Hardware-Based Id, Rights Management and Trusted Systems
32 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2000
Technologies involving the assignment and use of common user identifiers, such as Intel's ill-fated Processor Serial Number, provide a straightforward way for publishers to verify the authenticity of messages claiming authorization to receive digital works. These technologies are a useful adjunct to trusted systems, which allow content providers to prevent recipients from passing usable copies of the work to anyone who has not paid the content provider, and give content providers flexibility in specifying the nature of the event that will trigger a payment obligation. But their consequences are undesirable: Trusted systems relying on common identifiers will reduce anonymity and informational privacy on the Internet. They raise the prospect that a much larger proportion of ordinary transactions will require consumers to present unique identification numbers digitally linked to a wide range of personally identifiable information. They are well-suited to being used across the board by a large number of unrelated information collectors, increasing the ease with which a wide range of information about a person can be aggregated into a single overall dossier.
Moreover, the combination of trusted-systems technology (allowing publishers to ensure that speech released to Bob does not make its way, via sharing or secondary markets, to Alice) and the privacy effects described above (allowing publishers to collect extensive individualized information on consumers) will sharply enhance producers' ability to discriminate among individual consumers in connection with the sale and marketing of information goods. Some commentators suggest that this concentration of control is a good thing; the price discrimination it enables, they urge, will broaden distribution of information goods. Yet the benefits of such a system are clouded; any increase in distribution due to price discrimination comes at the cost of shutting down distribution that comes, in today's less-controlled system, through sharing or secondary markets. It will likely be accompanied by increased media concentration and a self-reinforcing cycle of commercial pressure on individual privacy. In considering these effects, we should remember that they are unnecessary; publishers could get the benefits of trusted systems without relying on common identifiers at all.
JEL Classification: K23, L86, O33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation