Google Chrome OS may liberate you from fire and awkward little children who dump ice cream on your notebook, but according to GNU founder Richard Stallman it also liberates you from too many of your legal rights. The outspoken Free Software Foundation founder believes that rather than “cloud computing”, Chrome OS encourages “careless computing”, and highlights the fact that the rules over what information police can or can’t seize without a search warrant change depending on where your data is stored.
“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. They may not even have to give the company a search warrant.” Richard Stallman
In fact, Stallman sees Chrome OS as another example of governments pushing for easier access to user data without having to jump through too many legal hoops. “The US government may try to encourage people to place their data where the US government can seize it without showing them a search warrant,” he suggests, “rather than in their own property.”
Google, meanwhile, is arguing that users are better served by not having to worry over hard-drive maintenance, local backups and other day to day chores. Indeed, for some users, those benefits may well outweigh any potential privacy concerns. Still, it’s the flipside to cloud computing that we seldom hear about, and could give many Chrome OS users pause for thought before they pick up a machine in mid-2011.