seriously, i wonder how conscious even the computer geeks are with this one: we are moving towards a “cloud” computing environment, where “computers” are basically fancified “dumb terminals” and all of your data, all of your information, all of your applications and even your operating system live online, on computers over which other people have control. this is for a variety of different reasons, the most public of which is so that you the individual, and frequently un-savvy end user, don’t have to spend as much money on a computer, and you don’t have to worry about whether you remembered to update your system when something needs updating. it also has the added benefit of making it so that you can synchronise your phone, music player, computer and whatever else people sync, all from one place, and it makes it so that if your computer dies for some reason, your data will still be safe.
all of these things sound like they are exactly the kinds of things the general computing public has been clamoring for, but there are some devious, sneaky, and definitely privacy ignoring facts about “cloud” computing that i don’t think people have realised.
first, and foremost in my mind, is the fact that every inroad that i’ve seen (including moe’s new “smart” phone, which is why this rant is coming out now) to make “cloud” computing more mainstream has been with the condition that whatever data you store on your “cloud” (read “gmail” or whatever) account is, essentially, public data. it has the air of privacy – you are assured that your data is your data, and not someone else’s – but because of the fact that it is living on google’s (for example) computer systems, any data that you store there is automatically a part of google’s covert attempts to data mine your information.
which means that if you are friends with a terrorist, someone who might be a terrorist, or even someone who the police think is a terrorist, but they’re wrong, google, and google’s allies – which includes the police,
homeclown-land security, the CIA and who knows who else – knows about it.
what moe says is that google already has all that information anyway, but it doesn’t stop with terrorists. google has data mining access to any document stored on their systems whether it is in their terms of service or not, and my guess is that, especially these days, if someone has a document stored on google docs that makes them look like a terrorist, that somebody in the law enforcement community will find out about it.
i have a gmail account, but i never use it. i don’t use google docs, and i use google maps only when i have to. i don’t want a “smart” phone, i just want a phone that works to make telephone calls, and possibly to send text messages. it would be nice if it were a decent music player, as well, but if it’s only a crappy music player then all it will do is make me frustrated, and i already have enough of those kinds of things in my life anyway.
“cloud” computing also takes a big bite out of software piracy, because instead of having a disk for a program, which can be copied, the program actually lives on someone else’s computer, and you access it, as long as you have paid the requisite fees. the owner of that program can make changes in the program, change the functionality, upgrade or even delete that program and you have no say in the matter, even if you have paid the requisite fees. and, at this point anyway, you have no recourse.
it’s getting to the point where i’m probably going to have to be satisfied with the computers i’ve got, because when it becomes illegal not to use “cloud” computers, it’s going to be too late.