Richard Stallman is the founder of the GNU Project (which led to the GNU/Linux operating system, from which Android and Chrome OS are built), and is the author of several copyleft software licenses, most notably, the GNU GPL, or, Gnu’s Not Unix General Public License. In short, he’s a big name in the free software movement, if not the name. He did, after all, found the Free Software Foundation.
Stallman’s long-standing concerns about cloud computing have increased in public knowledge if not in intensity since Google’s soft launch of the GNU/Linux-based Chrome OS with the initial release of their unbranded Cr-48 notebook because of the operating system’s rejection of local storage in favor of true cloud computing. This is dangerous and “worse than stupidity” according to Stallman, if only because cloud storage allows governmental agencies to access to your data without the need for a warrant.
Stallman clarifies the difference between storing your data on your own machine and on a company server:
“In the US, you even lose legal rights if you store your data in a company’s machines instead of your own. The police need to present you with a search warrant to get your data from you; but if they are stored in a company’s server, the police can get it without showing you anything. They may not even have to give the company a search warrant.”
As for the promise of cloud computing and the “freedom” it offers (from outmoded hardware, fear of loss/theft, cost, and weight), Stallman sees buzz words and marketing hype:
“I think that marketers like “cloud computing” because it is devoid of substantive meaning. The term’s meaning is not substance, it’s an attitude: ‘Let any Tom, Dick and Harry hold your data, let any Tom, Dick and Harry do your computing for you (and control it).’ Perhaps the term ‘careless computing’ would suit it better.”
Stallman sees voting with our dollars for local storage as a critical resistance against the shift towards storing personal data, including email, photos, documents in the cloud:
The US government may try to encourage people to place their data where the US government can seize it without showing them a search warrant, rather than in their own property. However, as long as enough of us continue keeping our data under our own control, we can still do so. And we had better do so, or the option may disappear.”
Richard Stallman is an ardent activist for free (as in freedom) software. His personal page can be found here.
UPDATE: The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that email is off limits without a warrant, no matter who owns the storage.