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Eben Moglen Calls To Free the Cloud 173

paxcoder writes "You have been informed about Diaspora, a (to-be) distributed free social network. What you may not have known is that it was inspired by an excellent talk by Eben Moglen called 'Freedom in the Cloud.' But it doesn't stop there. At Debconf 10 this month, Moglen went further, and shared his vision of a free, private, and secure Net architecture relying on ('for lack of a better term') freedom boxes — low-price, ultra-small, plug it into the wall personal servers. He believes they will catch on since they will eventually cost less than a router, provide more functionality and freedom to the user, and even help your friends bypass any censorship by encrypting and routing their traffic. Since hardware is being taken care of, we are called to assemble the software stack. The title of this sequel talk is How We Can Be the Silver Lining of the Cloud."
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Eben Moglen Calls To Free the Cloud

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 15, 2010 @06:00PM (#33258998)

    Hardware that no one has adopted with software which no one has written is not a replacement for social networking sites.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's where people with vision like Eben Moglen come in.

      Any old monkey can propose something that already exists.

      • by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @07:55PM (#33259500) Homepage Journal

        It's fine to build a better server. But a network is not just the nodes; a network is also the paths, and the paths, my friends, are not anything either the telecomm concerns or the government are going to allow us to control, or have any of our own. And this gives them, if they think they need it, complete control over these new systems. If traffic passes over their paths that concerns them, they'll just shut it down.

        So while I appreciate the idea, it's literally only half-baked. Wake me up when someone builds an inexpensive network in unregulated RF space. Until then, control, and therefore freedom, is unattainable.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

          The telecoms don't control wifi frequencies. These "freedom boxes" could earch be a node in a wireless mesh network. I've been wishing that someone with clout would start this for some time.

          • by fyngyrz ( 762201 )

            The FCC controls wifi frequencies in the USA, and can regulate what you can do with them. Quite aside from the fact that wifi frequencies don't get you long links -- they're basically only good for local and semi-local (with special antenna setups) connections. Even when you have a city-wide network in a big city, it can't grow into an Internet-like entity.

            • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

              No, but all it would take would be one node with and ISP, or close to a public hotspot like McDonalds, and they would all be connected.

    • by Unoti ( 731964 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @06:15PM (#33259066) Journal

      Hardware that no one has adopted with software which no one has written is not a replacement for social networking sites.

      You raise a good point, but this is a chicken and egg issue. Back in the day, near the dawn of the personal computer, user's personal machines were generally not networked. You could get a network card, but there wasn't much point for most users. This is because there were not generally useful network-aware applications, there was a lack of lots of other machines to communicate with, and a lack of generally useful information to share on the network. Each of those kinds of problems posed a barrier to solving the others.

      Facebook, dating sites, and other social network sites in general have the same kind of chicken and egg problem when starting up-- there is no real value for the early adopters because nobody else is there yet.

      So your statement that hardware that no one has adopted with software which no one has written is not a replacement for social networking sites is completely true, obviously. But at the same time, there has to be a way to make the statement false. Otherwise, we must say that today's existing social networking sites can never be replaced. Because whatever replaces them will, at the time of their birth, have zero people using them.

      It may well not work out or not catch on, but somehow, some day, today's existing status quo will fall and be replaced by something else. And something else has to be built before it can be used.

      • by mrogers ( 85392 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @06:57PM (#33259234)

        It may well not work out or not catch on, but somehow, some day, today's existing status quo will fall and be replaced by something else.

        I can't help thinking this is how the Communist Manifesto would have sounded if it had been written by Marvin the Paranoid Android. ;-)

      • by Xamusk ( 702162 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @08:41PM (#33259766)
        I think there's more trouble facing the early adopters. For example, even the hardware isn't all that good to start with. The "modern replacement" of SheevaPlug (mentioned in "hardware is being taken care of") isn't all that good. In fact, this new version, the GuruPlug, suffers greatly of an lack of thermal design. This causes the plug to overheat and start rebooting, until the embedded power supply fails (also because of heat dissipation problems). As a result, to use one of those, the user must also mod the hardware, which creates all sorts of trouble. The manufacturer doesn't even care about it, and keep selling it for those naive enough (like me) to think that the manufacturer should take care of those problems before even starting to sell a product.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by lonecrow ( 931585 )
          The way I see it the eventual replacement for facebook will end up resembling the blog market. I can get a server install wordpress and host my blog, or I can download anyone of the other thousand blog server apps. Or I can find a wordpress hosting company, or or whatever. Multiple apps with multiple hosting options.

