I just started reading the Freedom to Tinker blog, which is about “your freedom to understand, discuss, repair, and modify the technological devices you own.” It’s hosted by Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy, and posts are written by faculty and students.
A recent post is called The Future of DRE Voting Machines. DRE (direct-recording electronic) voting machines store individuals’ votes in the computer memory, and these machines are easy to hack to adjust the actual tallies.
They decided to prove how easy it was to reprogram these DRE machines, so they obtained one and programmed it to run Pac-Man. So not only does it prove how easy it is to hack these, but it also shows these machines can be “recycled” for other uses.
Many (including, of course, the DRE voting machine manufacturers) are against this type of hacking. Others (including me) feel this type of experimentation is vital, for 2 reasons:
1. If you own a product, don’t you have the right to do what you want with it? As long as you’re not ripping music or movies and giving the copies away, which is a violation of copyright (and I do believe in copyright).
2. To improve security. If “white hat” hackers (the good guys) can test out the security of electronic systems of all kinds, thus leading to improvements, it makes it harder for those systems to be hacked for nefarious purposes by the “black hat” guys.
Does the recent Library of Congress ruling, that jailbreaking your iPhone isn’t illegal, also apply to this type of issue?