Free and Freedoms aka the Instagram drift

Update 12/18 7:15pm: Instragram explains. I don’t think it will change my view, we’ll see.

For context, from the late 1970’s until, well probably 2002 I spent a considerable time arguing for free software. Free as in rights, not as in beer, as early as 1985 I had a letter in Computer Weekly on the topic.

Over the last few years, the explosion of free “as in beer” software has been staggering, everything from Facebook, and the google empire. Increasingly the amount of advertising is making the apps unusable, and their claims of ownership over your personal information, and the content that you create have grown to a point where I’m amazed that people are just clicking away so many rights via that “accept” button.

In the late 1990’s I was the “free” software/open source evangelist in IBM Software group, and Simon Phipps was in the Java Technology Center at IBM; Simon took over that mantle and has gone on to make an exemplary career and some brilliant contributions in the understanding of the cost and value of open software via his speeches and writing. Recently Simon posted this It’s Not Free If It Cost My Liberty which made me stop and think.

Instagram was one of those iPhone things, everyone was raving about it, it had some cool features and I’ve been using it more and more recently. The recent change to the Instagram ToS though was one step too far for me. Instagram, like owner Facebook, now not only claims ownership of your content, it also claims the right to sell it for their profit.

This article in the Atlantic sums up my position well I think. I simply don’t understand why people are prepared to become essentially slave workers for these hugely profitable software, social media companies, donating their time, profit, content and privacy, for what?

It’s time for a new model, why not pay a small amount per year for access to these services with your own choices of what you are and are not prepared to pay for. Want it for free, then be prepared to give it up. Prepared to pay, then you retain rights.

(CC)I’ve not closed my Instram account, but will be avoiding it. I’ve also deleted my Google+/Picasa web albums over their stance on Tax avoidance in the UK; and restarted using Flickr, both via the web and on mobile. Why there are still constraints on rights, at least as an individual user I can control the license, and make my content free as in rights.

Author: Mark Cathcart

Formerly an Executive Director of Systems Engineering and a Senior Distinguished Engineer at Dell. Prior to that, an IBM Distinguished Engineer working for the Systems Group in NY and Austin. I'm currently "retired until further notice".

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