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Open Your Software But Close Your Data In The Age Of Cloud Computing


Here is a short translation that tackles two topics we think are interesting. The first is not new since it evokes the traditional difference of approach between free software dear to Richard Stallman and open source, except that the advent of cloud computing gives it a new light.

The second is perhaps more original since it puts the software and the data in parallel to find an opposite movement.

Many of us want the software to become more and freer. But Google and Facebook also want our data to follow the same path to manipulate everything as they please. It’s even fundamental for them since it’s all their business model built on that.

But we worry every day more about the future of our data, and if we wish them “free” it is above all free to not be controlled and exploited without our consent. Liberty and openness clearly do not have the same meaning in one and the other [1].

It must be said that in the clouds: software, formats, files, and data collide. When for example you do word processing directly online (Google Docs, Zoho, etc.), it is a little all at once that is requested, without being too good to distinguish them.

“Open” our software but “close” our data? In summary, the brutal question posed by this post.

Free my software, not my data
Open source my software but not my data

Like Google before it, Facebook is receiving increased attention for its interpretation of the term “open” in the online world.

That software is free is a good thing. But that data is open? Maybe not so much.

The classic assertion about the software is that unless you use the AGPL unless everything is open including your secret sources, you are not really open, you claim only to be open. Open would be just another word to say that you have nothing to hide.

I never believed it. Open source is not the same as free software, it’s one of the first lessons I learned when I started this fight. (Richard Stallman did it personally.)

Open source is a continuum of choice, ranging from Stallman’s free software ideal to tightly restricted Microsoft code. Open source was born in free software reaction of Stallman, and sometimes in opposition to it.

Previously, I developed an open source curve to illustrate the range of choices available. The more you need community involvement, the lower you are. The more your control of code ownership increases, the higher you are.

Later, I modified this by developing an open source development curve, taking into account different development models.

What is notable about most of the code designed to be used online is that it is usually not at the bottom of the curve. Even Google is not at the bottom of the curve, although it is a member of the open source community quite respectable. Google does not support the AGPL.

But what about data? Who decides on the status of online data? Does the decision belong to you, or does it belong to the companies hosting the data?

Facebook has assimilated the data to software, and he then allows to disseminate them in nature, saying that it only follows the principles of open source.

When you compare free and proprietary software, the free seems great. But compare them in terms of data, in the way “your data will be open unless you say no,” and the Senators will see a violation of privacy. Especially if, like Facebook, you have defined yourself until recently as a private network without risk for children, and not as a classic open space of the Web.

It is easy for software to move up or down the curve of open source. For the data this proves problematic.

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