Chrome OS gets strong rebukes for privacy, pointlessness

Amid lukewarm receptions by reviewers, Google's netbook OS gets strong words from the GNU founder and GMail's creator.

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Richard Stallman, the founder of the GNU public license under which a good deal of open source software (including Linux on which Chrome OS and Android are based) is made available, delivered a stern rebuke. Stallman argued that Chrome OS encourages “careless computing” more than adoption of cloud services. Stallman’s primary argument is in the areas of data privacy (an issue that Google has been criticized over in the past).

In particular, Stallman highlighted the concern of legal ownership and access to data saying that “In the US, you even lose legal rights if you store your data in a company’s machines instead of your own. The police need to present you with a search warrant to get your data from you; but if they are stored in a company’s server, the police can get it without showing you anything.”

Stallman also suggested that the government might encourage users to adopt this model for easy and potentially warrant-free investigations performed without user knowledge. This strikes me as a bit paranoid, but the central question of whether fourth amendment protections would apply in cases where data is stored on Google’s server is a valid one – not to mention one that would be interesting to see played out in court, where it would surely end up before the Supreme Court eventually.

The other strong statement came from former Google employee and GMail creator Paul Buchheit (who went on to found FriendFeed after leaving Google. In a much less politically-oriented statement, Buchheit essentially agreed with many reviewers and commentators that Chrome OS was something to abandoned in today’s smartphone and tablet world by posting the following to his FriendFeed page:

I was thinking, “is this too obvious to even state?”, but then I see people taking Chrome OS seriously, and Google is even shipping devices for some reason.
Chrome OS has no purpose that isn’t better served by Android (perhaps with a few mods to support a non-touch display).

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