Posts Tagged ‘third parties’

Cloud computing can reign in generativity, reducing its subversive potential

July 22, 2009

cloud-computing-kitchen-sinkZittrain OP-ED about a topic I’ve written about recently (waiting for editors to review), applies his generativity argument to reasons why we should worry about the cloud from a development perspective. Issues that we should worry about include privacy, lack of control over our data, and lack of functionality (preventing the freedom to innovate). However, third parties are not mentioned, which pose an increasing privacy risk on sites like Facebook with over 950,000 application developers accessing user data for secondary purposes (see: Facebook needs to improve privacy practices, investigation finds).

The chief worry is that our computing and content will exist in an environment controlled by a cabal of “gated cloud communities,” providing platforms that discriminate against developers, “hindering revolutionary software.” Zittrain’s recommendations for a better cloud environment include: 1) requiring companies, under fair practices law, to allow users to access and erase their digital dossiers 2) requiring companies to adopt more secure communication practices and password protections 3) demanding companies to keep their word about how users can use content sold and accessed online (in the cloud) 4) applying a regulatory requirement – governments or independent judiciaries to demand better safeguards for data held in the cloud 5) provide a “subtle set of incentives . . . tax breaks and liability relief”

Zittrain’s most emphatic point, again, is the generativity argument. Cloud computing environments that are controlled by “mighty incumbents” like Google, Apple, Facebook, are gated. That is, they prevent the freedom to develop applications for these sites and services, thereby control their uses, and reign in the radical potential of ICT innovation. When we fight against poor applications, wonder why there aren’t better ones that perhaps enable more interoperability and more syndication features, its due to a closed “cloud-computing infrastructure” that prevents it.

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