there has already been evidence of police improperly using OnStar to bug vehicles.

    • block on star (Score:2, Interesting)

      by p51d007 (656414)
      Heck, like you said, just unplug the damn thing. Or if you are paranoid, get a ball of tin foil and cover up the antenna. I love how people give up their freedoms for "safety". Onstar says we can call the police in the event your air bags are deployed. No kidding, gee, golly wow. You and the 3,452 people that see your wreck are going to whip out their cell phones and call the police. Onstar, just getting people use to the idea that big brother is listening. How long until insurance companies get to peak i
      • Re:block on star (Score:5, Informative)

        by liquidpele (663430) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @09:27AM (#23989775) Journal
        OneStar does have 3 good features:
        1) Unlock your car for you if you're stupid and locked yourself out
        2) Find the car if it's stolen and the thief is too stupid to unplug the onstar system.
        3) In the event you have a serious accident and are unconscious or hurt in the middle of nowhere, they can still contact help for you (unlikely?)

        For everything else, it's a glorified cell phone.
        • Re:block on star (Score:4, Interesting)

          by syzler (748241) <david AT syzdek DOT net> on Sunday June 29, 2008 @10:23AM (#23990107)

          3) In the event you have a serious accident and are unconscious or hurt in the middle of nowhere, they can still contact help for you (unlikely?)

          Very likely for those of us that live:

          • In Alaska
          • In the Yukon
          • In rural Nevada
          • In rural Michigan
          • and in many non-urban areas

          Not every one lives in a city and not every road is in a heavily traveled suburban area. Not convinced, count the number of cars that pass by you during a January night on Alaska-1 (one of the busiest Alaskan highways) near Denali. I bet you will only need one hand.

          • by Fishead (658061) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @10:49AM (#23990275)

            My in-laws live on a rural mountain road with a cell phone tower just across the river. A while back, someone with an Onstar equipped vehicle drove off the road, and down a bank. The brush closed behind them, and their vehicle didn't make any noticeable marks on the side of the road. The ONLY reason the authorities found them was because Onstar told them exactly where to find their car.

            The fact that they were drunk, and trying to avoid the authorities is another matter.

          • by fredklein (532096)

            The trouble is that really remote areas also have crappy cell phone service, which is what On*star uses.

          • by Skater (41976)

            Of course you still need cell phone service for Onstar to work. (And digital service now...cars with the older analog Onstar phones are now unable to use the service.) I wonder about the rural areas you mention actually having digital cell phone service.

            I'm not disagreeing with you, just pointing out that in some of those areas, Onstar might not do any good anyway.

    • Where you just pulled the fuses on the traction control, "door bongs," disabled the rev limiter and top speed limiter, and maybe the ABS and EBD if you like it rough. Nowadays you have all these newfangled tracking (OnStar, insurace rate-adjusting OBDII plugins) and advanced nannying systems (Nissan R35 GTR).

      Ah, to get back to the good ol' days...

  • by ohgood (1144715) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @08:57AM (#23989565)
    "Sir, I believe you just dropped 29 planes from the sky instead of hitting the EasyButton for more toner. How do you want me to handle this with the press ?"
  • by neapolitan (1100101) * on Sunday June 29, 2008 @08:58AM (#23989571)

    As was discussed in the airplane kill switch thread, this gives new difficulties. A terrorist now just has to threaten to block communication from the plane and make it fly in a weird pattern, and then the pentagon will kill the 200+ passengers on board with an F-16 rather than the terrorists.

    Regarding the Onstar system, this is known about by their company, and they are being quite responsible IMHO -- the switch has many, many security levels to be activated, and gradually starves the engine of fuel so that one would coast to a stop rather than suddenly switching off. Of course, this is a bigger problem for an airplane.

