If you install proprietary software on your computer, you’re putting your privacy at risk. This is but one of several reasons not to. It’s possible however, to run a completely Free system yet forfeit the protection Free software offers. All one needs to do is use “cloud” computing. Essentially, this means crunching your data while it resides on another’s server. In the case of Google (and others), this appears to be an inevitable trend in the coming years.
The idea of having one’s data in another’s hands is nothing new…mainstream Internet users have been doing so with email clients like Hotmail and Yahoo for years. It’s the ubiquity that’s alarming. We’re not talking only of email. We’re talking everything. At least that’s the early idea behind something like Google’s Chromium OS.
It’s alarming (though not surprising) then, to hear Google CEO Eric Schmidt claim that:
If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.
This makes clear that Google’s obligation won’t be to take a stand for free speech or privacy rights. It doesn’t take much imagination to think of just uses of cloud storage that certain governments through corrupt law will deem harmful to society and demand the “perpetrators” be outed. Google being a corporation, doesn’t care at all about anyone’s rights or spreading the freedom that comes with Free software (despite many individuals within the organization that may). Google’s top priorities will be to serve local laws (not out of respect for law, but to do business) and their bottom line. Schmidt’s quote is a stark reminder that while systems like Chrome OS help steer us successfully away from the chains of proprietary software, it’s still important for society to have viable, Free, local computing environment options for the sake of privacy rights.
If we do this…if we enable this environment and promote systems like Chrome in tandem, then perhaps we will be working toward something of benefit to computer users around the world.