Imagine if you get an email from your boss telling you to do something that you think is risky; a month later, when it backfires, you can't use the email to show that the decision was not yours. "Getting it in writing" doesn't protect you when the order is written in disappearing ink.
Imagine if you get an email from your boss stating a policy that is illegal or morally outrageous, such as to shred your company's audit documents, or to allow a dangerous threat to your country to move forward unchecked. Today you can send this to a reporter and expose the activity. With treacherous computing, the reporter won't be able to read the document; her computer will refuse to obey her. Treacherous computing becomes a paradise for corruption.
Word processors such as Microsoft Word could use treacherous computing when they save your documents, to make sure no competing word processors can read them. Today we must figure out the secrets of Word format by laborious experiments in order to make free word processors read Word documents. If Word encrypts documents using treacherous computing when saving them, the free software community won't have a chance of developing software to read them -- and if we could, such programs might even be forbidden by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Programs that use treacherous computing will continually download new authorization rules through the Internet, and impose those rules automatically on your work. If Microsoft, or the U.S. government, does not like what you said in a document you wrote, they could post new instructions telling all computers to refuse to let anyone read that document. Each computer would obey when it downloads the new instructions. Your writing would be subject to 1984-style retroactive erasure. You might be unable to read it yourself.
You might think you can find out what nasty things a treacherous computing application does, study how painful they are, and decide whether to accept them. It would be short-sighted and foolish to accept, but the point is that the deal you think you are making won't stand still. Once you come depend on using the program, you are hooked and they know it; then they can change the deal. Some applications will automatically download upgrades that will do something different -- and they won't give you a choice about whether to upgrade.
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