Yesterday I linked to Cory Doctorow's new talk, but I didn't actually say anything about it, because I hadn't watched it yet. Now, I have. In his new talk, a sequel to his last big talk, The Coming War on General Computation, he describes a scenario that follows after we've won the civil rights war of information -- after the federal government stops trying to deny the right of computer owners to know what's going on in their computers, their right to privacy, their right to autonomy, there's another big problem coming.
Just because owners, in this hypothetical future, have the right to control their property, doesn't necessarily mean that users do, too. If you log into Facebook from a library computer, or use a work-issued laptop, or lease a car, you don't own the machine you're operating. That gap leads to the potential for some pretty serious abuses of power.
It all sounds a little far fetched, but I live in a country now where it's not unheard of for banks to attempt to repossess houses they had no legal connection to. In some cases, they didn't own the mortgage. In some cases, there was no mortgage. And sometimes, it worked.
The idea that that kind of policy could be applied to nearly everything in my life scares me, and it's unsettlingly plausible. What Doctorow is arguing for is that we need to be thinking about how to avoid that future, now.