Microsoft Exec Calls For 'Driver's License For The Internet'

from the what-a-bad,-bad-idea dept

It’s been nearly ten years since we first heard the idea that there should be some sort of driver’s license for the internet, and it’s no less ridiculous a concept now than it was then. However, it’s still brought up every now and then. The latest, as sent in by Marcus Carab is that Microsoft’s chief research and strategy officer, Craig Mundie, is suggesting an internet driver’s license and a special WHO for the internet, as a method of fighting back against bad actors online:

Mundie and other experts have said there is a growing need to police the internet to clampdown on fraud, espionage and the spread of viruses.

“People don’t understand the scale of criminal activity on the internet. Whether criminal, individual or nation states, the community is growing more sophisticated,” the Microsoft executive said.

“We need a kind of World Health Organization for the Internet,” he said.

“When there is a pandemic, it organizes the quarantine of cases. We are not allowed to organize the systematic quarantine of machines that are compromised.”

He also called for a “driver’s license” for internet users.

“If you want to drive a car you have to have a license to say that you are capable of driving a car, the car has to pass a test to say it is fit to drive and you have to have insurance.”

These are the kind of ideas people have when they haven’t bothered to think through the consequences of what they’re saying. It’s unlikely any kind of WHO would be particularly effective. We already have various security companies that have a strong profit motive to do the same thing, and they’re failing (miserably). Setting up some sort of government agency to do the same thing? That sounds like a bureaucratic mess.

And an internet driver’s license is even more ridiculous. Unlike a car, the internet is something that people have to use all the time. No driver’s license is going to stop people from getting suckered by scammers. Sure, more education could be helpful, but any sort of requirement that they need to pass a test won’t stop people from getting on the internet and doing something stupid. If anything, it will give people a false sense of security online. Yes, there are issues with scammers online, but we’re not going to fix them with some bureaucracy and forcing people to take a proficiency test.

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Comments on “Microsoft Exec Calls For 'Driver's License For The Internet'”

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111 Comments
thublihnk (profile) says:

Honestly, I think you’re wrong about the internet driver’s license. I mean, it wouldn’t be a direct translation (I sure as hell wouldn’t have wanted to wait until I was 16 to be able to use the internet) but increased and mandated education would be helpful in reducing some of the crap that happens all the time on the ‘net.

You say ‘unlike a car, the internet is something that people have to use all the time’. Well, I’d argue that the similarities are actually pretty close. One CAN live without both the internet or a car, but their capabilities are extremely limited. Administering said license would be a different story, however. I have no idea how one would do that but like most business model questions that are brought up here, a reasoned, measured solution can’t be that far away.

Honestly, I could’ve been saved a lot of trouble with the ‘net from some sort of mandated government education program, both from having to hold my mother’s hand and teach her every step of the way, and from a few pretty major internet slip-ups that I really should have avoided myself. (I was young, there was a credit card involved)

fishbane (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I think you need to read the part of Mike’s post over again where he said “These are the kind of ideas people have when they haven’t bothered to think through the consequences of what they’re saying.”

If you think people buying and selling credit card numbers online is a problem, imagine the market you’ll be creating out of whole cloth for forged or stolen “internet driver’s licenses”! Don’t tell me this won’t be a problem – we can’t stop forged real driver’s licenses _now_, and the first things that sort of looked like what we now call driver’s licenses came into being over 100 years ago.

And that’s only one implication.

thublihnk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I honestly think forged internet driver’s licenses is the least of anyone’s concerns here. I don’t think anyone on either side of this discussion is terribly concerned about that.

You seem very concerned about the considerations of implications, but have you considered the implications of faked internet driver’s licenses? (Or lack therof?)

Completely ignore the fact that I really wasn’t arguing for a definitive internet thumbprint or ID card (which I DO think is a bad idea), just a bit of required internet education, and again your argument falls short.

fishbane (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Assuming one could actually stop this at “a little bit of education”, which it wouldn’t, why tie this to some sort of newly conceived ID? Because without that, you’d have no way of requiring it. As in, you need a mandated credential for the right to buy broadband, or use Wifi at a coffee shop or whatever, otherwise you can’t exclude people who don’t have it.

