Yet Another Call For A 'Computer User's License'

from the license-suspended dept

It’s been quite a few years, since we first heard calls for a “computer user’s license” or an “internet user’s license,” but it seems such things have returned, with the recent call for just such a “license to compute” by a “criminologist” in Australia:

“At the moment we have drivers licences for cars, and cars are very dangerous machines. Computers are also quite dangerous in the way that they can make people vulnerable to fraud.

“In the future we might want to think about whether it’s necessary there be some sort of compulsory education of people before they start using computers,”

Of course, using a car and using a computer are quite different — and a big part of the reason for licensing drivers is the direct physical harm you can do to others with it. The issues with online scams is quite different. I’m all for more education to help people avoid such scams, but this guy doesn’t make much sense when he says:

“I think at the starting point of it you need manufacturers of both hardware and software to devise technology that makes it difficult or impossible for people to be defrauded,”

Sure, that would be great. And, it would be great if cars never collided either. But, it’s not so easy. But, then, what do I know? I’ve never received my “computer users’ license.”

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Comments on “Yet Another Call For A 'Computer User's License'”

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Cipher-0 says:

While we're at it...

… how about breeding licenses? After all, raising a kid isn’t something just anyone should be able to do.
I think at the starting point men and women both need to devise a way to raise a child in such a way that it makes it difficult or impossible for them to be a moron and spew crap such as seen in a recent quote from Russel Smith.

Richard says:

Re: TV license

Yes – but it’s not THAT type of license. It’s a compulsory collective content license – and it pays for the BBC.

Although a few people in the UK moan about it (mainly those with a commercial axe to grind) most are quite happy because it has given us open access advert free television and radio without direct government influence. Arguably it is the best television and radio in the world.

Like our health service it was born at a time when the national mood (created by two world wars) was somewhat different to what it is now. It would thus be difficult to create the necessary consensus to establish such a system elsewhere – but it survives here just fine.

Paul G (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Unfortunately the answer is still yes.

What is worse is that they have extended that to “You must be covered by a valid TV Licence if you watch or record television programmes as they’re being shown on TV. It makes no difference what equipment you use – whether it’s a laptop, PC, mobile phone, digital box, DVD recorder or a TV set – you still need a licence.”.

So watching streaming live media via the WEB means you still have to have one if you are physically within the UK.

Richard says:

The original article also said ‘ “There’s a code of conduct for electronic transactions and under that code if people suffer a loss through an electronic transaction and there’s no evidence that they’ve been implicated in anyway, then the banks undertake to compensate that individual,” he said. “Some people probably are partially responsible to what happens to them if they’ve done something very silly or negligent.” ‘

This isn’t “the banks compensating the individual”. Let’s be clear about this. In the first instance the bank suffers a loss caused by criminal activity. All that the bank is doing is making sure that their own procedures do not incorrectly transfer the loss to a customer who was not involved.

It’s similar to the situation in which there is a bank robbery and cash is stolen. The bank does not look through the records of cash deposits from that day and decide that the money stolen “belonged” to the most recent depositors.

(Unless of course one of those depositors was actually the thief.)

Trails says:

Re: There's another part

Banks actually save a ton of money when you bank online, as opposed to over the phone, in a branch, via atm, etc…

They want people to bank online. No online banking costs them more than online banking + eating all fraud costs.

Further, banks are about creating the impression of absolute security. They also understand the Streisand effect, so they don’t want any fusses that associate their brand with online fraud. Eating the cost keeps things quiet, keeps people banking online and keeps their costs down.

BTW, Banks would also be deadset against computer user licenses, since it would have the effect of driving up their operating costs (forcing people to bank other than online). Even though, in the paragraph you quote, the article author claims to want to protect banks against costs, that will make it harder for them to conduct business.

senshikaze (profile) says:

do you have a permit for that thing?

I do think there should be a compulsory basic computer knowledge class before they buy one. At least have a quick tutorial they must at least go through (the XP one was useless and easy to skip). I can’t tell you how many times I have users that have been using computer since 95 and I have just know taught them to move files from window to desktop or window to window (that would be directory to directory using a WIMP GUI in non-layman’s terms). There is a lot I know about computers that I don’t expect my users to know, just like there is a lot of GI medicine I don’t know either (work in IT in a GI(gastrointestinal) clinic). I know the basics of how the GI tract works though and I know basics of how to stay healthy. I learned that from required classes in high school and college.
Now, I will joke and say there should be a license all day long, but all I want is training. I want my users to be able to come to work and do their job without me having to hold their hand (user support is my least important job). Is that too much to ask?

Luci says:

Re: do you have a permit for that thing?

That is because you are a person of average or higher intelligence with an interest in these topics. The average computer user has little interest in the computer, itself, and little reason to learn. If some quack were to tell me I had to take a course before I could buy a computer…. what am I saying? I don’t buy pre-built systems.

Joel says:

Computer license or is it a tx?

There is already to many methods that the government can exploit the population in the name of safety. I think all citizens should have a license to poop as that causes more damage than millions of computers! We do supervision for certain things such as banks and the stock market, but leave the Internet and our computers alone.

Joel says:

Computer license or is it a tx?

There is already to many methods that the government can exploit the population in the name of safety. I think all citizens should have a license to poop as that causes more damage than millions of computers! We do supervision for certain things such as banks and the stock market, but leave the Internet and our computers alone.

Overcast (profile) says:

Re: Telephone fraud protection

I am afraid that I may fall victim to a telephone fraud scheme. Can somebody please direct me to some training that will protect me? I just received a call that I won a new car. All I need to do is send them $3000 for the shipping. Should I use a credit card or a bank draft?

