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By John Pallatto  |  Posted 2004-01-16 Print this article Print

But its disturbing to think about where Adobes markedly clumsy covert measures in this situation might lead in the future. With this precedent established, will the government pressure other software developers to add into their products hidden features that thwart illegal activities? Worst of all would be if a software developer saw fit to take the ultimate step toward collaboration with Big Brother by inserting code into a product that covertly reported suspected illegal activities to law enforcement authorities. Such a move seems unthinkable. But technologically it is a small step and in the current atmosphere of national security paranoia, its perhaps less than far-fetched.
There are still compelling human rights issues that need to be considered before software is engineered to discourage criminal activity.
On the face of it, Adobes seemingly innocuous move to block counterfeiting also places a restraint on artistic and commercial expression. There are situations where graphic artists want to scan currency images without the intent to counterfeit it. Countless advertisements and articles have been published that include facsimiles and graphics elements of U.S. currency. Although there are federal laws against this, in all but the most rare examples the government doesnt choose to prosecute these cases. If the software industry is going to increase its cooperation with government law enforcement interests, it should engage in a public discussion to establish what will be the ground rules. The public has a right to expect that the software packages they purchase arent larded with covert code that limits free use of all of the products features. If such features have been built into a product for any reason, buyers have a right to know this so they can make a fully informed decision on whether to buy the software. The industry must never take the step of building technology into their software that allows the government to monitor who is using a product and how they are using it. Let me know what you think about the anti-counterfeiting feature in PhotoShop. Write to me at Enterprise Applications Center Editor John Pallatto is a veteran journalist in the field of enterprise software and Internet technology.

John Pallatto John Pallatto is's Managing Editor News/West Coast. He directs eWEEK's news coverage in Silicon Valley and throughout the West Coast region. He has more than 35 years of experience as a professional journalist, which began as a report with the Hartford Courant daily newspaper in Connecticut. He was also a member of the founding staff of PC Week in March 1984. Pallatto was PC Week's West Coast bureau chief, a senior editor at Ziff Davis' Internet Computing magazine and the West Coast bureau chief at Internet World magazine.

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