Carsten Agger agger at modspil.dk
Thu Mar 29 16:39:39 UTC 2018

On 01/12/2018 10:25 AM, Werner Koch wrote:

> The background seems to be a discussion on the German list (and maybe on
> some Berlin meetings) on whether it is acceptable that the FSFE takes
> donations from Google.  In the aftermath of this one Berlin based member
> canceled their membership which triggered a discussion on the members
> only list.
> I have not seen these handouts but I assume the text was in line with
> his arguments expressed over several weeks on the German lists.  Erik's
> reaction to ban him from *behind* the booth is fully acceptable to me
> and I would have done the same.  Diverting opinions are for sure welcome
> but they should not be presented in a way which let bystanders assume
> that this (self-)critique is an official position of the FSFE.
A somewhat late comment on this issue, ie the issue behind the issue.

I agree in the handling of the situation by Erik, i.e. not accepting 
someone serving in a public-facing booth while simultaneously agitating 
against a decision taken by the organisation - if you're manning a booth 
at a public event for an organisation, presumably you're there to 
represent that organisation, not to undermine it.

Regarding whether the FSFE should accept donations from Google, though 
... I find the question tricky.

FSFE is an organisation which works for software freedom. As a sister 
organisation of the FSF, it considers proprietary software to be 
unethical, and the ultimate goal of the free software movement is that 
*all* software supplied to the public should be free software.

Google is, with almost no caveat at all, in its practices and apparent 
goals, an *enemy* of software freedom. It's one of the world's leading 
providers of proprietary software in the form of proprietary JavaScript 
applications - GMail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, etc. Google is not 
opposed to software patents, on the contrary it actively pursues them 
and will use them to keep their competition out. Google has used its 
patented technologies, especially its ubiquitous JavaScript, to spy on 
millions of people, going as far as tracking their every movement and 
recording and parsing their everyday conversations in order to target 
them for ads. That's *exactly* the kind of abusive practices that make 
software freedom so necessary. When asked about these surveillance 
practices, they are traditionally *very* secretive.

Google intercepts a huge fraction of all the world's email, and if the 
patents it has filed is any guideline, it will scan these emails for 
reference to persons and map them out, connected to as much information 
they can get about these persons, including their addresss, phone 
number, etc., regardless of whether these persons use their services or 
not. Of course, their ultimate goal is that everybody should be a user 
of their services, which would place a complete track of everything 
everybody is doing in their possession. This account may be slightly 
hyperbolic, but there's no mistaking their goals. Note that such 
information can be made available to law enforcement, and according to 
the Snowden leaks, such information, gathered by Google's proprietary 
software, has also been surreptitiously handed over to intelligence 

Google may be an important contributor to various free software 
projects, but that's hardly any excuse for such abuses. I'd argue that 
Google's contributions to free software have nothing to do with a 
support for the philosophy behind it but is a pure cost/benefit analysis 
aimed at securing community support as well as infrastructure.

All this being so, the wisdom of accepting money from Google is indeed 
very debatable. I do realize that the wisdom of rejecting donations is 
also very debatable, so this is not to second-guess the decision that 
was taken. Only to raise the question; Google *is* an adversary that 
ideally we'd like to see forced to give up its patents and deploy free 
software only, or go down.

What is the best way to walk that line?


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