          With myspace, friendster, and facebook a standard set of features are developing. With an interop protocol there is no reason why it can't be truly distributed.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 16, 2010 @07:33AM (#33262164)

          They've announced on their website that they have, in fact, fixed it. New models ship with an internal fan, and older model owners can get a "free fix (for a nominal shipping fee)".

      • Just this week a platform was announced,, that combines the ARM based Plug computers and the Amahi Home Server. This could be an excellent candidate for a One Click install App for the Amahi platform. I think we may be on to something here.....

      • True, very early adopters find themselves in a sort of void, with nobody else connected, and support that still needs lots of debugging and testing. But, it's a high potential value void - the few people around are other early adopters, who tend to be technically literate and educated, and anyone in early can spread the word to their own friends, or other people they would like to see join them. Early adopters can have a great deal of control over the direction the system evolves (usually), and more persona

    • freedom boxes — low-price, ultra-small, plug it into the wall personal servers

      These are just going to be one more thing that the IT people in families and neighborhoods will have to support and 'disinfect'. I am not looking forward to the 'freedom' these devices will deliver. Not one bit.

    • by Lundse ( 1036754 )

      You're missing the point. The point is that this does not yet exist, but should. It is meant to be a replacement, not a claim that this is a currently existing possibility for the end user.

      Furthermore, the existence of the software will lead to the adoption of the hardware, which is getting cheaper by the minute. Oh, and the software is mostly written. And it will do much, much more than social networking...

    • More then that. From the video he says when answering a direct question that he (or GNU) is starting this project however how about throwing out a URL to those that want to get involved?

  • I for one... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bieeanda ( 961632 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @06:04PM (#33259016)
    ...can't wait for these wall-wart 'freedom boxes' to get rooted on an astronomical scale.
    • Re:I for one... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by AliasMarlowe ( 1042386 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @06:42PM (#33259172) Journal

      ...can't wait for these wall-wart 'freedom boxes' to get rooted on an astronomical scale.

      Or for laws requiring all such devices to be pre-rooted according to government specifications in various countries. Also making all non-rooted devices illegal to own or operate without a special license. Of course, this would probably lead to astronomically large security holes for others to exploit, and which you are not allowed to patch.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Moglen's reply to this in the video is that he expects the boxes to spread before lawmakers catch on, similar to the way PGP made the Cipperchip and the banning of other encryption methods a failure.
      • So we'll end up with two boxes. One for the government (a honeypot of sorts), and one for illegal uses :)

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Sir_Lewk ( 967686 )

      If the hardware is genuinely free, then what in the world is there to "root"? That concept only makes sense with nonsense like Apple/Google telephones.

  • by blcss ( 886739 )

    Hoping not to have to set aside the time to wade through all the annoying happy talk just to find out there's no technical meat. Someone please just tell me: are they nailing down a protocol spec first so that we can all do our own interoperable implementations, or at least all contribute code, and so not have the time wasting nightmare that was the Freenet project?

    • by mrogers ( 85392 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @06:50PM (#33259208)

      Someone please just tell me: are they nailing down a protocol spec first so that we can all do our own interoperable implementations, or at least all contribute code, and so not have the time wasting nightmare that was the Freenet project?

      They've done better than that: they've written the code, bundled it into a convenient cross-platform installer, documented everything, and ported a ton of apps to run on top of it, including BitTorrent clients, web servers, anonymous email and IRC. It's all free as in speech and free as in beer, and there's a supportive community of developers and users.

      Yeah, I know, I couldn't believe it either. It's called I2P. []

      • I2P? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by blcss ( 886739 )

        Ugh. It's in Java!

        I'm sorry. I don't want to seem ungrateful, but I just don't need the headaches that come with a Java runtime. Easy installation and maintenance is a must for a successful end user software. Adding a runtime that isn't really all that open source mucks things up needlessly. Plus it runs more slowly.