    • by Iamthecheese (1264298) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @09:03AM (#23989613)
      Responsible? Giving the Authorities control of any kind over my vehicle is not responsible. Allowing the feds to watch where I go is not being responsible. If Onstar were taking responsibility, they would tell the feds where to put their court orders or better yet never have installed that capability in the first place.
      • by neapolitan (1100101) * on Sunday June 29, 2008 @11:14AM (#23990539)

        Well, that's more than a little simplistic and straw... The biggest application that is advertised is the safe termination of high speed chases (or high-speed joyriding, as many police departments are now thankfully stopping ground chases in favor of air or other pursuit). Currently cops will use things like PIT

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PIT_maneuver [wikipedia.org]

        to spin somebody out, but a killswitch is obviously preferable to this. I don't look at this in terms of property recovery; if somebody steals my car and goes high speed joyriding, I pretty much don't want it back. The killswitch is irrelevent to me IMHO.

        Chest-thumping about 'nobody controls MY car but ME' is a bit silly; authorities already have control over how fast I go in my car, where I can go, I have to have registration, insurance, and cops can pull me over at a whim and detain me. I find these more concerning than a theoretical remote disactivation that can potentially save a lot lives.

        Honestly, your car is a lot more likely to break down on the highway due to mechanical problems than have a misfire of this; and if it was activated without a warrant / inappropriately, you could sue the party that made the bad decision. I would rather have that than a confused officer ram me off the road.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Chest-thumping about 'nobody controls MY car but ME' is a bit silly; authorities already have control over how fast I go in my car, where I can go, I have to have registration, insurance, and cops can pull me over at a whim and detain me

          Well then, once I put this sort of device into my vehicle, which one of those things is going to go away? Oh, you mean that I get all that AND a kill switch. Sounds like a deal.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sjames (1099)

          They have control to an extent. What they don't have right now is the ability to shut down 1 million cars all in one shot should the public get fed up with them.

          As for straitening out the problem, yeah, sure. Some doofus typoes the ID number and confirms it without even checking and your car shuts down. Just as soon as you hike 30 miles in the freezing rain to get a ride, you can call your lawyer and try to sue city hall. Meanwhile, a bill shoots through Congress at record speed granting blanket immunity...

        • by Mr2001 (90979) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @06:26PM (#23993915) Homepage Journal

          Chest-thumping about 'nobody controls MY car but ME' is a bit silly; authorities already have control over how fast I go in my car, where I can go, I have to have registration, insurance, and cops can pull me over at a whim and detain me.

          There's a huge difference between legal control ("if you exceed the speed limit, and we catch you doing it, you'll be fined") and technical control ("your car will refuse to move faster than the speed limit").

          All the controls you mentioned are legal ones, but the new one you're lumping in with them is a technical one.

          It's the same as why so many people are more concerned by DRM than by copyright laws (even when the DRM simply enforces copyright). One of them lets you use your own judgment, decide for yourself whether the benefit is worth the risk, and deal with corner cases where breaking the law is better than the alternatives. The other takes that choice away from you.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by corsec67 (627446)

          The problem with a digital Kill Switch is just like a taser: If there is no residual damage from using the tool, it WILL be abused.

          PIT maneuver: damage results to both cars, but you can't install anything on your car top prevent it.
          Kill Switch: can be used at any time, since there isn't any damage to any cars as a result.

          Just look at the mess with tasers, where they are used very frequently in situations that police wouldn't have used a baton because that would be excessive.

    • And as was discussed in the original "airplane kill switch" thread, the Pentagon wasn't asking for a "kill switch". They wanted a "non-lethal weapon" for stopping airplanes: a much more difficult problem.

  • by Swampash (1131503) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @09:00AM (#23989599)

    Awesome, now terrorists won't need to hijack airplanes. All they have to do is hijack the means of controlling the killswitches.

  • Cops want that today as well.

  • In Flight (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FurtiveGlancer (1274746) <AdHocTechGuy@ a o l . c om> on Sunday June 29, 2008 @09:08AM (#23989643) Journal
    I would much rather have the engines remotely shut down or idled on a plane in flight, offering at least a chance at an emergency landing, than to have the plane summarily blown out of the sky. Most likely the "kill switch" would be engaged only so long as the craft remains on a threatening course. It would also be useful in preventing unauthorized/uncontrolled take-offs.

