anti-establishment movements and the information age

Paul Boddie paul at
Mon Feb 8 18:43:08 UTC 2016

On Monday 8. February 2016 12.31.28 Daniel Pocock wrote:
> On 08/02/16 12:19, Mirko Boehm wrote:
> > 
> > I agree with your argument that groups aiming at improving democracy are
> > better served with free software. I would be rather careful with
> > connecting Richard’s statements with the demand for democracy in the EU.
> > Mandatory software freedom as he demands and democracy are not
> > inherently connected.
> That statement could be written differently: enforced use of non-free
> technology (in voting machines, in schools, in communication with public
> bodies) is usually not compatible with a healthy democracy.

And what is happening now is that institutions and public bodies, having 
frequently chosen proprietary solutions that require people to buy certain 
products, are now taking the opportunity to use those solutions as a staging 
post for migrating their users into the cloud (with proprietary products still 
being promoted as the "best" way of using that cloud service).

So, although people could have joked a couple of years ago that you would sign 
in to a government service via Facebook to file your taxes, or whatever it is 
that people need to do, there is a real risk that people will be obliged (even 
more than they are now) to use proprietary products and services to interact 
with the institutions that their tax money is funding. Because it is suddenly 
"easier" if the public join the same cloud platform.

In the midst of all this, I've seen surprisingly little comment about privacy 
and data sharing, despite the supposed demise of the "Safe Harbor" [*] 
arrangement. My expectation is that under pressure from corporations, a magic 
wand will be waved to make everything seem legal again, but at the ground 
level I expect to see people being told to accept cloud provider terms and 
conditions at their own risk (which is, in fact, what I've seen in one 
institution that seems intent on imposing a proprietary cloud solution on its 

The "hard sell" lies in persuading potential decision-makers to bring back 
services from the cloud, because they will then need to justify the money 
spent doing so, and such expenditure is more open to scrutiny in detail than 
some opaque cloud services agreement. Moreover, it also involves the hard work 
of maintaining institutional expertise, which as we know can be unfashionable 
in this day and age. Nevertheless, I am aware of public institutions who are 
attempting to hire more full-time staff supposedly to stop being exploited by 
legions of big-name consultants, so there may be one avenue of persuasion 
right there.



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