Now, two things happen: that credential becomes valuable to people who want to do bad things, and you’ve turned an “Educational program” that either has to be so watered down it is useless or sufficiently intrusive that lots of people won’t pass it and turned it into a black market. Honestly, you should care about that, even if you won’t – using government programs to make new black markets is a bad, bad idea.

The second thing you’ve done is created a hook to hang lots of other ideas on. Sexting kids? Take their license away! Have a problem with libel, shady stock advice, or people pissing on religions? Now there’s a hook to hang a law to require message boards to collect “license numbers”. It doesn’t solve the problem (see the new black market, above), but it is a nightmare for speech. Don’t say it won’t happen – driver’s licenses started out as a registration tax, and now indicate organ donation status and are a way to encourage people to register to vote. Why organ donation voting? Because licenses are easy choke points on which to hang lots of other things, similar or not.

Again, you’re really not thinking this through.

Kathy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

As for the internet? Some kind of license wouldn’t work and would only be something somebody else would identity steal.

Also, It’s slightly off topic but in responding to your remark about car ownership I’m so much better off without a car. I live in a city that has a medium (but not robust) transportation network so I walk a bike a fair amount – yes even in the winter. Far from being “extremely limited” – I have been MORE enabled and have greater freedom without one I have found. I plan my day ahead, get at least 2 miles a day of walking exercise related to work and pleasure, and don’t have to worry about drinking if I stay out late at a party. I network with individuals who do drive to “rideshare” when needed, I’m so much more organzized and functional because I “think” and behave in smarter ways. Lose the car -> get smarter!

Nick Coghlan (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You can see why the analogy doesn’t actually work when you think about the enforcement aspect.

How is the requirement to have a driver’s license when driving a car enforced? Easy: police have the power to pull someone over and ask to see their license. Depending on country, people may be required to have their license with them whenever they’re driving, or they may have a period of time after being pulled over to present their license at a police station (with the registered owner of the vehicle being notified that this is the case). You can drive without a licence, but you risk getting busted for it.

How would any similar enforcement regime work for the internet? A digital license wouldn’t work since it couldn’t be tied to a specific person. And hopefully people can see the rather obvious flaws in the idea of giving the police permission to enter houses in order to check internet licenses.

Without a viable enforcement mechanism, any kind of internet license would be useful (and I don’t believe a viable enforcement mechanism is possible in a modern democratic nation).

ROFL @ Needs gov't to police him says:

Re:

“Honestly, I could’ve been saved a lot of trouble with the ‘net from some sort of mandated government education program, both from having to hold my mother’s hand and teach her every step of the way, and from a few pretty major internet slip-ups that I really should have avoided myself. (I was young, there was a credit card involved)”

So, instead of helping your mom out, you want Uncle Sam to do that (you’ll pay something in taxes for that) and you wish you had Uncle Sam there to keep you warm and cozy.

There are plenty of socialist (true socialist, not this crap the ‘pubs are calling socialism) countries out there. I suggest China. They’ll keep you safe.

lavi d (profile) says:

Duplex

“If you want to drive a car you have to have a license to say that you are capable of driving a car…”

That whole two-way communication thing is scary isn’t it, Marcus?

It was alright when the people were just blasted day-and-night from radio and TV.

But now that they are raising their little fists (sometimes in frighteningly large numbers) against their corporate masters, it’s getting a bit tense.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Sigh

“”We need a kind of World Health Organization for the Internet,” he said.”

*Facepalm!*

Why in the world would you wish for such a horrible, horrible organization such as another WHO type agency upon the peoples of the world? And why would you even USE that as an example? Even if you believe the WHO is entirely benign, how is this not just BEGGING for those who are critical of the WHO to not immediately be against such a proposition?