    Lo-jack seems to have been fairly effective in stopping auto thieves. I don't really see an "After the Sunset" [imdb.com] remotely hacked limousine scenario developing in real life.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by vertinox (846076)

      I would much rather have the engines remotely shut down or idled on a plane in flight, offering at least a chance at an emergency landing, than to have the plane summarily blown out of the sky.

      I don't know that much about aerodynamics, but I suspect at 30,000FT that might result in an uncontrolled decent.

      It would be more logical to just force the plane into autopilot and bring her in on her own power to the nearest secure location. As it passenger planes don't really "need" a pilot these days and most pilot

      • It will glide (Score:4, Informative)

        by yabos (719499) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @09:33AM (#23989801)
        As long as the pilot doesn't nose down, the plane can glide to the ground. That is assuming the controls are still working. The only reason you need the engines is to remain at an altitude or climb. The plane can act as a glider for as long as it has enough forward air speed to produce the lift required.
      • Re:In Flight (Score:5, Informative)

        by BarefootClown (267581) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @09:46AM (#23989879) Homepage

        I don't know that much about aerodynamics, but I suspect at 30,000FT that might result in an uncontrolled decent.

        Clearly, you don't. An airplane will glide just fine, thank you. Here's an example of an A330 losing all power and covering 100 km in 19 minutes, to a successful dead-stick landing: http://www.iasa.com.au/folders/Safety_Issues/others/azoresdeadstick.html [iasa.com.au]

        This sort of training is among the most basic of fundamentals, and taught to every pilot before he first solos.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I would much rather have the engines remotely shut down or idled on a plane in flight, offering at least a chance at an emergency landing, than to have the plane summarily blown out of the sky.

        I don't know that much about aerodynamics, but I suspect at 30,000FT that might result in an uncontrolled decent.

        I suggest you check out the stories of the 'Gimli Glider' [wikipedia.org] and Air Transat Flight 236 [wikipedia.org] - both well documented cases of aircraft losing all engines at or near cruise height, and resulting in a successful landing of the aircraft.

        It would be more logical to just force the plane into autopilot and bring her in on her own power to the nearest secure location. As it passenger planes don't really "need" a pilot these days and most pilots just are there in case something went wrong and to of course set the autopilot.

        No, a pilot has to be in control to successfully intercept the ILS signal, the autopilot currently cannot do that on its own - thus there is no way to bring an aircraft down from cruise to land without help from the flight deck.

      • Re:In Flight (Score:4, Informative)

        by icebrain (944107) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @09:58AM (#23989949)

        I don't know that much about aerodynamics, but I suspect at 30,000FT that might result in an uncontrolled decent.

        That happens every day, but there's nothing "uncontrolled" about it. A standard descent from cruise in an airliner involves pulling the throttles to idle and letting the aircraft come down. Ideally (for greatest efficiency), the engines would stay at idle until you're lining up on final and the gear/flaps come out. Then you have to spool them back up to hold the proper airspeed and glidepath. Up till recently, however, the ATC system and the limitations of aircraft autopilots couldn't handle this, and there would be periods where you level off for a bit, then "step" down again, and so on. But FedEx, UPS, and others are now working on implementing this in the real world. Look up Continuous Descent Arrival.

        As a pilot, I do not trust automated systems as far as I can throw them. Granted, I only fly small airplanes that don't have fancy autopilots and flight management systems... but I've also worked avionics development and test for airplanes that do (my day job is engineering). Autopilots do not replace thinking. They take some of the load off the pilots' hands so they can concentrate on other, more complicated things, such as planning a new course around thunderstorms or handling ATC and other traffic. There is no AI component to autopilots, they simply follow a programmed course.

