Sunday, May 26, 2013

Red Flag Privacy Warning: Google+ Hangout Has Gone Proprietary

by Dietrich Schmitz

It is readily understood how Free and Open Source can be a really good thing.

After all, isn't the notion of Free and having the ability to share worthwhile?  We see it every day in action, not just with FOSS and it is a human tendency to want to share and doing things which don't exact a cost also makes doing things possible that might not otherwise happen.

The idea that FOSS is a good thing also pairs up with another concept: Transparency.

Being able to share code is not only good because many people can reuse, change and share code, it's also a good thing because FOSS allows anyone to 'see' the code.  Thus, we have a natural way of having a cross-check or 'oversight', if you will, on what is or isn't being done with code development.  It is this very transparency that we have come to accept as being what sets FOSS apart from proprietary code.  Exploitation is less likely to occur if 'many eyes' can see/review source code and recognize when exploit code is being inserted and block such code from being included in a FOSS project.

One by-product of proprietary code is that only the owners of said code can see what is in the source so as to understand what is assumed to be happening.  The majority of users of proprietary code are left at an intentional disadvantage in not being able to see how a given software application was written.

For the developer that confers certain advantages, but, one of many possibilities is that how code is written might have some form of built-in exploitation which in the eyes of the general public is considered unacceptable.  There is no way of knowing whether when you place 'trust' in a proprietary software program if it is truly doing the right things.  You can only make assumptions and guess.

So when you see in the news stories like Google taking their Google+ Hangouts proprietary, removing open source, open protocols like XMPP, it's a warning signal to which you should pay attention.

Transparency is being taken away in small amounts by adding proprietary code.  Now, Google+ Hangouts defaults to falling into the same category as Microsoft's Skype.

There have been many recent accusations that Skype has built-in 'backdoors' which allow a third-party bridging the connection to eavesdrop on your Chats and audio/video conference calls.

This should be a BIG concern for everyone.  Google has removed transparency from a major component used by millions in electronic communication.  Google+ Hangouts is proprietary and there is now NO Transparency.  No one except Google knows how the code is written or what it does or doesn't do.

Up to the announcement of Google+ Hangouts on May 15, 2013, I was a big proponent of Google+ because it used the open protocol XMPP.  Now, we have a surprise change made to remove Google Talk and Hangout will not support any form of Federated communication.

For your purposes that means that no third-party communication tools will be allowed to plug into the Hangouts proprietary communication pipeline whatsoever.

So, when is a little bit of proprietary too much?  Here's your example.

I am going to do something about it and I hope you will too.

-- Dietrich
Enhanced by Zemanta


Post a Comment