Cloud services like Facebook and Gmail might be “free,” but they carry an immense social cost, threatening the privacy and freedom of people who are too willing to trade it away for a perceived convenience, according to Eben Moglen, a Columbia University law professor and founder of the Software Freedom Law Center.
On Friday, Moglen was the guest speaker at a seminar at New York University that was sponsored by local technology organizations. Moglen criticized the hierarchical nature of the Web today, and called for a return to peer-to-peer communications.
“The underlying architecture of the Net is meant to be about peerage,” Moglen said. “…There was nothing on the technical side to prevent it, but there was a software problem.”
The client/server architecture has been locked in over the past two decades by Microsoft Windows, Moglen claimed. “Servers were given a lot of power, and clients had very little.”
Control has been moved even further away from the client (people) by cloud services, which can be physically located anywhere in the world where the provider chooses to operate, Moglen said. Privacy laws vary widely from country to country.
There was no discussion of social consequences on the part of computer sciences as they created technologies that comprise the Web, Moglen said. “The architecture is begging to be misused.” Cloud providers are the biggest offenders, in Moglen’s view.