LOL, yeah – a license to use the phone’s needed too.

But past car accidents, and abusive computer use – politicians still do more damage to society than either – so really… there should be a license to be a politician with a test involved.

That and I think there should be a license needed for those that propose licenses…

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Will people like us need a different kind of license? Like how they have different classes of drivers licenses. Will we need a class W for Windows and a class L for Linux? Will I need a commercial license since that’s what I do for a living?

How about computer insurance. I know how to drive and haven’t even got a dent since I started, yet I am required by state law to pay someone I never met for a service I hope to never use. Would I have to pay more if I use an i7 vs a P2?

Anonymous Coward says:

Of course it can make sense if...

A company wants to make sure that its employees aren’t going to wreck the corporate network with malware – but in that case the company can do it itself – it knows its own network architecture, needs etc.

Any national scale license would inevitably lack appropriate coverage and be permanently two or three generations out of date.

Also many small devices (phones, PDAs etc) are now effectively computers and soon computer functionality will “leak” into all kinds of things(the hardware is there already). We’ve aleady seen net connected fridges – so you’ll need a license to open the fridge – oh well – might solve the obesity problem!

Overcast (profile) says:

Re: I miss the DOS Days

Computers getting simpler have only allowed the idiots access to a world where they can do more harm by spreading their mental garbage than ever before.

Yeah – I agree 100%, I liked to days when most computer users out there had to have enough sense to get them working.

The core of the problem is fraud – so they don’t think someone could ‘hack’ together an ‘internet license’?

I mean – ok, sure – we’ve needed licenses to drive cars for years – and most of the serious problem drivers; well – still don’t have licenses, but that doesn’t stop them from driving.

Ilfar says:

Definitely cause harm, if not physical

DDoS attacks rely on botnets, you get that crap on your computer by being too stupid to use it properly. And for some reason you’re not responsible for things your computer does…

If I can’t have the owner of a computer prosecuted because he got it infected with crap that started attacking my website, I’ll settle for having him fined for not having the license to operate the damned thing in the first place.

Anonymous Coward says:

Working on the helpdesk for an ASP, I agree that some of the people we deal with shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a computer (one person I talked to recently insisted on using the term “passcode” instead of “password”, and I think she may have even been referring to the username and password interchangeably as the passcode; ARGH!!!). However, I don’t see how a licensing system could ever be enforceable, or even practical for that matter.

I think what we have right now are businesses who have converted heavily into IT usage with long-time employees that are not IT-literate. Going forward, I would hope that employers would be smart enough to hire people that actually possess basic computer skills, and that hopefully have enough memory space in their heads to remember their password for more than 5 minutes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well that is the company’s fault and as we move forward one would hope that companies realize that paying more for one competent computer person is worth 10 incompetent computer people.

As a side note, I had a crazy customer like you described except she was pushed into being the owner of an access database and she would refer to Tables, Queries, Forms, Reports, etc as a Database. So some sentences would be “I enter information into my database then it comes out of this other database but my other database doesn’t display the data right!” Took me a while to realize she wasn’t linking 3 separate databases together! She also got upset with me when I tried to work her towards expanding her computer vocabulary.

JackSombra (profile) says:

Like this idea!!

But probably for totally different reasons.

After a weekend of non stop calls from friends and family related to stupid computer problems/difficulties (PC locked up = reboot / Cannot print = plug printer into pc / cannot find an email I received = use search) I would like to see compulsory training for everyone before they are allowed near a PC. Once they pass they get their licence

Josh (profile) says:


Being my family’s ‘computer person’ as well as having worked on various help desks for computers, printers, an ISP, etc., I understand the basic idea. Anyone who has worked on a help desk for a length of time has voiced this opinion at some point, usually after dealing with a person who has (yet again) lowered the bar (further) for all of humanity. The average day of dealing with the end users will drive anyone to go on a killing spree.

But as with most ideas that are thought of when you’re angry, it’s a bad idea.

We can hope that over time, with a combination of better user interface design, some people learning how to be self sufficient, and people who haven’t grown up with computers dying off, we won’t have to ever seriously consider this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Of course, using a car and using a computer are quite different — and a big part of the reason for licensing drivers is the direct physical harm you can do to others with it. The issues with online scams is quite different.

I’m harmed every day by people who have let their computers become parts of spam botnets. No, it’s not direct physical harm, but it sure is annoying (and things like DDOS attacks are far worse).

Basic computer security, etc. should be a mandatory part of the school curriculum just like touch-typing.

Crabby says:

The BIG issue

Folks, the things that should really be licensed are politicians. Think of the incredible harm they do to people by messing in our finances, school choice, and health care concerns.

Before they can vote on anything, everyone in Congress should have to work in the industry that they’re thinking about destroying for a year — and have completed all mandatory training. Wouldn’t it be nice to see a congressman picking up your garbage? Probably the first time he/she’s ever done real work.

Pickle Monger (profile) says:

why stop at computers?

First of all, computer *is* a lot like a car if it’s hurtling towards you at a great enough speed.
Other than that, why not go further and require a licence for books? What if someone reads something dangerous there? Or, God forbid, writes a dangerous book? We had something similar back in Soviet Union – worked wonders for societal homogeneity. Few people had cars – less accidents. No dangerous books – less unrest. Super!

Chucklebutte (profile) says:


From a technicians stand point this is my all dream! Im so tired of people breaking their machines, me fixing them and the next day get a call that its broke again. of course they did nothing, it just happened, like everything else in life just happens cause no one does anything ever!

lol seriously though people are so stupid some training before buying a pc is a must imho.

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