        I like Tor. I'd like to see a distributed Facebook clone built atop Tor.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gringer ( 252588 )

        When I click on that I2P link from my university, I get this:

        Access Denied

        Your request was denied because of its content categorization: "Proxy Avoidance"

        If you believe this is an error, please contact the ITS Service Desk.

        That actually gives me a better idea about what it does than the parent.

  • I don't get it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ThreeGigs ( 239452 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @06:17PM (#33259092)

    Am I misunderstanding, or is the entire premise of this vision relying on 99 dollar, Linux powered, "plausible deniability" boxes?

    How does encryption tie into a 99 dollar wall-wart? Privacy? Mesh networking for country living?

    I just don't see it.

  • by dominion ( 3153 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @06:25PM (#33259114) Homepage

    I see where he's going with this, and while I expect that certain aspects of the concepts will eventually be implemented in different ways, we have to be clear that the idea of everyday people administering their own servers is just not practical. I realize everyone here sees it as something we're willing to invest our time in, but most people don't. Servers exist for a reason, there are people (called system administrators) who can specialize in making sure the server software you're accessing, your data, etc. all are secure and have 99% uptime.

    I'm not the kind of person who thinks that there is a divide between a sort of tech elite and the unwashed masses who will never understand this stuff. I'm one of those people who thinks that even your grandmother can learn how to recompile Apache given enough time, interest and dedication. The problem is that doctors are busy being doctors, plumbers are busy being plumbers, parents are busy being parents, and so on an so on. Even as a software developer, I prefer to not administer my own servers if I don't have to. I have friends who are very intelligent people who are very accomplished in non-computing fields who use virus and adware-ridden Windows machines. I don't suspect they're interested in taking the time necessary to fully secure a server that holds a digital representation of their life.

    So this idea of a total peer-to-peer networking is not an approach I think we should pursue, not because it's not technically achievable (it totally is), but because it's not practical on a social level. This is reflected in the difference between Appleseed's approach to open source social networking and Diaspora's: Appleseed uses a federated node structure, and Diaspora claims to use a P2P, although we haven't seen the code yet, this was the original promise, and since the EFF is backing the project, it fits in with what Moglen is suggesting here.

    We'll see where we end up, but I worry that if we push for Moglen's approach, we may see a small ghetto of tech savvy users who adopt it, while everyone else chooses to remain with the proprietary systems, because they're just that much less hassle. It makes much more sense to me to push for federated, hosted solutions, so that an ecosystem of servers (administered by professionals) can exist, and users can move freely between them.

    Michael Chisari []

    • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @06:30PM (#33259126)

      Servers exist for a reason

      Unfortunately, the reason is no longer "to make it easy for people who cannot administrate their own server." All too often, the reason is becoming "to collect data from people and sell it to marketers, by convincing them to do things they were already doing before on a server that is programmed to collect data."

      Like so many other things, though, I see this is as becoming relegated to geeks who actually care about the issues, and remaining completely unknown among the majority of people. Case-in-point: email cryptography; most people are not doing it, not because it takes too much effort to verify keys, but because they are completely unaware of cryptography.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Case-in-point: email cryptography; most people are not doing it, not because it takes too much effort to verify keys, but because they are completely unaware of cryptography.

        Sure I could do that at work but we are forced to use Exchange now, and for me that means OWA on Linux. I could paste in ASCII armored PGP messages but I am pretty sure that this would get me a tap on the shoulder from corporate IT with the possibility of being shown the door on the spot.

        So fair enough its their workplace but some countries are going the same way (see UAE vs RIM) and my country (Australia) wants port blocks and filtering on http.

        So maybe encrypting your email will eventually be regarded as

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by _Knots ( 165356 )

      > and users can move freely between them.

      The proprietary world has yet to invent a mechanism for that, and it's been a known problem for a long while (decades). Data "liberation" is challenging and, even if you don't think that is a problem, cross-realm authentication is all but nonexistent. They have little incentive to provide these things unless people demand them, and by and large people don't. (And before you bring up LiveJournal's OpenID protocol, I've two things to say: 1) it's not worthy of th

    • When I saw this story I had just finished watching this movie [].

