EFF Criticizes Plan for Restrictive New Cell Technology

San Francisco - The Trusted Computing Group (TCG), an industry consortium developing controversial computer security specifications, has released a wish list of applications of TCG technology to cell phone security. Unfortunately, much of this "security" aims to help cell phone carriers cement their control over their customers.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) attended TCG's announcement in San Francisco on Tuesday and criticized the proposals as steps in the wrong direction for the future of mobile communications.

"TCG is proudly offering to help cell phone carriers lock down your phone," said EFF Staff Technologist Seth Schoen. "The proposals described today aim to help your cell phone company decide who can publish software or media for your phone, whether you can load your own documents, and even whether you can switch carriers or resell your phone. These are not innovations that consumers will applaud."

TCG announced a set of eleven "use cases" that its members will discuss how to support with TCG technologies in cell phones. Among other applications, TCG suggested:

* "Device integrity" and "SIMlock/device personalization," which would prevent you from switching mobile carriers or reselling or donating your phone to someone else.

* "Platform integrity" and "software use" controls, which would let your cell phone company, not you, decide what software is allowed to run on your phone.

* "Digital rights management support" helps publishers, not you, control how you can use media on your cell phone.

TCG says these new "features" are all in the name of "security" - whether they are protecting against viruses or ensuring that users can't take their phones with them when they change carriers and can't use third-party applications that aren't provided by their carriers. But this security is not necessarily for consumers' benefit. In many cases, TCG's proposals offer "security" only against you, not for you, and the legitimate security benefits could be achieved without also locking down consumer choice. You won't see such consumer benefits as being able to change cell phone carriers easily or freely use the digital media you have purchased.

TCG's proposals for cell phones contrast with its work on security chips for personal computers. In the PC environment, TCG has taken pains to say that its technology is not specifically aimed at restricting users. But TCG is now explicitly offering to help restrict users.

"The cell phone industry hasn't yet realized that cell phones are little computers, and that users expect the same amount of choice about how to use their phones as they enjoy with their PCs and PDAs," Schoen added. "We should be working to make cell phones more like PCs rather than making PCs more like restricted cell phones. But today TCG has demonstrated its eagerness to assist carriers who wish to force more restrictions on consumers, rather than offer them more control and flexibility."

For TCG's announcements at the CTIA Wireless IT &amp Entertainment conference: https://www.trustedcomputinggroup.org/groups/mobile

For more on trusted computing on the PC: http://www.eff.org/Infrastructure/trusted_computing


Chris Palmer
Technology Manager
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Seth Schoen
Staff Technologist
Electronic Frontier Foundation