Wanted: A Free-as-in-YOUR-Freedom Grid

by chromatic

Josef Spillner writes on the desperate need for a Freedom Grid system:

In the old days, vendor lock-in was on the radar of free software developers. Many systems based on Linux and BSD are used to host internet applications, so many that in fact the server side was considered safe and forces gathered to conquer the desktop. The real push towards a free desktop began 10 years ago - with KDE and GNOME being founded, bringing many powerful applications to the average users. But that’s still 10 years ago - and times have changed.

Today, many user use a free desktop to check their GMail, then tune in to some Shoutcast beats, and finally think of doing their daily backup by uploading some files to Amazon S3. At the end of the day, they did use some free client applications - but likewise they did leave precious data at proprietary service providers. When freedom and privacy are equally challenged, people should shout loudly and stop using those services. But instead, they spend their time developing more interfaces for them.

The Four Freedoms Applied to Software as a Service talks a lot about the value of data, but there are pragmatic questions about the use of a service hosted elsewhere as well. If your work or data depends on the good attitude of someone else's server (think CDDB versus the truly-free replacement, FreeDB), are you truly free?


Simon Hibbs
2007-10-23 23:30:34
Give me one good reason why I should be more worried about my freedom and privacy because my email is in Gmail, or my backups are in S3, than I should be because my money is in a bank.

I trust my doctor to hold my medical records, my employer to handle my tax and pension data, my bank to handle my finances and Google to handle my email. Sure, something can go wrong with any of those services, but you know what? If you're an urban libertarian guerilla political activist worried about The Man breathing down your neck sure, don't use Gmail, but the cops can always just break down your door and take you're hard drive.

Me? It suits me just fine, thank you very much.

2007-10-24 09:27:01
@Simon, in the US we have specific regulatory oversight of banking, employment and tax, and medical data. Organizations must follow well-specified procedures to guard the security of specific types of information, and there's a great deal of choice and standardization by which to switch between competing organizations.

I don't know the specifics of similar regulations in the UK, but at least in the US they are much, much stricter than what you might find from Amazon or Google, which perform essentially unregulated activity regarding any information you store.

Daniel Berger
2007-10-24 11:05:17
@chromatic, is email unprotected in the U.S.? IANAL, so I don't know what the latest rulings are regarding the subject.
Simon Hibbs
2007-10-24 23:08:09
@Chromatic: fair enough. In the UK we've had pretty strict (and enforced) data privacy protection laws since the 80s.

In any case, I pretty much assume that email is world-readable just by the nature of the medium. Email isn't the equivalent of a snail-mail letter, it's the equivalent of a postcard. I am more concerned about the privacy of things like Google Docs and Spreadsheets, but these services are at such a primitive stage now that it's just one of many issues that needs to be sorted out.