A few rights issues of concern....
- The Diebold electronic voting debacle (image right). As "Uncle" Joe Stalin noted: "It's not who votes that counts. It's who counts the votes." This process must be open and accountable. And it's not just Diebold: electronic, unaditable systems are a very real threat to democracy. You'll want to be concerned about Sequoia Voting Systems machines which are the cause of an intense election dispute in my hometown, Napa. Note that this problem was discovered through the paper-trail resulting from electonic reading of marked-in paper ballots, though was based on a subtle error: incorrect registration if ink (rather than pencil) markings.
- Software patents and general changes in copyright, patent, and trademark law, as well as other ongoing legislation. Particularly that driven by media and industry cartels. We are creating a legal environment in which individual innovation, initiative, and choice are increasingly stifled, if not outright criminalized.
- H1-B visas, technology unionization, offshoring, and industrial competitiveness. These are all transparent ploys to exploit or restrict labor mobility, while all-to-frequently simultaneously declaring free mobility of goods and products illegal. Think of Canadian drug sales to the US or region encoding on DVDs and other media.
- Regulatory changes. Particularly that driven by media and industry cartels. Abuse of standards processes is a related issue. I very much urge you to keep tabs on the membership and operations of such organizations as the Sustainable Computing Initiative which has re-launched as Cylab after a less than overwhelming response two years ago. The group would appear to have a goal of influencing government contract requirements.
- Media ploys covers a huge range of sins from Clear Channel and "Trusted computing" to the Broadcast Flag, HDTV (as much about what you can do with the signal as its quality), to advertiser bias in reviews of software and other products, to Broadband provider capabilities in terms of anything from abuse filtering to allowing subscribers to run their own servers (thus putting themselves outside their ordained "designated consumer" role).
- Spam and other network abuse. Aside from the fact that it's just plain annoying (or worse), network abuse creates several worse ills: people are less inclined to participate in online activities from email to ecommerce; network operations become (even more) unreliable and nondeterministic than they already are; various ill-conceived solutions make the problem worse or create new ones; and the excuse of "we have a problem that must be addressed at any cost" creates an environment in which the freedoms, accessibility, and egalitarianism of the Internet can be attacked at fundamental levels.
- Increased corporatization of GNU/Linux. In 1997, I wrote a pithy statement that "in five years, GNU/Linux and free software will have changed the software industry beyond all recognition...and in five years, the software industry will have changed GNU/Linux and free software beyond all recognition". I believe this has come to pass. My current concern is that GNU/Linux and Free Software will remain as responsive and conversant to the needs of individuals despite multi-billion dollar involvment from industries and governments. I'm most certainly not against this involvment. I just don't want it to kill the goose for the golden eggs, and I'm very concerned that there's a perception that Free Software is immune to such influences. It's not.
Copyright 2004 Rand Careaga.
This is, as Doc Searls put it to me, vitally important to all of us, but deathly MEGO stuff -- My Eyes Glaze Over. I'm trying to make it more compelling.
Last updated $Date$