How the Cloud Turns I from Server to Serf

Here is a great collection of talks by Eben Moglen concerning cloud-computing and, among other things, spying.  He has an excellent wit, a broad set of real-world non-technical examples, and a powerful argument.

Many of us are trying pretty hard to forget that privacy and security are held by us with thin fragile threads.  It’s unpleasant to think about all the time.  But please take some time today and devote that time to thinking about exactly this.

To give you an interesting and perhaps seemingly peripheral example, let’s talk briefly about the relationship between Exchange, Outlook, and mail.  It’s always been a bit of a hassle to obtain and copy the message headers from an e-mail message using Outlook.  The headers are not part of the message as it is displayed in Outlook.  They are buried in a menu item and even I have trouble remembering how to locate them.

Newer versions of Outlook working with Exchange (and I think this is currently unique to RPC/HTTP and not for the other protocols) do not display message headers in the box where they normally appear.  Why is that?  Because Exchange no longer offers those headers to the client.

The server keeps the information from you.

If you are a non-IT person, you’re probably thinking “why should that matter to me?”.  I mean it only as a small piece of evidence of a larger trend of corporations reducing our abilities to know.  What is alarming is that this reducing is occurring in the one medium (the Internet) that was wholly designed to allow people to know.

It’s not all about them reducing our abilities to know; it’s also about them endeavoring to own knowledge and then licensing that knowledge back to us.  This is true for Facebook, Google, Microsoft, the MPAA, &c.  What we buy—what we are allowed to buy—increasingly, is the right to enjoy what they own.

I should step aside and let you listen to what Eben has to say.  He’s really worked this out in very precise detail and I trust you will enjoy what he has to say (even if the picture he paints is, hopefully, sobering).

This page includes both audio files and video files (in open source codex as well as proprietary, of course):

Eben Moglen ‘Freedom in the Cloud’

I hope you enjoy his talk.  If you are in IT, I hope you will help work toward a world and an Internet that respects individual freedoms.  If you are not an IT professional, I hope his talk helps you to understand better some of the difficult choices that will approach each of us as we move forward in this increasingly complex and technologically dominated world.

Thanks for reading.  See you around.


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