G+: Corey Doctorow on ownership of computing devices and …

David Coles
Corey Doctorow on ownership of computing devices and how much knowledge and control you are given over it. I like the curator analogy - that we can choose to trust some people to help us decide if some piece of software is trustworthy (from a Linux package archive to the Apple iOS market). The ability for a user know and choose what software runs on a device is one of the greatest triumphs of modern computing - and one that we should never give up.

Locus Online Perspectives » Cory Doctorow: What’s Inside the Box

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Deb Johnson
I love Cory (doesn't hurt that he's Canadian either). Makes some good points and love his views on so many things. Excellent man, indeed. In regards to computer devices I'd like to point out the Raspberry Pi project http://www.raspberrypi.org/ as truly revolutionizing this concept of owning a computer. Never have we had something so small, so cheap and yet so amazing in its potential. We can all make choices. Most seem to go for the easy route of buying into the Apple or Windows markets. Because they are the norm. But it's lovely to see the open community being embraced by more and more. When we get our Raspberry Pi I'll be eager to try the Fedora Linux that they've got adapted for it. Exciting times ahead, for sure. Yes one of the triumphs, for sure.

Matt Giuca
Hmm, it's a good article, but when he enumerates the four permutations of user/owner know/control, I don't think I agree. The owner of the device ought to control it, not the user. This requires a careful definition of owner though -- when I buy an iPhone, I own it, not Apple. I ought to have control over the device.

Conversely, if my employer gives me a work PC, then it is perfectly reasonable to expect that they control what is possible with the device. I don't have the right to. Just as if I am running an Internet café, I should be able to prevent my users from gaining full control of the system.

Doctorow spends a lot of the end of the essay discussing about why it is better for employees to have more control, so they can get better quality of work done. I agree, but that doesn't make a moral case for users having more control, it's a business case. That means that, for any given business, they may decide to give their employees more control for business purposes, and that may be a good decision. But it doesn't really make a case that the employee should have total control -- just enough control to not get in the way of doing the work.

David Coles
+Matt Giuca Yeah. Certainly the first half of the article is much clearer - the idea of trust and curation. Fundamentally you, as the owner of a personal device should be the one to choose what you trust (even if you go against the judgement of the manufacturer). The trouble with trying to extend this concept to user vs. owner is that if user's have control then it, almost by definition, dissolves all power of ownership.

Consider if I lost my phone - under this model the person who found it should also be able to gain complete control of the device. Does this mean that the device can't ever be securely locked? Or maybe having the ability to factory-reset the device (and wipe all the data of a previous user) would suffice.