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Stallman: Only Victims Of Tyranny Should Use Facebook

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

Only victims of tyranny can justify use of Facebook says freedom activist Richard Stallman. He also spoke in favour of Julian Assange and against mobile phones

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Never use the term cloud computing

Stallman doesn’t like the term “cloud computing”, because it is a “marketing buzzword”, and “an invitation to think in a sloppy fashion.”

More seriously, some aspects of the cloud are a means to persuade people to give up their rights to complete control of the software they are using.

“The term cloud computing means so many different things that it doesn’t really mean anything concrete about computing practice,” he said.  “Its only real meaning is an attitude, and the attitude is carelessness. Don’t bother thinking about what someone is proposing you do.”

For that reason, you should “never use the term cloud computing.” It covers too many different things, from running code remotely to things which are not computing at all, but merely services.

“You should never run any code on remote servers if you don’t control the code,” said Stallman. “Software as a service is clearly bad, because there your computing is done on someone else’s server by software you don’t control. That is the equivalent of running a proprietary program, with spyware features and a back door.”

Other web applications (such as Google’s Picasa) may do something innocuous like simply publishing your images or stories. “I don’t think that is software as a service  – it’s a service,” said Stallman. “Communicating with other people is not something you can do inside your computer, so there is no point in objecting to that.”

He does warn that these web services may require you to run non-free software on your computer written in Javascript, however. “You shouldn’t let it do that.”

What might be a problem with Picasa – juding from other Google services, it probably tries to run non-free software on your own computer, written in Javascript, and you shouldn’t let it do that.

Fundamentally cloud computing is a concept that will be introduced by salesmen whose job is to stop you thinking clearly (and it is also ideal for governments), Stallman said: “Bring that up, and ask what is really going on here.”

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