House of Lords 2.0

Today’s report on Personal Internet Security from the House of Lords Science and Technology committee makes a small reference to the issue of the ‘openness’ of Apple’s iPhone, which I discussed on this blog last month. The first section of chapter 4 looks at usability vs security and presents an argument, based on expert evidence given to the committee, that there is always a trade off between security and usability (flexibility).

The report argues that interoperability with lots of different third party hardware devices and software products has been the priority for leading operating systems like Windows until very recently. This is Microsoft’s view of the system as ‘complex eco-system’. The report then goes on to note, however, that, because of the increasing level of concern about security, there may be a move towards locking users in to the products and software of one company in order to improve and guarantee security.

This ties neatly in to Apple’s approach, which the report summarises as: “Microsoft might seek to maximise flexibility at the expense of possible insecurity, Apple would sometimes make [security] decisions on behalf of users even if that made it more difficult to download and run third party applications” (p.36). It then notes that Apple plan to make iPhone a closed platform on which it is not possible to execute any non-Apple applications. But, as far as I can make out from Apple’s press release, the iPhone will support third party Web 2.0 applications. Indeed, Apple argue in the release that this allows them to extend the capabilities of the phone, via third party solutions, without compromising the security.

However, I’m not convinced about this. If the House of Lords are investigating Internet-based security, I think it’s highly likely that these kinds of applications represent some of the security worries the committee is looking into.

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