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SecureDrop’s Free Install, Oracle Spreads FUD & More…

FOSS Week in Review

Google wants to put your face on ads

We’ve always wanted to like Google. We want to believe them when they chant their informal motto, “Don’t be evil,” as if it were a mantra. We believe they have good intentions, just as we believe that Mark Zuckerberg is clueless when it comes to the privacy rights of Facebook’s users. We also believe it’s much too easy to convince oneself that wrong is right.

The latest news concerning Google puts Google+ in the same camp as Facebook when it comes to user privacy issues. Here at FOSS Force, we first heard about a change in Google’s privacy policy on Monday in an article posted by the BBC. It seems the search and advertising giant has modified its policy to allow it to soon pull endorsements from its user base for advertising purposes.

“The search giant started alerting people about the upcoming policy change via banners on its main webpage and in a page explaining the change to its ‘policies and principles’.

“Google also gave examples of how the ‘shared endorsement’ system might work. This showed people’s faces and comments appearing below Street View images of a bagel shop and search results for products and places.

In an article posted last Friday on PC Magazine, Chloe Albanesius gives more information on how the scheme will be implemented:

“For those with a Google Account, a +1 you give or review you write might be used alongside an advertisement for the business you endorsed. ‘The +1 you gave your favorite local bakery could be included in an ad that the bakery runs through Google,’ the company said.

“The ads have been dubbed shared endorsements, and will only be displayed to people in your social circle, or those with whom you’ve opted to share information like +1s and reviews. If you don’t want Google using your information, you can opt out by navigating to the shared endorsement setting, unchecking the box at the bottom, and clicking ‘Save.’

“‘The setting will be on by default, but if you previously told Google that you did not want your +1’s to appear in ads, then of course we’ll continue to respect that choice as a part of this updated setting,’ Google said.

It’s no surprise to us that Google would dream-up such a scheme, this is the type of idea that advertising whiz kids are paid to create, and we have no problem with the plan itself except for one little thing…

Opt-in not opt-out.

Google+_logoOf all people, the folks at Google should be aware of the fact that this policy should be opt-in and not opt-out. This is a standard that has already been established for email and it logically should apply here as well. In all likelihood, Google considered this but quickly dismissed the notion. Nobody’s going to go to the trouble of opting in to become an unpaid pitchperson. Just sayin’…

The BBC reported that many users of Google+ are not happy about the announcement:

“Many people protested about the change to Google, and some altered their image profiles on the Google+ social network in response.”

SecureDrop developed from DeadDrop

SecureDrop logoOn Tuesday we learned from Forbes that there’s a new way for whistle blowers and the press to get together privately called SecureDrop. The system was developed from the open-source DeadDrop that had been created by Aaron Swartz, James Dolan and Wired editor Kevin Poulsen. The system, under the name Strongbox has been being used by the New Yorker since May.

SecureDrop, which like its predecessors relies on TOR to help users maintain confidentiality, was developed by the non-profit Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF). As a way of encouraging news organizations to use it, the Foundation is offering to send security consultant James Dolan, one of SecureDrop’s creators, to install it.

“‘We want to take all the pain out of this process so that they have no excuse but to use this technology. The barrier has been cost and the technical ability,’ says Trevor Timm, the Freedom of the Press Foundation’s executive director. ‘So we’re actually going to physically fly [Dolan] around the country to major media organizations to install this.'”

The Foundation has also been busy making sure the technology is secure.

“On top of financially supporting DeadDrop, (now SecureDrop) the FPF says it’s also had the software audited for security flaws by cryptography guru Bruce Schneier and Tor developer Jacob Appelbaum, along with other researchers at the University of Washington.”

In addition to offering help with the complicated installation process, the Foundation might in some cases pay for needed hardware.

Oracle warns DoD, “Don’t do open-source.”

Is Oracle the new Microsoft? It’s starting to seem that way.

On Tuesday, The Register reported that Oracle’s been spreading FUD about FOSS in a white paper titled “The Department of Defense (DoD) and Open Source Software.”

“…the document’s premise is that folks in the USA’s Department of Defense (DoD) could think it is possible to save money if they ‘… avoid buying commercial software products simply by starting with open source software and developing their own applications.’

“The paper goes on to explain why that’s a bad idea and why paying Oracle for commercial software is a much more sensible thing to do.”

200px-Oracle_logo.svgIt’s all copied from the playbook Microsoft was using four or five years ago. The use of open source isn’t free; the actual TCO is quite high. There are all sorts of labor expenses and getting FOSS to scale isn’t for the faint of heart. The use of open source, according to the paper, should be left to the experts:

“The paper’s not blind to Oracle’s own reliance on open source, noting the company’s investments but insisting open source only makes sense when someone like Oracle takes the time to integrate it into wider hardware and software stacks. Big Red also asserts it offers better support than a DoD user could hope to provide itself or acquire elsewhere.”

For FOSSers who are in the mood to get angry, the white paper is available on Dropbox.

Cinnamon ditches GNOME

Is GNOME turning into a ghost town?

Cinnamon desktop on Linux MintIt’s becoming more and more difficult to remember that only a few short years ago, GNOME won nearly every popularity poll and it seemed as if KDE was in danger of becoming the best desktop without users. Now, hardly a days goes by when we don’t hear of yet another project abandoning the GNOME desktop environment.

This time it’s Cinnamon, a favorite desktop on Linux Mint. According to an article published Saturday by Mihar Patkir on makeuseof, version 2.0 doesn’t rely on GNOME to do any of the lifting:

“Prior to version 2.0, Cinnamon was a frontend on top of GNOME desktop, much like Unity. But now, it’s an entire desktop environment which no longer requires GNOME to be installed. But don’t worry, it’s still compatible with all GNOME applications as it uses toolkits and libraries such as GTK or Clutter.”

Cinnamon 2.0 will be featured in Linux Mint 16, “Petra,” scheduled for a release in late November.

“All Things Open” celebrates open-source

We can’t begin to tell you how excited we are here at FOSS Force to have a world-class open source conference happening right in our North Carolina backyard. In case you haven’t heard, the All Things Open conference will focus on enterprise use of open source and will be held in Raleigh, within shouting distance from Research Triangle Park, this Wednesday and Thursday.

Of course we’ll be covering the event here on FOSS Force. We’ll update you next week on our full coverage plans, but we thought we’d take this opportunity to let you know that we’ll be posting hourly updates to our Facebook page during the event. As they used to say on the radio, stay tuned…

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Well, there’s another Week In Review down the drain. Until next time, may the FOSS be with you…

2 comments to SecureDrop’s Free Install, Oracle Spreads FUD & More…

  • […] A perfectly good box, SecureDrop, which like its predecessors relies on TOR to help users maintain confidentiality, was developed by the non-profit Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF). As a way of encouraging news organizations to use it, the Foundation is offering to send security consultant James Dolan, one of SecureDrop’s creators, to install it. […]

  • Eddie G.

    I find it kinda funny that Oracle….who, granted, does have a commercial product, ALSO has Oracle Linux, the “free & open” version as well. Why would you promote just ONE side of your “face”? Maybe it’s time for some new blood over at Big Red as well? This is almost the equivalent of Windows 8! Somewhere…..SOMEONE must have said to themselves in the lunchroom…or after hearing / reading this in their cubicle: “Which @!#&$^%# thought THIS was a good idea?” I guess or maybe I should say…i HOPE that Oracle wakes up and starts to work on their product offerings, and stops trying to be the “Miley Cyrus” of the Open Source World!…LOL!