Interesting story on DRM in medical devices

“Digital rights management” - the way that manufacturers can lock users out of their hardware, claiming broad copyright over the firmware and software that run the hardware.

This is quite interesting and problematic story - where suffers of sleep disorders are taking things, and their lives into their own hands, as they feel ignored by companies and medical professionals.

Presents a real ethical conundrum. Seems like being forced to hack medical hardware is a terrible option, and people should be fully aware of the risks, but not necessarily prevented from doing so…?

But the reporter claims

Several people with sleep apnea I spoke to said that any concern that altering their treatment is dangerous is misplaced; many said they believe it’s fear-mongering by doctors and device manufacturers, and all of them stressed that they would never make modifications without fully understanding how the machines work and what the data is telling them.

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When companies have the exclusive control to make changes in devices and there is no transparency over these functions, there is enormous temptation to do things that improve profit over patient well-being. We now know about Volkswagen and their Diesel emissions, but there is very likely many more such situations we will find out about in time.

I believe that all medical devices should have open source code as a prerequisite to certification. I am not saying necessarily that users could modify this code and upload it to a device, but they should be able to see the code.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant.


Reminded of Mariana Mazzucato’s “The Value of Everything” - where she details how the intellectual property regime (in this case DRM) is used to extract value (often at the detriment to their customers or the environment), instead of creating it. We didn’t even get to this part in our radio discussion of the book. (If anybody would like to borrow it, we have a copy. But I hope most libraries might carry it by now.)

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Thank you for this!

This reminded me of the work done by Karen Sandler:

Regarding free software on medical devices:

Looks like she got some success in US in 2015 in which white hat hackers are not prosecuted simply for trying to make things better.

Looking up her recent legal probono legal council efforts lead me to find that she got a prize last year for her efforts from fsf.

She used to podcast a bit as well.

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