If the analogy holds true, this digital WHO would be mostly funded by it’s member states (meaning the United Nations, don’t get me started on the horribleness of THAT group of globalists), private donors organizations (The Bill Gates Foundation seems a likely choice amongst others, as they also are a huge donor for the WHO), and, the best one for last, Internet Security firms (the WHO’s biggest contributor is the Pharma industry, how’s THAT for a conflict of interests?).

The level of munipulation and nepotism that will occur within such an organization will be ASTOUNDING….

Anon (profile) says:

Re: You need a DRIVER's license because

You can’t kill someone with a browser, but a stupid user clicking on a link in their email can certainly kill corporate security as well as the internal corporate network.

I’d support requiring an internet drivers license for university and corporate networks, most of which already have an equivalent anyway.

just some dude says:

Re: Re: You need a DRIVER's license because

Sorry thats bull, will i need a license to write a letter now, or to paint a sign that says whatever about my neighbors kid. If people wanna do stupid thing they will do stupid things. We are setting a bad precedent by accepting this as a solution, we dont need big brother watching our lives by way of big companies. Soon we will need a license to walk on public streets.

Splain (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: You need a DRIVER's license because

You are just avoiding the facts, the goverment has regulated anything the want to, because the people of this country don’t stand up and stop it, and if the majority of people decide that you need a Lic to write a letter or paint a sign and by BTW that sign you painted would be slander or liable not sure. But that is the way of the world.

just some dude says:

Re: Re: Re:2 You need a DRIVER's license because

the law states that if one has ID and ask to present it by PD he must, but there is no law saying that you must have or carry. Hey idiot if your jogging and you didn’t bring your wallet is it a crime, no. Againg oly if you give a false name, that is the only crime.

sunny says:

Re: You need a DRIVER's license because

yes becauseif your drunk surfing or fall asleep you can alter life bylosing agame
this web is alll tangled with bugs and viruses that are killing people without knowing it reality is what happens is they end up on different planes with artificial reality that scares people to death in their sleep this is theworks of the antichrist and theway the evil corrupt japnese shadow government iscontrolling society or atleast was till i snuck in the backdoor likeathief in the night an stole it back

sunny says:

Re: You need a DRIVER's license because

yes becauseif your drunk surfing or fall asleep you can alter life bylosing agame
this web is alll tangled with bugs and viruses that are killing people without knowing it reality is what happens is they end up on different planes with artificial reality that scares people to death in their sleep this is theworks of the antichrist and theway the evil corrupt japnese shadow government iscontrolling society or atleast was till i snuck in the backdoor likeathief in the night an stole it back

Anonymous Coward says:

The Establishment sure is getting nervous at all the peons who are talking, thinking, learning, and doing for themselves in the medium of the Internet. If only there were some way they could reduce the ‘net to an appliance, like a TV, that could passively propagandize us through the use of corporate “gatekeepers.” Hmmm, how to do that?

REM(RND) (profile) says:

I can't surf 55

As a small-town techie, I am both for an against such a thing.

Firstly, I agree because most of the problems I encounter are usually due to the most inane of happenstances. Things that, if they were forced to take a simple class, could’ve been avoided. Simple things like deleting files, how to open certain files, and why they always get a virus after surfing around on Myspace.com.

On the other hand, if it weren’t for them making these mistakes, I would not have this source of income.

I would be for a discount card. Take a class voluntarily, learn about your computer, know the difference between RAM and storage space, and you get a card that all techies would acknowledge and give a discount on repairs. No card? Full price. But then you’d have issues with people making copies of them. But if the card were made in such a way that it was not impossible to copy (face it, that’s impossible) but very difficult and would require much expertise, then you’d be deserving of said discount, so kudos.

Seriously, how many of us do or want to charge extra when we see the computer is using XPSP2 and IE5? Let alone WinME?

Anonymous Coward says:

since when is not having a license physically stopping you from driving a car?

an alternative that might not be a bad idea is for microsoft to set up some kind of warning letter/test when people first open IE on their new computers. Just to inform them a bit more…but I can see how that could still be pretty annoying

Shawn (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Ya think Apple will let Microsoft setup the warning letter on the millions of iPhones they sell ditto Google droid?

smartphones are already one of the fastest groing gadgets going and I doubt it is slowing…

Do I need a license if I don’t use a phone or a browser? I use my xbox on the internet every day. When the Boxee Box comes out is there a new ‘test’ I need to take before I plug that in?

