"Proprietary software is an unsafe building material. You can't inspect it."
Columbia University law professor Eben Moglen made that observation 5 years ago. It's timely today, as the Volkswagen emissions fraud scandal–enabled by proprietary software–worsens.
Volkswagen admitted this week it altered proprietary software on 11 million VW diesel cars, so they'd pass emissions tests when they were actually belching more smog.
"The breadth of the Volkswagen scandal should not obscure the broader question of how vulnerable we are to software code that is out of sight and beyond oversight," writes Jim Dwyer at the New York Times today.
Mr. Moglen, a lawyer, technologist and historian who founded the Software Freedom Law Center, has argued for decades that software ought to be transparent. That would best serve the public interest, he said in his 2010 speech.
"Software is in everything," he said, citing airplanes, medical devices and cars, much of it proprietary and thus invisible. "We shouldn't use it for purposes that could conceivably cause harm, like running personal computers, let alone should we use it for things like anti-lock brakes or throttle control in automobiles."
On Tuesday, Mr. Moglen recalled the elevator in his hotel.
"Intelligent public policy, as we all have learned since the early 20th century, is to require elevators to be inspectable, and to require manufacturers of elevators to build them so they can be inspected," he said. "If Volkswagen knew that every customer who buys a vehicle would have a right to read the source code of all the software in the vehicle, they would never even consider the cheat, because the certainty of getting caught would terrify them."
"Volkswagen's Diesel Fraud Makes Critic of Secret Code a Prophet"
A VW Golf VII car is pictured in a production line at the plant of German carmaker Volkswagen in Wolfsburg, Germany, 2013. REUTERS
YouTuber and parkour expert AMPISOUND breaks down a viral fake parkour video and its various forms of deception, including green screens, GoPros tossed out windows, and a guy dressed as a cute parkour girl.
When it comes to packing kids into underfunded classrooms with at-risk teachers White House spokesfraud Kayleigh McEnany says: "The science should not stand in the way of this." Kayleigh McEnany: Pres. Trump wants schools to open, "and when he says open, he means open and full, kids being able to attend each and every day […]
Nina Kollars is a professor at the Naval War College inside the Strategic and Operational Research Department. Here she is at DEF CON 27 explaining how she learned about triangulation fraud when she started buying Nespresso pods on eBay at a discount. Not only did she get the pods, she also received a new Nespresso […]
Everybody's got a story. Unfortunately, not everybody has the tools to tell that story the right way. That's especially true for someone looking to produce their first screenplay. Just as with any type of writing, penning a script for the screen has a set of rules all its own. Understanding that structure, as well as […]
Even as the world takes tentative steps toward reopening against the ebbs and flows of COVID-19, movie theaters remain in a netherworld limbo. High-profile film releases continue shuffling as theater chains, studios and filmgoers grapple with the fact that an enclosed theater may not be a safe place to be for some time to come. […]
The year 2020 has basically kicked down that door and dragged us all into the Zoom age, whether we like it or not. And now that we're basically inviting our boss, co-workers and other business associates into our homes via video, we've unwittingly stumbled into all kinds of new potential for embarrassment. Like when you're […]