      There's a part when the Canned Heat is playing that a guy jumps on the stage and hugs the singer. He embraces the invader and keeps singing. When the instrumental part starts the singer whispers something in the guy's ear and the security people carry him away. Those were civilized times.

      Freedom works, that's how the Cold War was won from the Soviet Empire.

      In the freedom vs. security war a thousand battles are lost by the freedom side every day e

      • Freedom works? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by S3D ( 745318 ) on Monday August 16, 2010 @01:15AM (#33261032)

        Freedom works, that's how the Cold War was won from the Soviet Empire.

        I'm not sure. It seems the other way around. As soon as Cold War ended freedom in western democracies stated deteriorate gradually. Seems the Cold War was what was keeping freedom alive in democratic countries. Or may be a conservation law is at work here - as freedom increase in one place it decrease in another.

    • +1 insightful.

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      I'm one of those people who thinks that even your grandmother can learn how to recompile Apache given enough time, interest and dedication.

      She's dead, Jim. But if she were still alive I'd agree with you.

      So this idea of a total peer-to-peer networking is not an approach I think we should pursue, not because it's not technically achievable (it totally is), but because it's not practical on a social level.

      You could have said that about internet access ten years ago. Most people today are running servers, they

      • by dominion ( 3153 )

        Their computers are all spam servers because they've been infected with viruses.

        Users unintentionally running a spam server because of an infected system doesn't exactly bolster your case. :)

        if was well designed it would give completly free (both beer and speech) internet to everybody and wouldn't need administering.

        Has there ever been a server system that was so well designed and intuitive that it didn't need administering? Isn't that what Microsoft tried with Zero Administration? I think there's a reaso

  • Transcript (Score:5, Informative)

    by PrecambrianRabbit ( 1834412 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @06:40PM (#33259166)
    For people who hate watching video as much as I do, here's a transcript: []
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hadlock ( 143607 )

      For anyone who reads the transcript, can someone explain to me how these boxes function fundamentally differently than a PC already running the freenet app []?

      • Re:Transcript (Score:5, Interesting)

        by paxcoder ( 1222556 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @07:09PM (#33259286)

        I guess that Tor or Freenet are two of the things that would be run on these. Then there's your mail which you don't let Google read, there is social networking secure with PGP (and so is your mail) - so under your control. The main thing is it all runs 24/7, comes pretty much preconfigured, and as said, is more convenient than a dumb router. Then there is telephony which I ommitted - who gives you encryption for your calls? Well now you can. There is also absolutely no reason why one should pay so much for a simple thing as sending an SMS. Your own web server if you want, torrent, versioning system I don't know... You've got CPU time to spare so BOINC perhaps.
        In short, you have a simple to use server of your own and don't need to use loads of third party web services anymore. It's you and perhaps your friends - the *real* trusted computing. Think of your own application for this. Federated things are a way to go, lest we want to loose our freedom.

        • Re:Transcript (Score:4, Interesting)

          by suomynonAyletamitlU ( 1618513 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @07:57PM (#33259514)

          I've had similar ideas (and haven't RTFA), but keep in mind how much can be done with web apps, AJAX, and html5, especially if you know that your personal webserver is on a relative high-speed line. Not just secure access to your mail and such, or streaming media, but if you securely stream to web applications running on your own box, which will also do whatever crazy geeky crap you can script into it on the backend, like giving you a list of your photos sorted by hair color or whatever.

          Plus, I for one would love to have an IM client that splits out to all my existing IM endpoints, so if it were to come with its own XMPP server plus gateways, super-big plus. And hey! Add an html5 IM "client" in the same package and you're cooking with gas. One login for you, logs are always kept in the same place, and if you want to connect securely to someone else who also has their own server, all you need is an IP address, and then it's literally just the two of you.

          If you have your own "cloud" in a way that is powerful, secure, and fast, "cloud computing" with thin clients (down to and including ChromeOS) becomes pretty darn reasonable.

          Actually, has anyone made a window manager over HTML5 yet...?

      • Re:Transcript (Score:5, Informative)

        by Lennie ( 16154 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @07:14PM (#33259300)

        The idea is to have a small box, which does not use a lot of power. Which you can use to securely communicate with your friends in a distributed fashion, without someone else having the logs they can analyze and sell to companies, like Facebook is doing.

