RMS and Trust

RMS has been a stalwart promoter of Free Software. His take on cloud computing is that it is “worse than stupidity”. In principle, he is right; trusting someone is worse than stupidity but we humans do it all the time. Not trusting anyone is paranoia. It is possible to use IT in the real world while being paranoid but a lot less gets done, networking, for instance. We should not trust our firewalls but we do. We trust other drivers to follow the rules of the road when that trust is obviously misplaced but the reward of getting from A to B is greater than the slight risk of a collision.

In IT, the reward of having experts of our choice to manage our data and to provide other services saving costs and having less to worry about and having an overall increase in reliability far outweighs the risks in many cases. Of course there will be outrageous crimes and incidents that make the news but they will have a far lower probability than a single hard drive on a PC failing or typing a space character where it could do you harm ( I did that once, thinking rm *something but typing * something. Bad things happened.). RMS is right as usual but his warnings should not deter most of us from using services on the web. We should be careful whom we choose to provide those services but I sleep better at night knowing Google is guarding my data and fighting spam than I did when M$ watched over our PCs at work.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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5 Responses to RMS and Trust

  1. ray says:

    we can always do both 🙂

  2. Where I work, I am the “part-time” system administrator. If we ran our own e-mail, software maintenance, and search we would likely need more hardware and a full-time position. It is a huge economic advantage to individuals and SMBs to have someone like Google do the heavy lifting. Trust is the deciding factor, not the main concern. RMS sees FLOSS in the cloud as a non-free application rather than FLOSS doing what it should. I disagree with him on that. If we choose a reliable partner in the cloud FLOSS can work for us there as well as it works on our personal computers.

    Most of us do not have the scale to do everything in-house economically.

    I used to work at a place where a third-party did own our data and for us to upgrade the software we had to buy several licences to make upgrades and to keep using our data. That was not right. It was downright evil. As long as we use cloud services that are more open with the data, there is nothing wrong with it. As long as the cloud provider does not use our data against us the provider is not evil.

    Once upon a time I used Hotmail. Hotmail did nothing to block spam and it was evil. I migrated to Gmail and have lived happily every after. I occasionally get spam until Google adapts to the new tactic. That’s priceless for me. Configuring an e-mail server to do everything in-house would be a huge pain. In particular, I change employers frequently. Using Gmail just makes sense. Having my own e-mail server does not.

  3. NotZed says:

    Bit of a straw man, no-where did he say anything about trust. He’s arguing about control, and that particular article also mentions legal rights (and I might also add questions of sovereignty). This is somewhat different than and goes somewhat beyond merely ‘trust’.

    And Adam is right, it’s google’s data. You allow them to use it for whatever purpose they see fit (with pretty minor constraints), for the privilege of being able to store it on their servers and use their ‘free’ tools.

    But the data we store on google is *the* product, not the tools we get for free. The software and services such as gmail and search are just a marketing mechanism and persuasion used to increase their product base – us and our data.

    Anyway, being able to make an informed decision makes it ‘our choice’ for people like us – but most people are not properly informed and merely make a choice someone else convinced them was in their interest. Which often means it simply isn’t. There’s nothing wrong with RMS being a contrarian voice to let people who might not otherwise know that they do actually have a choice, or to help inform them of what they’re potentially losing. e.g. he wasn’t really even talking to you.

  4. twitter says:

    If you want a “cloud” build your own. You can buy more hardware than Google will allocate to you, so you should have more redundancy and reliability than Goolge provides.

  5. Google isn’t guarding your data. It’s guarding Google’s data. The fact that that data was sourced from you and you still currently have access to it is a minor implementation detail, subject to change at pretty much any time. 😛

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