Richard Stallman lashes out at Google's endeavour to wrest user data onto its servers
Large corporations are characterised by two binary traits - their irrepressible will to expand and assimilate as much wealth as they can, and their perpetual quest to wrest control away from the end user. The Internet behemoth Google has started to spread its all pervading tentacles out from the Internet and into other horizons, like getting hold of all your data with cloud computing based solutions like Chrome OS. Free software evangelist and founder of the GNU project, Richard Stallman has trained his guns on Google's Chrome OS. He contends that the very idea of having your data stored on Google servers is "worse than stupidity," and will eventually "push people into careless computing".
Speaking to The Guardian, Stallman explains the risk of letting a corporate entity have the keys and ownership to your personal data. Explaining the possible legal complications he states, "In the US, you even lose legal rights if you store your data in a company's machines instead of your own. The police need to present you with a search warrant to get your data from you; but if they are stored in a company's server, the police can get it without showing you anything. They may not even have to give the company a search warrant."
The ramifications of this aspect are indeed grave when it comes to India, considering the fact that Google India has been known to compromise user privacy in the past. Back in 2007, Google had given Indian cops full access to Orkut user data, which had in turn led to the harassment and incarceration of an innocent software professional from Bangalore. Such a track record makes the idea of storing your data on Google's servers even scarier; especially considering the arbitrary nature of police investigations and the convoluted legal system in India.
Questioning the intelligence of Chrome OS adopters, Stallman has a harsh opinion on people's unquestioning faith in Google. He insists, "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."
Known affectionately as St. IGNUcius, Stallman sums it up with a poignant criticism of all that is wrong with the cloud system, "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."