May 10, 2011

Gmail Under Attack: When I Disagree With The FSF

You know, I'm a big fan of free and open software. And the FSF is a great organization, that helps free software so much. But sometimes, I have to strongly disagree with them. And this is the case with an unbelievable email I got today.

In that email, the FSF attacks Gmail. And I got the mail because I use Gmail. That alone is very interesting. It raises the questions what analysis of your data, in this case the email-address, is made at the FSF, while they blame Google to "cocllect" your data. As this would be something other than any server-side service or email-provider. But first let me show you that email:

Important notice to all Gmail users from the Free Software Foundation

Matt Lee ✆ to me
show details 1:09 AM (7 hours ago) 
Did you know that, like you, nearly 50% of the 40,000 subscribers to the FSF's supporter mailing list have an email address? 
JavaScript, once lauded for adding simple visual effects to web pages, is now used by web sites like Gmail to run powerful programs on your computer. These programs, like any other program running on your computer, should be free software. But right now, the vast majority of JavaScript programs do not respect your essential freedoms to run, study, modify and share them. They take control of your computer away from you; the same control we have been working for over 25 years to protect. 
Because of the incredibly high percentage of Gmail-using free software supporters, we're taking action to raise awareness about how to use Gmail without using proprietary software. We'll also be working on longer term solutions, but the most immediate positive step to take is to stop running the proprietary programs. 
Many people suggest that you shouldn't use Gmail at all, because it means losing control over your data and privacy. We agree that this is a very important factor for you to consider when choosing how you will handle your email.
But since you are already using Gmail, please help us build momentum for change by not using the proprietary JavaScript on your system -- and helping others to do the same. 
Yours sincerely,
Matt Lee
Campaigns Manager
Free Software Foundation
In short: FAIL!
I can, somehow, understand that JavaScript is a problem. It's not free as in freedom. So yes, that's something the FSF should pay attention to. What's absolutely over the top is the suggestion you shouldn't use Gmail at all. How do you lose control over your data and privacy more than with any other email-service? Unless you setup your own mail-server and really hope you're a server-wizard, it's all the same! I trust Google more than a small company where 3 people are responsible for my very private stuff. Other than that, if you do your own server and you're not one on the ten-thousand of people that really understand how to make a mail server secure and invest a lot of time updating and improving security every day, you'll end up giving the web another spam-server or botnet HQ.

The FSF missed the target here, and it throws a big shadow on the good work for free software. This is a big mistake, and I'm infuriated about this level of crap, and using my email-address to sent me targeted propaganda. Did I opt-in for targeted propaganda on sign-up? I doubt it. But I did opt-in for targeted ads on Google. At least, they told me in front...