        A small server which is simple to use, easy to update (most people shouldn't need to admin their own box) and backup. It will hold your data, and possible your friends (you keep my backup, I keep yours, encrypted ofcourse, think: duplicity ).

        • by Tim99 ( 984437 )

          The idea is to have a small box, which does not use a lot of power

          A small server which is simple to use, easy to update (most people shouldn't need to admin their own box) and backup. It will hold your data, and possible your friends (you keep my backup, I keep yours, encrypted ofcourse, think: duplicity).

          These already exist. One that I can personally recommend is here: [].
          Unfortunately the price is $350 rather than $99, but I guess the price would come down dramatically if millons were sold.

          • by Lennie ( 16154 )

            I think he also things it should be open source and possible everything should be encrypted.

            • by Tim99 ( 984437 )
              The Excito product uses Debian, and offer packages and source here: []
              But, as far as I know, the system only uses encryption 'out of the box' for standard stuff like ssh, scp etc. I have installed a couple of packages like mc with apt and everything works well.
        • by b0bby ( 201198 )

          You could also use WASTE or similar darknet software if you're just looking to communicate & share things with your friends.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Freenet is hideously slow. If you can't stream video through it, it's not going to happen.
        • Re:Transcript (Score:4, Insightful)

          by martin-boundary ( 547041 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @10:05PM (#33260170)
          I've never understood the point of streaming video. It's choppy, it eats up unnecessary bandwidth, if you want to view a segment twice you'll download the data twice, and it overloads the server trying to give everyone who's streaming a good quality experience simultaneously.

          Videos should be downloaded, and viewed from the local hard disk.

          • Mkai, tastes vary - but freenet is too slow to even download images at a reasonable speed.
          • by selven ( 1556643 )

            But I want my video NOW! I didn't buy that 100 mbps connection so I would have to sit there for 30 seconds while my video downloaded and then fiddle around with icons for another 60 seconds trying to get the video to open! Now, now, now! I don't care about your stupid practicality and pleas for proper web standards, I just want my short term convenience!

          • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

            I've seen few choppy videos lately, but I like downloading batter, as I can then watch it without going online.

        • by grumbel ( 592662 )

          While Freenet certainly isn't as fast as regular HTTP, the biggest problem with running a server from home is simply that your upstream on your regular ADSL line is normally just one tenth of your downstream. So you run into bandwidth issues long before Freenet even comes into play. Running a sever from home isn't going to be practical unless upstream rates increase a lot.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Is there a Braille [] transcript of the transcript for those of us who hate reading with our eyes?
  • Your data, and consequently you or your business, can be locked into an application even on your own server. I fully support the people running their own distributed server architecture but I think one important step toward that is getting data portability, part of what I call a new fifth Freedom to Migrate [].
  • Great idea, but will they really be practical without net neutrality? ISPs seem determined to choke us of enough bandwidth to host our own servers without some 'premium' package or some other sort of BS. For both home and work (small business), it's cheaper for me to pay for remote server space even though I'd prefer not to.

    I don't like the word 'cloud' at all, either. It's just a buzzword for server the tech-world is trying to convince the business-world they can't live without. It gets guys like my boss t

    • its not just that, many users are running over ADSL - asynchronous - where the download is deliberately fast, but the upload is limited. This is exactly what most people want, but it doesn't fit with running your own server. Its a nice idea, but I think more suitable for The Cloud (tm) where all your servers are stored on Amazon or elsewhere. Of course, unless you get free computing space, its not going to take off.

      In which case, I suppose its a bit like people getting their own Geocities pages.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Nursie ( 632944 )

      Well, firstly I think it*'s assumed that bandwidth gets faster, better and cheaper. This may or may not happen and will probably vary wildly by geographic region.

      Secondly, have you heard of WASTE? It hides its traffic by using multiple ports, changing bitrates and packet sizes, wrapping encrypted data in SMTP, HTTP or other protocols and generally being sneaky.

      Seems like a cool strategy to me!

