First rule of Congress: you must not talk about VEIL

I’m trying to understand what is so important to secure that the US Congress is not only considering mandating certain security methods, but that those methods be a secret from the general public. Nuclear weapon control systems? New kind of stealth aircraft? Some kind of spy satellite? Maybe some new way of tracking down terrorists?

Turns out it’s none of those things. Instead, this bill has to do with limiting what Americans can do with TV shows. You know, like taping them on a VCR/TiVo or perhaps fast-forwarding thru commercials.

Basically, Congress is looking to force companies which decode digital TV signals to impliment DRM technology called VEIL. But you and I can’t read the specification about VEIL or know what it does… well not without signing a legal agreement promising not to discuss or disclose anything about the technology and forking over $10,000 in cash. Even then, you only get the information on how to decode VEIL data, not the other way around.

The end result is we have no idea what this technology actually does, how reliable it is, how much it will increase the cost of TV’s that consumers buy or even if this technology is extensible enough to adapt to new media or requirements. Basically, it’s a government mandated way of one company of generating millions if not billions of revenue since every TV manufacturer who would like to sell to Americans would have to license this technology from them.

I’d ask what ever happened to Congress looking out for consumers instead of business interests, but frankly, that hasn’t been true for years. Anways, to read more, check out Ed Felten’s blog.

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