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Google Chrome OS mauled by Richard Stallman

'Careless computing for suckers'

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman has attacked Google's still-gestating Chrome OS, arguing it's designed "to push people into careless computing."

Stallman – who created the free Unix-style GNU operating system – has never been a fan of so-called cloud computing. At one point, he called it "worse than stupidity." And now, he's peeved that with Chrome OS, Google is so strongly encouraging netizens to move data off their personal machines and onto servers that aren't under their control.

"In the US, you even lose legal rights if you store your data in a company's machines instead of your own," Stallman tells The Guardian. "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."

Chrome OS moves all your data and applications into the browser. Google doesn't even offer a ready means of browsing your local file system. The OS won't officially arrive until sometime in the middle of next year, but last week, Mountain View released beta laptops to a handful of testers. The Reg has one. But don't tell Richard Stallman.

Google says Chrome OS lets you "live in the cloud." But Stallman says this is meaningless. "I think that marketers like 'cloud computing' because it is devoid of substantive meaning. The term's meaning is not substance, it's an attitude: 'Let any Tom, Dick and Harry hold your data, let any Tom, Dick and Harry do your computing for you (and control it).' Perhaps the term 'careless computing' would suit it better."

Chrome OS, he continues, is for suckers. "I suppose many people will continue moving towards careless computing, because there's a sucker born every minute. 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, rather than in their own property. However, as long as enough of us continue keeping our data under our own control, we can still do so. And we had better do so, or the option may disappear."

Stallman likes that under the covers, Chrome OS is rooted in GNU/Linux. But he doesn't like it that much. "In essence, Chrome OS is the GNU/Linux operating system. However, it is delivered without the usual applications, and rigged up to impede and discourage installing applications," he told The Guardian. "I'd say the problem is in the nature of the job ChromeOS is designed to do. Namely, encourage you to keep your data elsewhere, and do your computing elsewhere, instead of doing it in your own computer." ®

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