Forget DRM, Microsoft Looks To Build Digital Manners Management

from the mind-your-manners dept

If there’s one thing companies should understand by now, it’s the idea that restricting people from doing stuff that they want to do tends to backfire, badly. Just look at every attempt to create “DRM.” Well, apparently Microsoft is trying to create a different sort of digital restrictions policy: one based on hard-coded “manners.” A few folks sent in notice that Microsoft has applied for a patent on a system for “device manner policy” (DMP). Basically, such a DMP system would restrict the use of certain features in certain locations. So, for example, a mobile phone that has the DMP technology might not be able to ring in a movie theater, but would instead shift to vibrate. Or a digital camera or cameraphone would automatically disable the ability to take photos in a museum. Really, this is just another form of DRM, restricting what people can do with the technology they own. While it’s nice to think that technology could somehow block out rude uses of devices, the opportunity for problems and abuse seems quite high. Wouldn’t we be better off focusing on social norms to get people to learn when it is and is not appropriate to use certain technologies?

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Comments on “Forget DRM, Microsoft Looks To Build Digital Manners Management”

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Tim (user link) says:

Re: Re:

The trouble there is, it would no longer be the consumer’s choice.
`So as long as we can decide when or where our devices would do certain things, we should be fine.’

That is what you already have.

Now, a *hinting* system, that would be nice. If the moobile companies were to get together and spec-out an open shared protocol whereby a phone could detect how inappropriate it would be to ring in a given place, that would be interesting. It certainly does not fall to m$loth to impose this on the world – it can only become nonstandard that way.

Sun King says:

Re: Choice

About time this technology showed up. Should cut down on the number of oh-so-important wankers talking over-loud in public pretending they’re the only person on the planet with a mobile phone. “Look at me, look at me!!! I’m talking loud like a self-important wanker”

Sure, it’s all about choice. Whether I choose to punch your lights out next time you’re yapping in the cinema… or not.

elijah (user link) says:

If such a DMP system were in place, there would be no way to guarantee that the consumers decide. It would be easy and plausible for some draconian laws to arise that allow a government priority to override a user’s settings “for fighting terrorism” or something like that. In fact, the government could simply disable all cameras or phones in some area like New Orleans, LA in the wake of Katrina, to save face. I don’t even want to think of the applications in China. Its usually better just not to let technology like this even happen. But hey, M$ doesn’t know any better. They don’t even notice their sinking ship.

tim stevens says:

It would be nice but...

“Wouldn’t we be better off focusing on social norms to get people to learn when it is and is not appropriate to use certain technologies?”

Sure, but some people are unteachable. Consider the texting-teen while driving. Or the oh-so important noisy guy at the movies. Or any other social slob who doesn’t care about their neighbors only themselves.

Society has rules because many in society need directions controls on their behavior.

chris (profile) says:

hopefully there is already a patent...

hopefully there is already a patent on one corporation selling it’s customers out to another for some behind closed doors deal.

MS did this already with hollywood (HDCP, playsforsure, etc.) and this looks like some sort of deal with a government (probably china or england, possibly the US). we won’t know until the first country comes forward requiring all mobile phones support the “feature”.

GGnubs says:

Why are you all acting like this is a tool the governments will be given power over, and that the example of the phone is the only application? It’s not even a quotation of fact, it’s an example the author of this article wrote to help you numbnuts understand what it means to combine manners with total control.

But if we must talk about it being used in cell phones, then allow me to contribute this. With all the ISPs who also provide cell phone services (most trying to sell 3G “high bandwidth” phones now) and those very same ISPs running out of bandwidth in their poorly designed infrastructure for the tubes, is it not possible that they are also refusing to upgrade their wireless services? If you ask me, a phone manufacturer will pay to use DMP, start making only phones with DMP, and then AT&T along with Verizon will be the first two companies to only sell DMP phones. With DMP, they can shut your ass off when you start using 3G to browse youtube too much and it causes the age and poor design of their 3G delivery system to show. Bandwidth is still not unlimited just because you throw it through the air.

Peter says:

Why all the hand-waving?

This seems similar to conventions like robots.txt (and for that matter, “No cell phones” signs) – a way for someone to request a certain type of behavior.

It would be… difficult… to enforce this on all phones, especially with the rise of 3rd-party software we’re seeing recently. I think if anyone at Microsoft really has that goal they’re deluding themselves.

But to have a way to say “hey, we’d appreciate it if you turned off your ringer here” seems like a good thing – I, for one, would prefer not to have to remember to turn off my phone when I’m at a movie.

Techdirt’s usually good about noting that technological means don’t alter the ends – i.e., phishing is fraud, not some “new” crime; “cyberwar” is a meaningless term; etc.

I don’t see the difference between this and a sign, really. There are rules, they’re posted, you can choose whether to follow them. What’s the problem?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why all the hand-waving?

There are rules, they’re posted, you can choose whether to follow them. What’s the problem?

A sign requires human action to comply, so there is a choice. When you start planting automated hooks into the device, you are taken out of the loop; the choice is made for you. That’s the problem.

Yeah, it would be hard to get it on all phones, and yeah 3rd party software might have something to say about it, and yeah it’s pretty dumb on MS’s part. But it’s also a bit of a frightening concept.

Chuck says:

No One Will Buy In

One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is how a device will “know” where its at. I think one thing that will hamper this system into uselessness is that businesses will probably have to pay for this service as well (pay for “manners” settings to be enabled on the premises), and I don’t imagine a lot of businesses or nonprofit museums or galleries are going to pay for it, and there would probably be some equipment involved to connect to the phone and let it know the “rules” for the area. In the end, the feature will be underutilized and eventually forgotten.

zcat says:

I would like this too, but not from Microsoft...

It’s a pain having to switch my phone to vibrate when appropriate and I’d be quite happy if there was a ‘digital manners’ setting that would automatically do this when I go into a theatre, courtroom, etc.

But it has to be my choice, and I simply do not trust Microsoft to leave it at that. I do not want my phone or camera automatically disabled by the police when they turn up to a peaceful protest with tear-gas and batons, for example.

Holy Crap says:

Yes - Miss Manners will control your life

This is just the first step. I imagine that this silliness will be introduced into your automobile next, because there are too many rude drivers out there. Couple this with GPS, video/audio surveillance and there will be automatically issued fines, depending upon local jurisdiction, for things like speeding, swearing and rude gestures. After that I suppose your home would be next. Imagine walking up to the fridge for another cold one only to be met by a stern voice from the fridge proclaiming that you have had enough to drink tonight. This would create a new class of hacker / criminal and therefore more legislation to be hammered out – WoooHooo !

R says:

Set the Limits *Very Carefully*

Certain aspects of the idea are good (e.g. automatically setting the phone ot silent in cinemas, schools, etc.). However, these are changes in functionality, whereas others disable the functionality.
Changes are fine, providing that the user is notified of them, but disabling should not be used unless it is a health and safety issue. e.g. on an aeroplane

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