  • by pecosdave ( 536896 ) * on Sunday August 15, 2010 @07:14PM (#33259304) Homepage Journal

    I love pointing out unnecessary port blocking in the U.S. - most major U.S. ISP's block port 80 outbound, along with various other mostly email and FTP related ports just for the hell of it. I know that Time Warner, before it left Houston, had a nasty habit of sniffing traffic and if they determined you had a VPN session open to a work based server they insisted you buy a pro account.

    • by tepples ( 727027 )

      I love pointing out unnecessary port blocking in the U.S.

      If Verizon's concession on net neutrality over cable and DSL goes through, such port blocking will become a thing of the past.

    • The biggest problem is that we need fixed IP addresses so we can get data to and from people we know without going through a central authority.
  • An excuse (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ksandom ( 718283 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @07:37PM (#33259424) Homepage

    I'm split on this. Mostly I think it's excellent because it sounds feasible to get a lot of people behind it, which would then make it quite effective. It'll bring back a level of "privacy" that we took for granted not many years ago. It will also open up the connotations that come with that, although I'm sure that has/will be discussed to tiring length.

    But where my concern really is, is the trend that those in power see something like this as if it's only purpose is crime. They will be scared of this, because it will undermine their ability to do their job. When there's something they are scared of, they clamp down on it and make an example of someone. If you're that person it doesn't matter if you've done anything wrong, because they will find something, and bend it to the context that allows them to say you've broken a law. eg It could be an image sitting in your browser cache that they can object to based on someones' religion, that came in an ad on a page.

    Early adopters will face significantly higher risk than those adopting once the project is well established. In this countext I see three distinct routes:

    1. Manage the athorities' and public view: Ideally sell the idea to them that this is a good thing for them. I can't think what angle that would be, but it would be worth it. Convince them that this isn't the evil devil they will otherwise assume it to be.
    2. Ignore the authorities: Take a chance and go for it. Don't rub it in their faces. Just get on with it and try not to make a scene.
    3. Rub it in their faces: Highlight that this is going to let people bypass their precious proxies that combat terrorism.

    At one end of the scale, you may even get buy in, but hopefully won't attract too much negative attention. Potentially, you may have a more "legit" user base who have positive community concerns. At the other end of the scale, things could get rather ugly. The authorities will. not. like. you. They will do everything in their power to shut you down, and there will be significant risk to innocent people who had good intentions at heart. This is also very likely to attract the people who the authorities will have a legitimate concern over. You're going to get those in any scenario, but the proportions will make a big difference.

    Take care. I really do believe this has a legitimate positive place in modern society.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Nobody care about freedom, and that is why the idea is doomed. People want to connect with their friends on facebook. You start talking about computing freedom, their eyes glaze over and they suddenly remember they need to go clean their fish tank.

    99% of people only care about their own personal convenience at the moment. Nothing beyond that.

  • In Otherland there's Treehouse (I can't believe it, there's no Wikipedia article for it!) which is no fixed thing but somehow hovers over the 'net. The only way to free the Cloud would be to use it for and by some "underground" protocol(s) or application(s). Use encrypted, distributed and redundant storage whereever you can find it and have an own way to use it, with no dedicated servers and no central user database.

    I don't think you can free the cloud but maybe you can install a free ghost on it. It's sill

  • by novar21 ( 1694492 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @09:02PM (#33259858)
    Just look at what some governments are telling Research In Motion (blackberries) that they have to hand over the encryption keys. I am not sure that they will allow such systems to exist. Sad state of affairs when one does not have a right to privacy. The public might think its cool at first, then FUD will be spread and the average Joe will be prohibited from installing such a device. Nice concept, but the governments will not allow this to take off. It might be best for this to unfold slowly and without much fan fair. Then if it is designed properly, it will become hard for governments to discern who has these units. But then again the old witch hunts may start again. Just plain sad over all.
  • The Pointrel approach towards that by me: []
    But see also NEPOMUK etc. []
    Working towards use as FOSS public intelligence tools: []

  • by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @11:13PM (#33260502) Homepage

    OK, I just read the transcript here: []

    And I'm not saying I don't respect Eben Moglen, or what he says there. Sure, he lays out great ideas, ideas worth doing.