Stupid idea is stupid ๐Ÿ˜‰

Fred McTaker (profile) says:

Re: Which machines?

I think you’re on the right track here. Just imagine following through on this analogy, and then regulating any computers and Operating Systems allowed to run on the Internets, the same ways that cars on roads are regulated. They have to meet certain minimum reliability and safety criteria. Microsoft’s software would have to be eliminated from the market on day one! Woohoo!

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Hold on...

“We already have various security companies that have a strong profit motive to do the same thing”

Well….kind of. But think of how much of a profit motive those same security companies have to ensure that malware and all the rest continues to exist. It’s the same as with our healthcare industry: There is far less money in cures to diseases compared with moderate treatments.

And I have no problem believing that at least a portion of our ailments, both physical and digital, were purposefully created by those that battle them in the interest of profits….

Fred McTaker (profile) says:

Re: Hold on...

This reminds me of an early Chris Rock stand-up riff that I love. I’m not sure how accurate this quote is but it gives the basic idea:

“There’s no money in a cure. They’ll give you a treatment. That’s how drug dealers work, they get you on the come back.”
– Chris Rock

I’m sure there’s a way to restructure this joke that includes security companies, especially with antivirus software.

Comboman (profile) says:

License to Drive

You don’t need a license if you’re driving only on private property, you only need a license if you wish to use government-funded public roads. Therefore, if the government plans to fund the entire internet (including the “last mile” to my house), then I’ll gladly apply for an internet license. If I have to pay for the internet, then the government can piss off.

Burgos says:

Well, Why Not

Mundie and other experts have said there is a growing need to police the internet to clampdown on fraud, espionage and the spread of viruses.

Considering that most viruses, trojans, keyloggers and the like operate on Microsoft’s products, I’m not averse to having an Internet Driver’s License if getting one means nobody drives a Windows.

Nastybutler77 (profile) says:

Virtual licensing vs. physical licensing

Besides being a bad idea in theory, requiring a “internet license” would be an exercise in futility in practice. If you don’t have a license in the “real world,” whether it’s for a vehicle, gun, or whatever, when you get caught without the necessary license, you are physically caught, and can be identified by witnesses. If you were phishing or even just posting comments to TechDirt w/o an internet license, how would you get caught? They trace your IP address? Even if you were stupid enough not to use a proxy, as Mike frequently points out that’s not proof of anything. Say a parent is licensed, but their teenager isn’t. How could anyone tell if they were on the family computer which family member was using it? Special government designed software? Good luck with that. You think the court system is backlogged now, just wait and see what happens if this genius idea ever gets pushed through.

chris (profile) says:

it's a great idea because...

because i am smarter than everyone so clearly my time is more valuable than everyone else’s and shouldn’t be wasted by people’s stupidity.

society already ruined the highway system by letting morons on it, something should really be done to protect the internet from the same rabble.

the internet is a place for college educated white males to argue about star trek and enacting jim crow like restrictions to keep everyone else out will make everything better.

this is the greatest idea ever. nothing could possibly go wrong.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: it's a great idea because...

“the internet is a place for college educated white males to argue about star trek and enacting jim crow like restrictions to keep everyone else out will make everything better”

Well, to be fair, us college educated white folks are just intimidated by the size of the black users’ avatars….

NAMELESS.ONE says:

I CALL for a drivers liscense for OPERATING SYSTEM VENDORS

yes we need to curtail rampant bad designs and those corporaions that continue to take the rights and freedoms away form citizens.
when the revolution comes i’ll be betting the entire microsoft team runs away like lil babies rather then actually fight for there company to control the world

i hear ballmer wants to change his name to pinky
and bill gates wants to change his to half-brain

Overcast (profile) says:

“People don’t understand the scale of criminal activity on the internet. Whether criminal, individual or nation states, the community is growing more sophisticated,” the Microsoft executive said.

