“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
Your car is basically a smartphone with wheels, and it gathers up to 25gb/hour worth of data on you and your driving habits -- everything from where you're going to how much you weigh. Cars gather your financial data, data on the number of kids in the back seat, and, once they're connected to your […]
Mike Moffitt sums up the empirical work on the impact of rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft for cities: an increase in congestion, especially downtown, especially during "surges" (Uber and Lyft insist that they reduce congestion, especially in downtowns, and especially during surges!); lower wages, longer hours and more precarious work for drivers (accompanied by […]
Researchers from Tencent Keen Security Lab have published a report detailing their successful attacks on Tesla firmware, including remote control over the steering, and an adversarial example attack on the autopilot that confuses the car into driving into the oncoming traffic lane.
If you can build a cloud infrastructure, you can build a business. Companies are overwhelmingly turning to cloud computing to set up or bolster their network, and it’s easy to see why. It allows on-demand access to processing power, a la carte services, and nearly unlimited storage, all without adding extra systems and the maintenance […]
Does your gaming setup need an upgrade? No need to wait for Christmas. We’ve rounded up the latest tech accessories for your favorite video game platforms. All of them are already sale priced, but you can knock an additional 15% off the final price for Memorial Day by using the online code WEEKEND15. Audeze Mobius […]
Raspberry Pi is one of the world’s most versatile open-source computers. Alexa is a home automation hub with limitless potential. Together, they’re a dream team for ambitious makers, opening the door to everything from automatic lights to voice-controlled robots. Learning Raspberry Pi is meant to be relatively easy for newbies, but its applications with Alexa […]