    But he is still misguided. The war he is proposing to fight mainly with distributed home-based technology to ensure some privacy through encryption can't be won. As long as we have an economic system based mostly on greed (and also ignorance), everything he tries to do will fail, if only because, after he wins, greed will buy new laws from ignorant people and put him in jail, and then greed will go house to house and pull every one of those wall warts out, getting neighbors to turn in neighbors who have them ("If you see something, say something"), same as people with radios were turned in in various countries in WWII. See:
    "They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45, But Then It Was Too Late" []

    He should know that ISPs will be able to track down every one of those things in short order, if only by hiring a million people out of the 20 million or more unemployed in the USA to go house-by-house with blanket search warrants and portable packet sniffers looking for "unlicensed" equipment. And other countries will find the things even faster. So, his approach is, at best, a slightly delaying and confusing action. Greed and ignorance will win unless we directly address greed and ignorance (well, even addressing greed and ignorance indirectly and subtly may be OK, too. :-).

    Do I have an alternative? Yes I do. As I outlined here: []
    where I wrote the following paragraph:

    As I see it, there is a race going on. The race is between two trends. On the one hand, the internet can be used to profile and round up dissenters to the scarcity-based economic status quo (thus legitimate worries about privacy and something like TIA). On the other hand, the internet can be used to change the status quo in various ways (better designs, better science, stronger social networks advocating for things like a basic income, all supported by better structured arguments like with the Genoa II approach) []
    to the point where there is abundance for all and rounding up dissenters to mainstream economics is a non-issue because material abundance is everywhere. So, as Bucky Fuller said, whether is will be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race to the very end. While I can't guarantee success at the second option of using the internet for abundance for all, I can guarantee that if we do nothing, the first option of using the internet to round up dissenters (or really, anybody who is different, like was done using IBM computers in WWII Germany) will probably prevail. So, I feel the global public really needs access to these sorts of sensemaking tools in an open source way, and the way to use them is not so much to "fight back" as to "transform and/or transcend the system". As Bucky Fuller said, you never change thing by fighting the old paradigm directly; you change things by inventing a new way that makes the old paradigm obsolete.

    Now, might such a public intelligence system run well on a system of wall warts like he describes? It probably would. But it does not absolutely need them. So, while they may be useful, the conception of cooperative sensemaking and cooperative design of a better future is by far more important.

    And here is a document I put together that decribes four heterodox economic alternati

    • by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @11:18PM (#33260536) Homepage

      One other link: :-) []
      "Social reformers must first eliminate their own ignorance to educate themselves to gain knowledge of the basic causes and remedies for social problems, including the economics, politics, and ethics of the problems and solutions. Then when they educate others, they must at the same time invoke their antipathy to the problem and arouse their sympathy with the remedy. When the masses are roused with sympathy and armed with knowledge of the remedy, the few greedy opponents will either be swayed themselves to join the righteous battle, or be overwhelmed by the greater force of the righteous revolution. To remedy social ills, replace ignorance, apathy and greed with knowledge, sympathy, and charity. "

      And another link, while I am at it, too:
          "What Social Science Can Tell Us About Social Change"

    • by Securityemo ( 1407943 ) on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:07AM (#33261734) Journal
      You are being unreasonably paranoid. Most people just want a materially rich life, based in a stable and impersonal economy, taking the path of least resistance to this goal. It's on this assumption any new structures must be built - making the free alternatives more attractive (or at least essential) than the closed, walled in ones.
      • Good points, and I hope you are right. :-) Still, as in that later link I added in a reply, apathy is a big issue too, that you indirectly raise:
        "Ignorance, Apathy, and Greed" []
        "So, greed, apathy, and ignorance are all related. Greed depends on the absence of sympathy, and it benefits from ignorance about a social problem. Apathy can be reduced if there is less ignorance and less greed. Ignorance is reinforced by apathy, since apathetic folks don

    • "They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45, But Then It Was Too Late"

      I think you're a tad too pessimistic there. Remember, when the Germans were under the Nazi boot, there were also other countries fighting them. For example, America was never even bombed by the Germans, and so had plenty of time to build equipment and send people into Europe.

