Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

July 21, 2009


Jonathan Zittrain, LA Times - Earlier this month Google announced a new operating system called Chrome. It¹s meant to transform personal computers and handheld devices into single-purpose windows to the Web. This is part of a larger trend: Chrome moves us further away from running code and storing our information on our own PCs toward doing everything online - also known as in 'the cloud' - using whatever device is at hand.

. . . The cloud, however, comes with real dangers. Some are in plain view. If you entrust your data to others, they can let you down or outright betray you. For example, if your favorite music is rented or authorized from an online subscription service rather than freely in your custody as a compact disc or an MP3 file on your hard drive, you can lose your music if you fall behind on your payments - or if the vendor goes bankrupt or loses interest in the service.

. . . Worse, data stored online has less privacy protection both in practice and under the law.

. . . Thanks in part to the Patriot Act, the federal government has been able to demand some details of your online activities from service providers ‹ and not to tell you about it.

. . . The cloud can be even more dangerous abroad, as it makes it much easier for authoritarian regimes to spy on their citizens.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This seems to be something that won't die. In my 30+ years in the computer industry, I've seen a relentless push to re-centralise control over computing power even as technology has become more distributed.

We've just had a little example of why centralised control is bad: Amazon deleted copies of an Orwell book from purchasers' Kindle devices because of copyright violation by the vendor. They refunded the purchase price, but the very fact that they could void a sale post-hoc without the customer having any say in the matter is rather chilling to say the least.

Even if I had no other reason to admire the mind of that very flawed genius Thomas Jefferson, I'd admire him for his ability to foresee how people, intent on convenience and moneymaking, would allow themselves to be more and more shackled by the ruling class until their "rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion". How close are we, I wonder, to that convulsion. And what form will it take?

July 21, 2009 2:28 PM  

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