When USMLEWorld spying on you is the harbinger of our future despair

From Cory Doctorow’s How Laws Restricting Tech Actually Expose Us to Greater Harm:

Because while we’ve spent the past 70 years perfecting the art of building computers that can run every single program, we have no idea how to build a computer that can run every program except the one that infringes copyright or prints out guns or lets a software-based radio be used to confound air-traffic control signals or cranks up the air-conditioning even when the power company sends a peak-load message to it.

Why? Because for such a system to work, remote parties must have more privileges on it than the owner. And such a security model must hide its operation from the computer’s normal processes. When you ask your computer to do something reasonable, you expect it to say, “Yes, master” (or possibly “Are you sure?”), not “I CAN’T LET YOU DO THAT, DAVE.”

Which, though actually quite different, reminded me of one reason I always disliked USMLEWorld’s zealous efforts to prevent intellectual property theft. From the official Terms and Conditions:

The UWorld software is designed to access your computer system’s clipboard during use of the UWorld software. While a test is in progress, the UWorld software shall disable all clipboard functions of your computer system (including, but not limited to, copy-paste-print and save-to-disk functions). Furthermore, the UWorld software shall monitor all processes on your computer to determine if there exists any applications that could be used (intentionally or unintentionally) to copy contents. Simultaneous use of such applications (hereafter referred to as “dubious applications”) with the UWorld software constitutes a violation of this agreement.

That’s an amazing amount of system privelige we give to a small software package out of Irving, TX. In the future, how much control will we be willing to give up to companies and governements in order to use the products we want?

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