Category: Links (page 2 of 121)

Ethical (open) source (licenses)

As I’ve said recently elsewhere, I don’t think technical projects do a good enough job to proactively defensively license their outputs. This, I’d say, is why we can’t have nice things.

While I agree with the sentiment around ‘ethical source’ models, the philosopher in me would argue that it’s an absolute minefield.

Ethical impulses aren’t new to software. The Free Software Foundation advocates for a “struggle against for-profit corporate control” and against restrictions on users’ freedom to inspect and modify code in the products they buy. It was started after its founder, Richard Stallman, found he was unable to repair his broken printer because he was unable to edit its proprietary code. However, the open-source movement distanced itself from this political stance, instead making the case that open source was good for corporations on “pragmatic, business-case grounds.” But both free and open-source software allow anyone to use code for any purpose.


So what about developers who don’t want their work to be used to help separate kids from their families or create nonconsensual pornography?

The Ethical Source Movement seeks to use software licenses and other tools to give developers “the freedom and agency to ensure that our work is being used for social good and in service of human rights.” This view emphasizes the rights of developers to have a say in what the fruits of their labor are used for over the rights of any user to use the software for anything. There are a myriad of different licenses: some prohibit software from being used by companies that overwork developers in violation of labor laws, while others prohibit uses that violate human rights or help extract fossil fuels. Is this the thicket Stallman envisions?


Will people who intend to commit evil acts with software care what a license says or abide by its terms? Well, it depends. While the anonymous users of the deepfake software I studied might still have used it to create nonconsensual porn, even if the license terms prohibited this, Ehmke suggests that corporate misuse is perhaps a more pressing concern: she points to campaigns to prevent software from being used by Palantir and a 2019 report by Amnesty International that raised concerns that the business models of big name technology companies may threaten human rights. Anonymous users on the internet might not care about licenses, but as Ehmke says and my own experience with lawyers in tech companies confirms, “These companies and their lawyers care very much about what a license says.” So while ethical source licenses might not stop all harmful uses, they might stop some.

Source: Can you stop your open-source project from being used for evil? | Stack Overflow Blog

Being busy isn’t a badge of honour

If you think I’m sharing this image because my name is Doug and I find the accompanying image amusing then you’d be 100% correct.

I used to think being swamped was a good sign. I’m doing stuff! I’m making progress! I’m important! I have an excuse to make others wait! Then I realized being swamped just means I’m stuck in the default state, like a ball that settled to a stop in the deepest part of an empty pool, the spot where rainwater has collected into a puddle.

Being swamped means probably not getting enough rest, making things more complicated than they need to be, wasting time on petty decisions, and not thinking deeply about important decisions.

Now, I’m impressed by people who are not swamped. They prioritize ruthlessly to separate what’s most important from everything else, think deeply about those most-important things, execute them well to make a big impact, do that consistently, and get others around them to do the same. Damn, that’s impressive!

Source: Being Swamped is Normal and Not Impressive | Greg Kogan

Meta may really be exiting Europe as soon as this year

Well, we can but hope. The backlash from Instagram-obsessed people would be too much for politicians to bear, however…

Meta has—as it must—warned its investors that it’s in deep trouble in Europe. It’s neither a threat nor a bluff, but rather a statement of fact: without a successor to the U.S.-EU Privacy Shield deal, which the EU’s top court nuked a couple of years back, Facebook and Instagram will be forced to pack up and abandon the European market.

Indeed, this uncomfortable reality was made clearer last month, when Ireland’s privacy regulator submitted a draft decision to its EU peers that would ban Facebook and Insta from transferring Europeans’ personal data to the U.S., because there is no longer any legal basis for these transfers to continue.


I find it astonishing that even Facebook’s critics, let alone the markets, haven’t glommed onto the reality of the situation. I suspect the culprit is a deep-seated notion that Mark Zuckerberg’s all-powerful company can somehow fix this by modifying its legendarily bad privacy behavior—as though it had some brilliant solution hidden up its sleeve, just waiting until the last possible second before pulling it out.

Source: Even Meta’s critics don’t grasp how likely it is that Facebook and Instagram will soon have to exit Europe | Fortune

Image: created using Midjourney