P2P Foundation

The Foundation for Peer to Peer Alternatives

Michel Bauwens posted an extraordinary piece on the p2p foundation's blog, the transcription/summary of a talk by Eben Moglen, the legal counsel to the Free Software Foundation, on Freedom as related to Cloud Computing. The talk was summarized at the Software Freedom Law center website. 

Moglen tells us what is wrong with the client/server architecture of the internet and with the fact that all logs, detailing everyone's activity on the net, are centralized and are - of course - accessible to those entities that are at and that run the center of the internet galaxy. This wreaks havoc with our privacy. The logs reveal more than we ourselves know or imagine might be known about us. We have use of the internet but with it comes "spying all the time" for free. 

Facebook is singled out as an evil extension of this data centralization, because we are induced to reveal much of our own personal lives we would not normally reveal to others. 

The human race has susceptibility to harm but Mr. Zuckerberg has attained an unenviable record. He has done more harm to the human race than anybody else his age. Because he harnessed Friday night, that is, ‘Everybody needs to to get laid,’ and turned into a structure for degenerating the integrity of human personality and he has to remarkable extent succeeded with a very poor deal, namely ‘I will give you free web-hosting and some PHP doodads and you get spying for free all the time’. And it works. How could that have happened? There was no architectural reason. Facebook is the web with, ‘I keep all the logs, how do you feel about that.’ It’s a terrarium for what it feels like to live in a Panopticon built out of web parts. And it shouldn’t be allowed. That’s a very poor way to deliver those services. They are grossly overpriced at ’spying all the time’, they are not technically innovative. They depend on an architecture subject to misuse and the business model that supports them is misuse. There isn’t any other business model for them. This is bad. I’m not suggesting it should be illegal. It should be obsolete. We’re technologists we should fix it.”

The solution is not anything technically difficult. 

“So what do we need? We need a really good web server that you can put in your pocket and plug in any place. It shouldn’t be any larger than the charger for your cellphone. You should be able to plug it into any power jack in the world or sync it up with any wi-fi router that happens to be in this neighborhood … It should have a couple of USB ports that attach it to things. It should know how to bring itself up; how to start its web server; how to go and collect your stuff from all the social networking places you’ve got it. It should know how to send an encrypted backup of everything to your friends’ servers. It should know how to micro-blog, It should now how to make some noise that’s like tweet but doesn’t infringe on anyone’s trademark. It should know how to … be your avatar in a free net that works for you and keeps the logs. You can always tell what’s happening in your server and if anybody else wants to know they can get a search warrant.
“There’s a little more we have to do but its all trivial … We need some dynamic DNS. It’s all stuff we’ve already invented. It’s all there, nobody needs anything special. Do we have the server we can put in your pocket? Indeed we do. Off the shelf hardware. Beautiful wall warts with ARM chips … How’s the software stack? It’s any software stack you want to put in there … You ought to want the Debian, GNU/Linux, social networking stack.
“This is stuff we’ve got. We need to put it together … I’m not talking about stuff that’s hard for us. We need to make a free software distribution guys. We need to give a bunch to all of our friends and say, ‘fool around with this and make it better.’ We need to do the thing we are already really good at, because all the rest of is done. In the bag, cheap, ready. Those wall wart servers are $99 now, going to $79. When there are 5 million of them, they’ll be $29.99. Then we go to people and we say, “$29.99 once, for a lifetime. Great social networking, updates automatically, software so strong you couldn’t knock it over if you kicked it, and you know what, you get ‘no spying’ for free. We can do that … When there is a competitor to ‘all spying, all the time, whether you like it or not’, the competition is going to do really well. Don’t expect Google to be the competitor. That’s a platform. What we need is to make a thing so greasy that there will never be another social networking platform again … It’s well within our reach. Are we going to do it before the Facebook IPO or after?”

I highly recommend reading the whole summary of Mogen's talk on the p2p foundation blog:

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