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
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
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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