    • I don't necessarily object to having an override in a commercial jet, but if I have my own plane they better not be trying to force me to install some damn device that lets them control it. MY plane, MY property, keep your hands off.
  • by gelfling (6534) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @09:13AM (#23989683) Homepage Journal

    This has the effect of turning us all into renters. Which is fine, I don't want the title, I don't want to carry insurance, I don't want to maintain the vehicle and so on. As long as I don't have the rights of ownership, I don't want to pay for ownership. And when it's time to get rid of said asset just bring it back to the dealer and let them deal with it. I am fine with being treated like a criminal under those conditions.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Agree wholeheartedly.

      I don't mind DRM as much in the context of the Netflix DVD model. I just don't have the emotional involvement in something that gets returned the day after I watch it. Ownership demands control. Renting permits a carefree attitude.

      I'd buy a Kindle in a second if it could tap into the local library system. I don't want to own the books. I just want to read them and move on.

    • I'm not (Score:2, Insightful)

      by denzacar (181829)

      I am fine with being treated like a criminal under those conditions.

      I'm not.

      If I about to pay the full price for something and then not own it - FUCK THAT!
      If I'm about to become the owner of nothing and still end up paying for stuff - I'd rather have communism.

      At least that way we will all be able to afford the same car, clothes, food and etc.
      And when we don't - it will be appointed to us by the government when it decides that we need it.

  • You know... (Score:5, Funny)

    by FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @09:15AM (#23989703) Homepage
    sometimes, I wish my wife had a kill switch. Nag, nag, nag.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    If I own it, I'm allowed to modify it. Kill switches don't do anything if they're not connected anymore.

  • A simple solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MikeRT (947531) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @09:23AM (#23989753) Homepage
    The first time someone launches a mass shutdown [codemonkeyramblings.com] order in a metropolitan area during rush hour, will be all it takes to turn the public wildly against this.
    • by jefu (53450)

      Similarly for the airplane switch if it puts the plane into some kind of automatic mode that directs it to land at one of some list of approved airports. Do that to a couple dozen planes at once and see if their unmanned landing system can cope with lots of congestion both in the airspace around the airport and with the planes on the ground.

    • by MisterSquirrel (1023517) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @11:01AM (#23990393)
      Except by that time, the infrastructure will be in place, and it will be too late.

      The kill switch devices will have remotely reprogrammable logic, and once in place, they will not merely throw up their hands and give up the first time the system is defeated...they will just harden it until it is very difficult to subvert.

      And subverting it will become a felony, as will disabling the device on your own car, or cell phone, or your camera (so it can't take pictures in "locker rooms and museums"... wtf?).

      This is more than a slippery slope...this is teetering on the abyss of Orwell's wildest nightmare.
  • As I read stories like this one, I have found myself saying out loud "we are so fucked".

    So thats how I will tag these stories from now on "wearesofucked"

  • by 2phar (137027)

    At what point does centralizing and/or delegating operational authority over so much of our lives become a dangerous practice of its own?

    When it can kill your conne%?DE [theregister.co.uk]
    NO CARRIER

  • by Dachannien (617929) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @09:38AM (#23989827)

    • Who has the authority to limit functionality of my devices, and how do they get that authority? In this order: the Content Cabal, Russian hackers, and federal law enforcement. The Content Cabal gets the authority because they pay Congress and/or the FCC for it, the Russian hackers get that authority because our own security-fu is weak, and law enforcement gets it because terrorists scare the shit out of us.
    • What prevents them from abusing that power? Content Cabal: Nothing (once their power is ensconced in law, it's too late); Russian hackers: Nothing (the teeming masses of neophyte device users will never learn to make themselves secure); and Law Enforcement: Nothing (you can't complain about what you don't know about).
    • Do I get the ability to override their limitations? In what circumstances, and how? I want some of what you're smoking. But seriously, the only guaranteed way to override these limitations is to use devices that are not equipped with such "functionality". (In the case of the Content Cabal and law enforcement, this may eventually not be legally possible.)
    • Can they override my override? As with any form of DRM, it will be a war of escalation between those who want control over their own devices and those who have a vested interest in wresting that control away from you. Any security you manage to get for yourself will eventually become obsolete, either because (a) the device itself reaches obsolescence, through format changes, licensing, insufficient processing power, or plain old wear and tear, or (b) the security measures you obtain are eventually counteracted through countersecurity measures. Neither side will win, of course, which is why the Content Cabal and law enforcement will seek criminal penalties against those who try to maintain control over their own devices.
  • by paratiritis (1282164) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @09:41AM (#23989847)
    What happened to owning your own property? Why should central authority have the abiity to override everything?

