The Register's Ashley Vance asks whether Google's lack of immediate transparency about its new DRM , as will be used in the recently announced video download service, breaches the company's famous "don't be evil" mantra. Now, this site covers DRM as part of the broader scope of architectures of control in the design of products and services, but the DRM debate itself is already very well advanced elsewhere, so I deliberately haven't gone too far down that road. I don't believe that DRM is 'evil'; I just feel that the increasing levels of control over what people can do with the technology (and content) they 'own' are more likely to have negative long-term consequences for innovation and cultural development than a more open system.
It was probably obvious that any fee-based Google video download service was going to be heavily DRM'd, but the wider issue is that Google's dominance/pre-eminence of so much of the way the internet is used (about 80% of search engine referrals to this site come from Google, for example) means that any new development could have enormous impact. As Ashley Vance puts it:
"Having one of the world's largest and currently most powerful IT companies announce that it has constructed a new DRM system and then not reveal a single detail about the technology is just plain unacceptable."
I don't know that it's 'unacceptable': Google's a private company. But it's got to the stage where it's almost a (worldwide) public utility, and maybe as a utility it should have more transparency about what it does?
Whatever the impact of this, it will possibly raise DRM and digital architectures of control in general to a much more universal phenomenon.