Bonum Certa Men Certa

Google as Flag Bearer of GNU/Linux

Google inLondon Photo by Derzsi Elekes Andor



Summary: In this age of Android smartphones, tablets, and even Chromebooks, Google's role as a key player in the GNU/Linux world is debatable

Google is probably Microsoft's #1 nightmare. It puts in jeopardy the future of both Windows and Office, Microsoft's few cash cows and monopolies (the latter depends on the former, so when the first is dead, the latter too will die). Google has been receiving a lot of abuse from Microsoft; some examples will be given in the next post. But it is worth thinking what promoting Google would do to GNU/Linux as a free (freedom-respecting) operating system.



"It is very hard to leave anonymous comments on Google-run services and sites."The other day there was an article titled "Google’s Motorola wants to tattoo a microphone on your neck" [1] and it was based on a patent. Polygraphs are 'snake oil', but this is pretty much how this thing gets advertised. It is very Big Brother-like. This is similar to a satirical new article [2] titled "Multiple Wyoming School Districts Implant RFID Chip Technology In Students Without Parental Consent" (untrue) and the true story [3] about Google's efforts to require real ID on the Web (as demonstrated by Google Plus, in addition to a lot of tracking and a never-dying cookie). One serious problem with Google is its assault on anonymity, which should be considered a crucial tenet. It is very hard to leave anonymous comments on Google-run services and sites.

Richard Stallman, who is far from a Google sceptic, is not too happy with Google's treatment of anonymity. He writes in his personal Web site: "I reject Facebook and Google+ on principle because they require people to give their "real names". I am proud to identify myself when stating my views; I can afford to do that because I am in a fairly safe position. There are people who rationally fear reprisals (from employers, gangsters, bullies, or the state) if they state their views. For their sake, let's reject any social networking site which insists on being told a user's real name.

"Google+ offers to hide the user's real name, but demands people prove an "established identity" or provide ID. I am suspicious of this requirement, since it can't hide the user's real name from the US government, which has a policy of prosecuting journalists as "spies"."

“I am suspicious of this requirement, since it can't hide the user's real name from the US government, which has a policy of prosecuting journalists as "spies".”
      --Richard Stallman
Google has done too little to defend Wikileaks and other such efforts; in fact, based on Schmidt's meeting with Assange, Google is in many ways part of the problem, denying us access to what those in power are trying to hide (e.g. Cablegate). Google says it wants to improve access to information, but Google limits the scope of this information (selectivity) and is increasingly engaging in censorship, too. This is not reassuring. It's not just something which Google does in China, not anymore anyway.

There are of course other problems with Google, which does too little to oppose NSA snooping. Thankfully, Google hardly makes an effort to pull the files of GNU/Linux users [4], unless of course they use Android, in which case there's promotion of a so-called 'feature' known as remote backup (sending all your personal data -- including passwords -- to Google's NSA-accessible datacentres). The situation is similar when it comes to ChromeOS, which GNU/Linux bashers like David Gewirtz seem to have no problem with [5] and colleagues at ZDNet claim to be on the rise [6]. As some GNU/Linux users start to explore ChromeOS [7] as an option (locked down, more surveillance than a typical GNU/Linux distribution), there's reason for concern and caution; it's not that ChromeOS (or its "open" equivalent) is malicious, it's just that it's a step away from where we wish to be with freedom- and privacy-respecting GNU/Linux.

Related/contextual items from the news:



  1. Google’s Motorola wants to tattoo a microphone on your neck
    How to start on this one? Well, Google’s Motorola subsidiary has filed a slightly strange patent with the idea that you should have a smartphone microphone tattooed onto your throat. According to the patent, the tattoo would be placed onto a person’s neck to pick vibrations directly from their larynx.


  2. [FUD/Satire] Multiple Wyoming School Districts Implant RFID Chip Technology In Students Without Parental Consent


    Overall public opinion of the RFID seems to be positive among Hanna’s townsfolk. I spoke with Earl Gentry, a retired miner, longtime resident of Hanna, Wyoming and one of the first recipients of the RFID Chip in his community. He told me the following:

    “Heck, I don’t know how I lived without one. I use the RFID Chip at the doctor’s office; I’m able to purchase food and clothing from all my favorite stores. I definitely believe our country would benefit from a federally mandated RFID law.”


  3. Google+ Authentication [Rolled back!]
    When we created feedly a few years ago, we made the decision to use Google OAuth as our authentication service. The goal was to let users safely login with their existing Google identity instead of having to create and manage yet another identify.

    Google has been slowly transitioning from Google OAuth to Google+ as their unifying identity system. This transition opens the door to interesting opportunities like simpler login across devices – and a lot more.

    We are following on Google’s lead and transitioning feedly from Google OAuth to Google+ login.


  4. Google Drive for Linux?
    For some reason, Google seems to dislike Google Drive users who prefer Linux. I find this particularly strange, since Google's Chrome OS is based on Linux.


  5. Why there are at least two great reasons to buy a Chromebook


  6. Low-end laptops:The rise of the Chromebook
    Some people are still in denial about the rise of the Linux operating system with the Chrome Web browser interface, Chrome OS, and its hardware: the Chromebooks. The experts say, however, it's the one segment of the PC market that's growing while everything else shrinks.


  7. Chromebooks and Chromium OS Experience
    I am a rather mobile person. Mobile in the sense of technology I can pick up and relocate at a whim. Even though my primary computer is a gaming desktop, a recent hardware failure helped me to realize that I can be just as productive on my trusty MacBook. My laptop can do just about everything my desktop can (other than running high-end games that is) and my iPad is great for browsing the web and interacting with social media on the go. Last year I took it with me when I went to Disney and it performed very well as a dedicated Reddit, Facebook, Twitter and Kindle client.


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