The good news is Google+ and there is the bad news too

Google seems to have done it right this time: Google+ looks like a credible implementation of a social strategy. Whatever that means, of course. Compared to the other half baked recent initiatives like Buzz or Wave, Google+ seems to have a much wider scope, it’s not just another product: it’s a foundation where all other Google services and products can build upon. Adding a social layer to search, Picasa, Gmail, Android and all other Google things was the best way for Google to leverage its own social graph and fulfill its mission to organize information in the world.

The bad news first: I said before that Facebook is the anti-internet. Facebook is just one website for 600 million people, instead of being 600 million websites of people. Google+  seem to have the same issue, it has the same approach: give us all of your information, we’ll store it in our website, mine all your data and we’ll serve you better advertising. Their business model is the same: tell us who you like, who your friends are, where you like to go to party and who you meet with and [Google|Facebook] and we will serve you to advertisers. That’s their business model and they don’t have the luxury of a different one. The risks for privacy are the same, you get to be better spied and censored in case you say something that the government doesn’t like.

Where is the good news? The good news is that Google+ can demonstrate to all the users that they don’t have to put all their data in Facebook in order to get valuable information. The success of Google+ will show that there are alternatives and that change is a good thing. This paves the way to other changes and innovation, including to the FreedomBox. Having alternatives is good, they bring choice and they help breaking the habits. One more reason to push on the accelerators and build the FreedomBox.

Update: XKCD talks about Google+ too.

The cloud of spies

Microsoft is not hiding the sad and cruel truth: you’re not safe from being spied when you put your data in the cloud.

Any data which is housed, stored or processed by a company, which is a U.S. based company or is wholly owned by a U.S. parent company, is vulnerable to interception and inspection by U.S. authorities.

via Microsoft admits Patriot Act can access EU-based cloud data | ZDNet.

Awesome night at BALug presenting FreedomBox

Last night I was lucky enough to talk to great people at the Bay Area Linux User Group. The group meets in a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Good food, nice bar (I had a Campari with Soda, inspired by an Italian-American fellow GNU/Linux user) and great company. There were about 20 people so we met to talk in the bar after dinner. No fancy projectors to hook my computer to but luckily I brought my slides with notes printed.

We had a nice conversation around privacy, hardware specs of the DreamPlug, the status of ARM Linux, the choice of Debian and more.

I pitched the idea to start developing a mobile app to exchange private information and OpenPGP fingerprints and got at least one person interested in going to the Hackaton in Mountain View this weekend. If you’re interested to join the effort let me know. To keep in touch with FreedomBox Foundation’s activities check the discuss page.

“Bump” and your data go to the cloud

When investigating the design of the FreedomBox app to exchange keys and establish trust between two people I looked at how the Bump App for iPhone and Android solves the issue. From their FAQ:

Q: How does Bump work?

A: There are two parts to Bump: the app running on your device and a smart matching algorithm running on our servers in the cloud. The app on your phone uses the phone’s sensors to literally “feel” the bump, and it sends that info up to the cloud. The matching algorithm listens to the bumps from phones around the world and pairs up phones that felt the same bump. Then we just route information between the two phones in each pair.

So, when you collide two phones with the same app, the data are encrypted and sent to their cloud for matching. No bluetooth, no complicated QRcode. Smart. I don’t think we can we use the same mechanism for FreedomBox, though.

via | Bump Technologies, Inc..

Get to know the FreedomBox project in San Francisco

Next Tuesday June 21st I’ll speak at Bay Area Linux Users Group (BALUG) about the FreedomBox project.

The FreedomBox is a generation of smart devices whose engineered purpose is to work together to facilitate free communication among people, safely and securely, beyond the ambition of the strongest power to penetrate, they can make freedom of thought and information a permanent, ineradicable feature of the net that holds our souls.

If you plan to attend please RSVP sending a note to rsvp@balug.org. The meeting will be held at  Four Seas Restaurant (directions) 731 Grant Ave (between Clay and Sacramento) starting around 6:30pm. There will also be dinner.

First code project for FreedomBox: the ‘bump’ challenge

Exchanging public keys and signing them is still a complicated matter for normal users. As part of the development of FreedomBox we are thinking of a simple way to establish trust and enable two people talk to each other through secure cryptographic means.

One possible scenario is the following: User Jane meets her friend Ken, they ‘bump’ their phones or scan QRcode and by doing so they exchange not only their private information (vcard, GPG keys) but also establish a high degree of digital identity trust. The updated status of ‘trust’ can be then transmitted back from the phone to their respective FreedomBoxes, securing future communication between Jane and Ken.

I’ve asked for comments and asked for participants on the FreedomBox discuss mailing list. Read the conversation on the archives and consider joining the effort.

East and West coast so far apart: Moglen vs Jobs

June 6th 2011 was a strange day. Facing the Pacific ocean Steve Jobs was describing his perfect plan to know which books you read, what magazines you buy, what music you listen, who you correspond with, who you love and who hates you.  On the Atlantic ocean Eben Moglen, Lawrence Lessig were describing how that kind of technology is threatening the very foundation of our democracy. Moglen’s keynote starts with:

we have 4 forces doing anything they can to eliminate freedom on the net.

  • governments deeply concerned about the possible loss of control that comes from the freedom to tell stories any way we want and escape the framing that power puts around things
  • content owners who believe that their bits are sacred and the risk that those bits may be copied justifies controlling the net down to each endpoint and down to every eyeball and every eardrum
  • data miners, the industry of the future, their job is to know what you want before you know it so that they can sell you to somebody. All that is required is to read your email, check every party that you go to, check the conversations you have with your friends. And they have arranged to make this possible.
  • network operators that are transforming the end-to-end network (as described by Lessig) into the “everything must come to us” and “all your life are belong to us! aren’t you happy, people?”

platforms, devices that won’t allow you to take the ads out of the webpage or prevent you from sharing a song or prevent you from speaking your mind.

[…] We are losing the autonomy of personality. […] The net has turned against us.

Enter the Freedombox and take back the net as we know it. Watch the full video, it’s well worth it.

http://cdn.livestream.com/embed/pdf2011?layout=4&clip=pla_8ad51bab-a440-4e9b-87c8-6e0b9e196903&color=0x000000&autoPlay=false&mute=false&iconColorOver=0xe7e7e7&iconColor=0xcccccc&allowchat=true

Watch live streaming video from pdf2011 at livestream.com

Technology is changing politics

That’s the theme of the Personal Democracy Forum that started today in New York.

Too often, the discussion of technology and politics employs a kind of lazy shorthand. We say things like “The Internet is revolutionizing politics,” or “the Internet is helping dictators,” as if a set of network protocols and bits and wires could do anything on its own. Unfortunately, that shorthand often infects our discussion of current events, and we end up debating things like “TwitterRevolution” or “Facebook effect” rather than the real issues, which are what people do with these tools. The Internet, after all, doesn’t empower anyone. We empower ourselves.

Don’t miss the plenary keynote with Dan Sinker, Michael Wesch, Lisa Gansky, Lawrence Lessig, Andrew Rasiej and Eben Moglen that will probably tell the public more about the FreedomBox.

http://cdn.livestream.com/embed/pdf2011?layout=4&autoplay=false

Watch live streaming video from pdf2011 at livestream.com