I Started Caring about Open-Source and So Should You

As consumer confidence fades in the world's largest tech brands, the open-source movement stands as a beacon of shining light for privacy equality.
Published on Mar 21 2015 by David Cooper

Firstly, I would like to clarify a few things:

  1. I am not some kind of Internet Social Libertarian
  2. I am not an outward supporter of Anonymous (please don’t hack me)
  3. I don’t know how to use Linux and at this point I am too afraid to ask
  4. I am currently sitting at a desk using Google Docs, typing on a Mac and fiddling with my Android phone

As you have probably deduced, I am an unlikely advocate of the Open Source Movement and if there is a glass house I may very well be writing from it.

 Dismissing all this, I do believe that corporations should not control Earth’s residents intellectual property.

In the last decade there has been a formative shift in how tech companies engage users.

The new value proposition of the web is: create services that people love and will continually use. Google (a personal favourite of mine), Facebook and a multitude of others afford amazing opportunities for Earth’s citizens to learn, connect, share ideas. These services mould and contribute to an information state of equality. The by-product of this is restoring power to communities that may otherwise be limited in what information is available to them.

Trading Services for Privacy.

Newton’s Third Law states that: for each action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In this case, the consequence of receiving all these great services (great may be an understatement) is that we tear away a piece of privacy every time we log in. 

You may think that centralising our information isn’t such a bad thing, or you could be thinking ‘users should only be concerned if they have something to hide’. If this resonates with what you believe, stop reading and consider a career in the US Senate.

Google, The Internet Archives and The Cultural Institute.

The humble roots of Google is exemplified in their original mission statement: “Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Larry Page, the current CEO of Google was reported saying

"I think the mission statement is probably a little bit too narrow and we're thinking about how to do that a little more broadly." 

That’s cool though. I mean, driverless cars, augmented reality, wearable tech and all of that is great too. Really, you can’t blame Google for adapting their revenue stream. What you may not be aware of is that recently Google has been investing more of their time and money into The Google Cultural Institute:

"An effort to make important cultural material available and accessible to everyone and to digitally preserve it to educate and inspire future generations."  

google cultural institute 

This isn’t Google’s first foray into sharing the world’s knowledge. Prior to 2011 they used to offer Google News Archives, a service in line with their aim to make information universally accessible. Unfortunately, for the community at whole - they scrapped this project in favour for more profitable ventures.

The Internet Archive in an online NGO that is dedicated to creating permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format. Decentralised, non-for-profit and a limited brand, the Internet Archive is the perfect custodian to hold humanity's most precious achievements.

Taking Back the Property With Open Source.

Google has shown that it’s dedication to holding information, is tied only to their shareholders interests. And that’s fine because that is what listed companies around legally bound to do.

As citizens of Earth, we can’t place our faith in for-profit organisations act on our best interests by maintaining databases of helpful data. The Internet Archive and non-government organisations with similar aims, are living proof that interesting and valuable web services do not require a heavy revenue stream from betraying their user's privacy and trust. Google has proven that supplying quality and sustainable services are not profitable, so why are we so content in affording them the opportunity?

The world of open-sourcing allows citizens and users to dictate the terms on how information is reproduced, stored and shared.  This is becoming an increasingly invaluable characteristic in the saturated world of digital media.