    In any case without legislation making this mandatory the solution is very simple: Use only stuff that is built on open architectures, using only open source SW. Mod anything that limits your freedom.

    • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @10:12AM (#23990021)

      What happened to owning your own property? Why should central authority have the abiity to override everything?

      Sounds like maybe Socialism is indistinguishable from Capitalism for an sufficiently non-capitalized individual.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Sounds like maybe Socialism is indistinguishable from Capitalism for an sufficiently non-capitalized individual.

        When you have an unaccountable central government with nearly omnipotent control over those under their authority, what you have can't be described with only the words 'socialism' or 'capitalism'. What you have in such a case is authoritarianism. It's authoritarian governments that we need to worry about - not necessarily socialist or capitalist ones. Authoritarian socialism (communism) has proven to be every bit as dangerous to its citizens as authoritarian capitalism (fascism). People need to be less conc

      • Sounds like maybe Socialism is indistinguishable from Capitalism for an sufficiently non-capitalized individual.

        What if I start referring to myself as an Idividual rather than an individual...
        .
        .
        .
        .
        ... would that make me sufficiently capitalized...?

  • Bladerunner, man (Score:3, Insightful)

    by smchris (464899) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @09:44AM (#23989861)

    At what point does centralizing and/or delegating operational authority over so much of our lives become a dangerous practice of its own?"

    When they put kill switches in _us_?

  • Can these be installed in politicians?

    I'm telling MIT to get right on this.

  • by csoto (220540) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @09:59AM (#23989953)

    There's one "kill switch" they'll have to pry from my cold, dead hands.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @10:07AM (#23989979) Homepage

    > At what point does centralizing and/or delegating operational authority over so much of
    > our lives become a dangerous practice of its own?

    At the very beginning.

  • "Digital Manners Policies" needs to have a 911 law that forces a override just like how you can dial even if you don't have a sim card in the phone.

  • This is the one kill switch that I want to retain -- the ability to vote out politicians who think that they are our masters rather than our servants.
  • Three killswitches for the airplanes under the sky,
    Seven for the iPhones in the lesser phones,
    Nine for OnStar drivers doomed to die,
    One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
    In the Land of California where the Shadows lie.
    One Killswitch to rule them all, One Killswitch to find them,
    One Killswitch to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
  • by the numbers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by v1 (525388) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @10:36AM (#23990199) Homepage Journal

    Who has the authority to limit functionality of my devices, and how do they get that authority?

    The laws will be written in a way that appears to limit their application, but the reality will be that loopholes will be woven into the rules, or that people like the CIA just plain don't care about laws and will do whatever they please. There will be no accountability. If someone does get their balls in a vice someone higher up will swoop in and "grant them immunity". (where have we heard that recently?)

    What prevents them from abusing that power?

    Given the above legal scene, nothing. That which can be abused, will be abused. We've been down that road so many times my shoes wore out. We're always promised that it's ok to make the laws a little overly broad just to "make sure we get them all", and then as a result the laws are always abused. It's not can be, it's not might be, it's will be. "Can be abused" always ends up "was abused". Unless you write the law without the wiggle room, it will be abused, guaranteed. End of story.

    History tends to show that loopholes that crop up in new laws were introduced by those who made the law, for those that made the law. Things like congress passing telemarketing rules, that they are conveniently exempt from. (where was the justification? they didn't even bother trying to justify it) People that are already in a position of power just assume the laws don't (or shouldn't) apply to them. Nixon was a hilarious example. He was totally convinced it was OK for the president to ignore the laws. He just didn't get around to making himself legally exempt from them in time. Modern equivalents exist, they just learned from his experience and make sure they have an "out" and then proceed in the same manner.