Nation States? So you’re going to convince China or North Korea to get a ‘web driver’s license’?

lol

I’d rather just not use it to be honest. And I’m not one that engages in any criminal activity on the web.

I don’t need the internet that bad.

John (profile) says:

A good idea in theory

First, a drivers license doesn’t prevent accidents or stop people from running red lights, but getting a license proves you’ve passed some level of proficiency and you’ve proven you can handle the responsibility of driving on the road.

When someone gets a computer for the first time, they have no idea was virus are or how they can be infected with “helpful” toolbars (meaning: spyware) by browing Facebook or MySpace.

An Internet “drivers license” would be a good idea in that it would educate new people about the dangers out there and show people how to install basic anti-virus software.
But the trick is how to administer a license like this and how to get people to actually get the license, rather than buying a fake license.

Plus, once people learn about the dangers, would a license like this put security companies out of business? If enough people learn to scan their own computers, why will they need GeekSquad to do a $39.99 “cleaning” for them? Think of all the tech jobs that will be lost!

NAMELESS.ONE says:

hackity hack hack

and your out of the track
and lows and beholds your id is now bolds
we shall ever know the sky and the space
as we take you and your money and id for the race

get teh hint BAD , too costly, and as australia is finding out JUST UNDOABLE

its like putting one person fro evry country into a room and tell them to come up with a unniversal greeting for aliens

come back in 5 years they prolly have killed them selves

Anonymous Coward says:

Brassy Dickerson is right

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…………………………………._……….._,-%…….`
……………………………..,

When you can’t do things like adopt a HTML browser, kill Netscape, and further innovate, why not create a new business opportunity and legislate it?

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/04/opinion/04brass.html

Vanox says:

Business vs Personal

A course on computers for those who do not have that kind of knowledge is not a bad idea… Government funded course? I would say no to that.

Anyway, if you need a license, how would doing research on the internet for your business come into play? Would one have to have a Business Internet License and a Personal Home License? There are a whole set of issues if you had to have multiple ones for both work and home.

As others have said, a new black market will open up for these types of licenses.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Business vs Personal

That is exactly what will happen. It will definitely be a tiered market. A User’s license will require a nominal fee that will probably consist of a 1-hour class where any yutz without a felony could pass. However, the Business-grade license will most likely cost into the thousands. With a completely pristine credit check and will thus preclude anyone from lower incomes from attempting to make the next big thing. So much for innovation.

Anonymous Coward says:

How would this system prevent automated licensing, or license spoofing by something like a botnet or other automated system? Any hacker worth their salt would jump at the chance to prove just how worthless and vulnerable this idea is. Would we be required to provide DNA? Who the hell would pay for that? Who would maintain/protect that info.
This whole idea sounds like Pandora’s can of worms!

btr1701 (profile) says:

Nonsense

So if this guy got his wish and everyone had to get an Internet License, would this tie you to using only one computer? What about your phone or your work computer? What if you were at your friend’s house? Would it be illegal to use his computer to look up some movie times? Or to grab your girlfriend’s iPhone to look for a restaurant while she drives?

I’d expect this kind of assholery from some ancient politician who doesn’t understand the technical issues involved, but from a guy who’s involved in running Microsoft? Really?

Splain (profile) says:

Internet License

There is a simple way to do this, with each new computer, motherboard ect.. you would get and app for the lic, and then you would have to get a biometric reader say thumb print or something else. So each time you accessed the internet your biometric info would be sent to a data base with your info to match it, well you get the point. Don’t get me wrong I would not like it any more then you, but it will happen.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Internet License

> with each new computer, motherboard ect.. you would get and
> app for the lic, and then you would have to get a biometric reader
> say thumb print or something else.

So what’s to stop someone from using his/her friend’s computer without getting a license, etc.?

> Don’t get me wrong I would not like it any more then you, but it will happen.

No, it won’t.

