Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Chrome OS equals 'Careless Computing'


I admire Richard Stallman's zeal for all things free in software. Now he delivers a warning against cloud computing - or at least the Google Chrome OS version of it. Google's Chrome OS means losing control of data.

The cloud computing OS released by Google is a plan to push people into 'careless computing', warns free software advocate, reported the UK Guardian newspaper, by forcing them to store their data in the cloud rather than on machines directly under their control. In his original warning, "making extensive use of cloud computing was "worse than stupidity" because it meant a loss of control of data."

Now he says he is increasingly concerned about the release by Google of its ChromeOS operating system, which is based on GNU/Linux and designed to store the minimum possible data locally.

By relying on a data connection to link to Google's "cloud" of servers, are at unknown locations, to store documents and other information, the risks include loss of legal rights to data if it is stored on a company's machine's not your own. Law enforcement agencies may bypass the data owner in serving search warrants on the cloud storage company instead.

While Google launched the next stage of Chrome OS, cloud services and it's hardware reference platform the CR-48, Stallman remained unimpressed. "I think that marketers like "cloud computing" because it is devoid of substantive meaning. The term's meaning is not substance, it's an attitude: 'Let any Tom, Dick and Harry hold your data, let any Tom, Dick and Harry do your computing for you (and control it).' Perhaps the term 'careless computing' would suit it better."

"I suppose many people will continue moving towards careless computing, because there's a sucker born every minute. The US government may try to encourage people to place their data where the US government can seize it without showing them a search warrant, rather than in their own property. However, as long as enough of us continue keeping our data under our own control, we can still do so. And we had better do so, or the option may disappear."

This might sound like Stallman having a paranoid episode until you consider that Amazon removed Wikileaks content from its EC2 cloud computing service, citing a breach of its terms and conditions. No due process, no accountability, it's a commercial license and you sign away your rights when you hand over your cash along with your data. Caveat emptor.  RC

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