    Do I get the ability to override their limitations? In what circumstances, and how?

    Just like CSS, you can override their limits, but then they'll make it illegal to do so.

    Can they override my override?

    No (what they tell you) Yes. (the actual practice)

    We recently discussed the Pentagon's interest in kill switches for airplanes. At what point does centralizing and/or delegating operational authority over so much of our lives become a dangerous practice of its own?

    Take a look where we are now. Wouldn't you say we passed that point looong ago?

  • by throatmonster (147275) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @11:05AM (#23990447)

    Program was suspended in early June in Dallas after the bait (I'll call it entrapment) car struck someone before they disabled the car. Months earlier, I watched a youtube vid of a "successful" bait car incident. They let this guy steal the car and drive away, then started chasing him. It turns out the whole time they could have remotely locked the doors and killed the engine. But they had their fun chasing this guy around for a while, and even shooting at him, before disabling the vehicle. When I saw that earlier video, I knew someone would get hurt eventually. That's definitely abuse: they could have disabled the car and locked the guy in for apprehension before he even left the parking lot. Worst outcome? Maybe a little fender bender. Instead, they had all sorts of fun with high speed chases, shooting at the guy, etc. before they bothered to use it. And some old lady got killed because the cops needed their fun with a rigged high-speed chase. Disgusting.

  • I just had an argument^^^^^^^^discussion with a lawyer about this. Apparently the legal position is that the legal system is perfect and so we don't have anything to worry about. Unless, of course, we are not lawyers.
  • I have never understood the angst about movie theaters. The solution seems obvious to me. The theater should have a device that makes every phone in the room ring. You put up the notice on the screen that says "please silence your cell phone" and then say "3 ... 2 ... 1 ... " and make all the phones ring. It embarrasses the people who forgot to silence their phone, and an usher can kick non-compliant people out before the movie ever starts. Yes there is a way to get around the system (turn your phone ba
  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @12:15PM (#23991131)
    There should be legislation such that these "features" are ALWAYS optional, and can be turned off by the consumer.

    As long as that is so, then individual consumers can give up control over their own lives on a purely voluntary basis. If they want to, then let them. Apparently some of them want to. Go figure.
  • As technology improves, the ability of governments to spy on and control their populations similarly improves. Reading everyone's mail once wasn't practice, but as soon as it was practice (when email came along) they quickly moved in that direction. This trend poses an extreme long term danger for democracy and it's made all the more extreme due to its slow creeping nature. The governments of today that are authorising mass surveillance etc., are laying the foundations for future tyranny.
  • A Safe Bet (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Sunday June 29, 2008 @12:22PM (#23991199)

    You can bet your bottom dollar that as the kill switch idea penetrates further and further into society, bean-counters will ensure that a lot of people who decide when to use one will be about the same pay grade as airport screeners. That is, minimum wage drones who are bored beyond endurance by their job. So we'll all have to put up with being late for appointments and getting cop-shop phone calls from teenage kids who found some stupid but harmless way to get a bunch of cars stopped in the middle of a major intersection, while genuine security threats skate around the system with impunity.

    So once again, our quality of life will be compromised, our freedom will be diminished and the net effect on security will be, at best, zero.

  • . . .and so do I. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Knight of Shadows (1163917) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @12:38PM (#23991307)
    It's called a pair of pliers, which I will use to rip out any of that crap out of any vehicle I own, and hope everyone else will eventually evolve enough to have the balls to do the same thing. I've hated OnStar from the start, could see the implications immediately, and have NOT been quiet about it, telling whoever may have the ears to hear. If anyone is insane enough to be buying a car in this particular time in history, they should be explicit in that NO ONSTAR or any such technology be included, and that the buyer not be made responsible for the cost of that in any way. Revolution, people. It's what is needed now, and has been for quite some time. Lock and load, and LET'S GO!

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