Dan says:

Yes, more Beaurocracy , more government, more taxes, more oversight, more regulation! All so some soccer mom doesn’t get a virus and lose her digital photo collection of last years family picnic.

Corporations and government are always looking for new reasons to help us, and in the process, further regulate the internet. They’d like to see the internet as tightly controlled as real life. No thanks.

Levvi says:

And an automobile driver’s license is even more ridiculous. Unlike the internet, a car is something that people have to use all the time. No driver’s license is going to stop people from smacking into lamp posts. Sure, more education could be helpful, but any sort of requirement that they need to pass a test won’t stop people from getting on the highway and doing something stupid. If anything, it will give people a false sense of security on the road. Yes, there are issues with bad drivers, but we’re not going to fix them with some bureaucracy and forcing people to take a proficiency test.

Splain (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s about money and control thats all if the people of this country would open there eye’s and see what libertys have been taken away from them in the last 60 years they would (if they had a backbone) vote all the GOVERMENT OFFICELS out and put non carear (sorry about the spelling) Officels in and stop all the medaling in the normal life of all the people of this country. And they have supened the Constitution it’s called the (Patriot Act).

K2NE (profile) says:

You may not want to hear this, but...

The free-wheeling style of the infancy days of the internet are, in many ways, similar to the infancy days of radio, back when licenses were not required and technical competence served as its own “gateway filter” against the irresponsible, incompetent or those with nefarious intent.

Those days, for the internet, are long past.

Licensing and self-policing has an excellent model for success — Amateur Radio. And this is not the first time I’ve said this. They told me “no, you’re crazy” back when I first proposed some sort of testing program and licensing – and that was in … 1994.

We had a chance, then, to opt for the Ham Radio model for the internet. “We” decided not to, and as a result, the self-imposed model for the internet has become CB radio. And we all know what a useless pile of nonsense THAT is.

So… no more need be said, at least by me. Since I am sure these comments will be met by the usual round of flaming and name-calling.

That’s today’s internet for you.

73 DE K2NE

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You may not want to hear this, but...

Yeah, and you should have to have a license to use a telephone, too. You should hear some of the nonsense people spout off on the phone. People use it to spread false rumors and criminals have even been know to use it to commit crimes. That’s what the phone system has become.

Some might say that I’m crazy for saying people should have to have a license to use a phone, but they’re just a bunch of flamers and name-callers.

Flame on…

chad holbrook (profile) says:

Microsoft Calls for It to be Some else's Fault

I find it very funny that the “chief research and strategy officer” for Microsoft thinks that we should have a system that keeps us safe from viruses, trojans, and hackers. Wouldn’t it be better for him to research and strategic chiefly about fixing those bugs in Windows that let the viruses, trojans, and hackers into my computer in the first place?

-chad

Craig Mondie says:

ME

Shut up you little people . Do what you are told. You will get a permit and you will love it. You will do what you are told. We know whats is best for the world. You are here to serve us. Be thankful that we are allowing you to get a permit. If we find that you are not obeying our wishes we will suspend it. You are not in my class you are scum. See how we made you think you need a permit to drive , you fell for that one too HAHAHA. Suckers you are. You said you wanted change well you are going to get it and it is going to be soon. CM

SortingHat says:

Computer breathalizers?

Before having driver’s licneses for the web we will be better off forcing breathalyzer’s on people’s computers so they can’t type when too drunk to the point they don’t make sense both in speech and grammar.

Sometimes people do make sense but their grammar is totally off which doesn’t match the personality which makes me suspect they are not in their right minds.

I think a lot of *racial* hate is people being drunk when on the web and not remembering it the next day and are shocked they are *banned* or *flagged* without remembering the event.

I am all for having alcohol intake devices installed on people’s computers mandatory since people are unwilling to accept responsibility.

Draconian states are a result where people are too easily swayed to support big government and are unwilling to accept moral responsibility since they have no belief in higher powers thus no incentive to behave right unless they are afraid of the men in blue.

Atheists will respect the men in blue before they do to you and many don’t even do that.

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