      When the fascists finally go and rip all the GNU wallplugs out in America, rest assured that there will be other people around the world who will co

      • Except that article is about, in part, what Germany was like before WWII. So, this stuff can happen from social stresses (granted, their was an economic legacy from WWI).

        With DRM being built into so many things, and laws being passed about software patents, etc., and the ACTA treaty, and so on, there are counterpoints, even if I would like to believe you are right. :-)

  • by crf00 ( 1048098 ) on Monday August 16, 2010 @01:17AM (#33261038) Homepage

    Email is a decentralized protocol, but there are reasons why people give up their privacy and prefer web mail for convenience. What Eben Moglen described is basically making decentralized protocols for everything including social networks and such. But even when we created the perfect decentralized protocols of everything, I don't think that it will prevent data mining and protect user's privacy.

    To simplify the view, just lets say we can do everything with email, let's say all the user's personal data are stored in email messages. To really protect my privacy, not only I'd have to host all my emails, but I'd have to set up my own email server as well. Not only I shouldn't use the web interface, but I also should't use the POP/IMAP/SMTP services that Gmail or Yahoo or my ISP provides. Now building my own web interface would not be so hard, as I'm hosting my own server. But making sure of my server is on most of the time and physically managing and backup my email data on my server would not be so trivial. What happen if I travel oversea and my server crashed or my home went out of electricity? What happen if disaster happened and everything in my house including the server and backup are gone?

    So have these problems are exactly the reason why people choose Gmail. By hosting the server on the cloud, all the uptime, backup, and management problems are solved out of the box. Of course there might be better solution than Gmail, but I doubt if it will success commercially. Now lets say we created free software stack that performs better than Gmail and work out of the box. With the software in hand, all we need is just a place to host the server. User would then have three choices: 1. Buy a server plug and host it at home, 2. Purchase web hosting and host it as a black box in the cloud, and 3. Let Google host the same software for free but with storage and data shared with everyone. While option 2 is supposed to be the optimum choice, majority of people would still choose option 3 simply because it is FREE.

    So IMHO the real challenge to make the public to adopt a decentralized architecture is to come out with a better business model. Simple hosting charges won't work when there are free alternatives, and there is no way to make black box hosting free. Average Joe will neither want to purchase troublesome sheeva plug nor would they want to pay for hosting in the cloud. Decentralized architecture will not prevent centralized hosting and data mining, what it does is allow us to switch from one provider to another easily. Whether the user choose a free provider that mine data or become their own provider, its entirely their choice.

    The other problem with privacy in decentralized architecture is that you actually get less privacy when you use centralized identification. People here often complain that they don't want Facebook to know they like or comment on some random webpages. While that might be a problem, most of our information can already be found in the Internet publicly. If OpenID become the norm, my ID at Slashdot, Twitter, Facebook, Digg, YouTube, and whatever random forum should remain the same. This would be even true for a decentralized data architecture because you need a universal way to identify yourself. With OpenID, a simple Google search will reveal this post I'm writing in Slashdot, the comment I gave on random YouTube video, the articles I digged and liked, and whatever sites that I participated in. Actually all these information already available publicly, but what really stops Google on mining it is the lack of unified ID.

    In conclusion, while a decentralized data architecture might seem good, it doesn't help much if most of our information is already available publicly. Protecting private data is only feasible unless we can find a way for providers to provide hosting services. And even if all these problems can be solved, I still don't think the privacy problems could be solve with just that.

    • by Lennie ( 16154 )

      Who said you can't use more then one OpenID ?

      Who said you can't backup your data encrypted at a friends home.

      Who said you can't just have more than one plug in your home ?

      Eben also suggested we use more wireless, so if you have a DSL or cable at home and the connection dies, you would just automatically use the wireless of your neighbour.

  • With telcos/cablecos rushing to destroy Net Neutrality so they can doublecharge us for carrying traffic between some endpoints (like competing services or customers of other ISPs), in addition to the fees they already collect from up and down the connection chains, we should all encrypt all of our traffic, and run it all through proxies. Then the backbones can do nothing but raise fees on their next hop neighbors, because they know only the QoS priority bits we choose to reveal in the envelope packets for t

"To take a significant step forward, you must make a series of finite improvements." -- Donald J. Atwood, General Motors