America’s Federal Trade Commission is soliciting public comments on the business practices of cloud computing providers, trying to understand security risks and competitive dynamics. (Questions include “To what extent are particular segments of the economy reliant on a small handful of cloud service providers and what are the data security impacts of this reliance?”) They’ve already received dozens of comments (including one from Red Hat).
But there’s also three questions about open-source software:
“To what extent do cloud providers offer products based on open-source software?”
– “What is the impact of such offerings on competition?”
– “How have recent changes to the terms of open-source licenses affected cloud providers’ ability to offer products based on open-source software?”
This has drawn a response from the Free Software Foundation — and they’re urging others to join in. “Since it isn’t every day that the FTC solicits public comments on subjects in which the free software community is so well-versed, let’s take this opportunity to submit comments that support digital sovereignty.”
The hope is to persuade policy makers to make software freedom and privacy a central part of any future considerations made in the areas of storage, computation, and services. Such comments will be made part of the public record, so any participation promises to have a lasting impact…
[W]e have prepared the following points for consideration:
– When considering rules and regulations in technology that stand to protect people’s fundamental civil liberties, it is important to start from the question, “does this decision improve digital sovereignty or diminish it?”
– In the case of computing, (e.g. word processing, spreadsheet, and graphic design programs), the typical options diminish digital sovereignty because the computations are being run on another computer under someone else’s control, inaccessible to the end user, who therefore does not have the essential freedoms to share, modify, and study the computations (i.e. the program). The only real solution to this is to offer free “as in freedom” replacements of those programs, so that end users may maintain control over their computing.
– In the case of storage, today’s typical options diminish digital sovereignty because many storage providers only provide unencrypted options for storage. It is imperative that individuals and businesses who choose third-party storage always have the choice to encrypt their storage, and the encryption keys must be entirely within the control of the end user, not the third-party provider.
– In the case of services (such as email, teleconferencing, and videoconferencing), while the source code that runs services need not necessarily be made public, end users deserve to be able to access such services via a free software client. In such cases, it is imperative that service providers implement a design of interoperability, so that end users may use the service with any choice of client.
– Free software allows end users to inspect the software for possible security flaws, while proprietary software does not. Therefore free software is the only realistic option for an end user to achieve verifiable security…
The deadline to submit is June 21, which is just enough time to publish something meaningful on the topic in support of free software.