Don’t fear freedom

Cory Doctorow isn’t scary – just scary-smart. He dropped out of university in 1992 to program CD-ROMs and design Web sites, founded an open source peer-to-peer software company that sold for $17 million (US), and worked at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties association balancing the rights of user groups and IT companies.Now he writes about near-future, wildly free information societies, portraying openness as exciting and profitable, not threatening – and posts the novels on his Web site for free downloading. He urges CIOs to forget the “mainframe priesthood” that blocked employees from using outside technologies such as MSN or peer-to-peer software to get their jobs done. “The Internet is a business application …Web filters don’t work, and they stop your employees from seeing legitimate stuff.” In Doctorow’s view, products like Next Generation Secure Computing Base or Windows Vista’s DRM actually subvert network security, and are “literally designed to have malware executed on them.” However, he also argues that a corporation, like an ISP, deserves liability protection from the actions of its employees.

Doctorow links freedom with progress. “If any of the technology success stories of the last 10 years had to meet the test, ‘Could this be used to do something naughty?’ we wouldn’t have consoles, VoIP, e-mail, FTP, peer-to-peer, hosted e-mail, Flickr …We can’t allow the blacksmiths to determine whether or not we’re allowed to build railroads.”

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