Excerpted from an interview by Glyn Moody:
“Eben Moglen: We have a kind of social dilemma which comes from architectural creep. We had an Internet that was designed around the notion of peerage – machines with no hierarchical relationship to one another, and no guarantee about their internal architectures or behaviours, communicating through a series of rules which allowed disparate, heterogeneous networks to be networked together around the assumption that everybody’s equal.
In the Web the social harm done by the client-server model arises from the fact that logs of Web servers become the trails left by all of the activities of human beings, and the logs can be centralised in servers under hierarchical control. Web logs become power. With the exception of search, which is a service that nobody knows how to decentralise efficiently, most of these services do not actually rely upon a hierarchical model. They really rely upon the Web – that is, the non-hierarchical peerage model created by Tim Berners-Lee, and which is now the dominant data structure in our world.
The services are centralised for commercial purposes. The power that the Web log holds is monetisable, because it provides a form of surveillance which is attractive to both commercial and governmental social control. So the Web, with services equipped in a basically client-server architecture, becomes a device for surveillance as well as providing additional services. And surveillance becomes the hidden service wrapped inside everything we get for free.
The cloud is a vernacular name which we give to a significant improvement in the server-side of the web – the server, decentralised. It becomes, instead of a lump of iron, a digital appliance, which can be running anywhere. This means that for all practical purposes servers cease to be subject to significant legal control. They no longer operate in a policy-directed manner, because they are no longer iron, subject to territorial orientation of law. In a world of virtualised service provision, the server which provides the service, and therefore the log which is the result of the hidden service of surveillance, can be projected into any domain at any moment and can be stripped of any legal obligation pretty much equally freely.
GM: So what’s the solution you are proposing?
My proposal is this: if we could disaggregate the logs, while providing the people all of the same features, we would have a Pareto-superior outcome. Everybody – well, except Mr Zuckenberg – would be better off, and nobody would be worse off. And we can do that using existing stuff.” (http://www.h-online.com/open/features/Interview-Eben-Moglen-Freedom-vs-the-Cloud-Log-955421.html)
“What I am proposing is that we build a social networking stack based around the existing free software we have, which is pretty much the same existing free software the server-side social networking stacks are built on; and we provide ourselves with an appliance which contains a free distribution everybody can make as much of as they want, and cheap hardware of a type which is going to take over the world whether we do it or we don’t, because it’s so attractive a form factor and function, at the price.
We take those two elements, we put them together, and we also provide some other things which are very good for the world. Like automatically VPNing everybody’s little home network place with my laptop wherever I am, which provides me with encrypted proxies so my web searching, wherever I am, is not going to be spied on. It means that we have a zillion computers available to the people who live in China and other places where there’s bad behaviour. So we can massively increase the availability of free browsing to other people in the world. If we want to offer people the option to run onion routeing, that’s where we’ll put it, so that there will be a credible possibility that people will actually be able to get decent performance on onion routeing networks.
And we will of course provide convenient encrypted email for people – including putting their email not in a Google box, but in their house, where it is encrypted, backed up to all their friends and other stuff. Where in the long purpose of time we can begin to return email to a condition – if not being a private mode of communication – at least not being postcards to the secret police every day.
So we would also be striking a blow for electronic civil liberties in a way that is important, which is very difficult to conceive of doing in a non-technical way.”