Cloud Computing, according to Richard Stallman, "worse than stupidity"

by Michael Smith

Richard Stallman, the founder of the GNU project – which is NOT an operating system as claimed by one author and journalist recently – finds the euphoria as regards "Cloud Computing" as entirely over the top.

Stallman sees in this present debate simply another way of the software companies to bind as many users as possible to proprietary concepts, and he finds the use of Web-Software, such as Google-Mail, as a means of storing personal data “in the cloud” somewhere “as worse than stupidity”.

While on some levels Cloud Computing might look good and useful and having some sort of documents for working on the move online is a good idea, probably, total Cloud Computing is, I have to agree, as Richard Stallman says. Especially if we consider the small print in the EULAs of Google and other in the cloud services, the majority of which consider the data that the user stores there as also legitimate theirs. This is to say that Google, etc. claim that they have been given, as soon as the user stores data with them, an extension of the copyright and hence can use the data as and how they see fit to use it. Doh?

To him all the talk of Cloud Computing is nothing more than market hype and to me, personally, it has some sinister undertones.

According to Stallman there are no possible positive reasons as to why anyone would want to store personal data on the servers of those businesses whaile one has the possibility to store such data locallly. The argument, he says, that the use of bought in, in other words hired, services instead of the use of local software saves money is more than ludicrous. Furthermore is it as ludicrous to claim that, as it is being done, the development towards Cloud Computing is going to be inevitable.

"Somebody is saying this is inevitable – and whenever you hear somebody saying that, it's very likely to be a set of businesses campaigning to make it true." Stallman said.

The 55-year-old New Yorker said that computer users should be keen to keep their information in their own hands, rather than hand it over to a third party.

A sentiment that I can but agree with wholeheartedly and this for more than one reason, though privacy being the greatest of them all.

His comments echo those made last week by Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, who criticised the rash of cloud computing announcements as "fashion-driven" and "complete gibberish".

"The interesting thing about cloud computing is that we've redefined cloud computing to include everything that we already do," he said. "The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women's fashion. Maybe I'm an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It's complete gibberish. It's insane. When is this idiocy going to stop?"

The growing number of people storing information on internet-accessible servers rather than on their own machines, has become a core part of the rise of Web 2.0 applications. Millions of people now upload personal data such as emails, photographs and, increasingly, their work, to sites owned by companies such as Google.

But there has been growing concern that mainstream adoption of cloud computing could present a mixture of privacy and ownership issues, with users potentially being locked out of their own files.

This is a dangerous affair, however, for once they are uploaded to those servers the question remains as to who owns them, and if the EULAs are to be believes, and I have addressed that earlier in this article, then the service provider, whether Google, or whoever else, owns a shared copyright of your data.

Think about it... they claim that they own the data, your personal information, your essays and manuscripts, your photos, and whatever else, equally and the right to do with it as they please. Do you really want to hand such rights over to such people?

The possibility of being locked out of your own files is real, let me tell you that. It happened to me and while I do store bookmarks and such online, they are but copies of what I store off line either on a hard drive, a flash drive or CDs.

Stallman, who is a staunch privacy advocate, advised users to stay local and stick with their own computers.

"One reason you should not use web applications to do your computing is that you lose control," he said. "It's just as bad as using a proprietary program. Do your own computing on your own computer with your copy of a freedom-respecting program. If you use a proprietary program or somebody else's web server, you're defenceless. You're putty in the hands of whoever developed that software."

This advice of Richard Stallman I can but endorse and while he may be better in many aspects of computing and have much more knowledge on the subject, I have been there and experienced the issue of not getting to my data for over two months.

While I know that there are many advocates of Cloud Computing I wonder how many of them have, in fact, stopped to think as to what they are doing and how many have, in fact, carefully ready the EULAs of the services. If they have done with those licenses the same that the majority of us tend to do with the EULAs of software, whether Open Source, Freeware, Shareware or proprietary, then they, more than likely will not have done so. Few of us ever tend to read those licenses, do we now. In the case of Cloud Computing services, free or paid for, I do sincerely think that we should read those licenses and we should read them very, very carefully indeed.

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008