prove you are not an Evil corporate person

In which Google be Google and I drop a hot AGPL tip.


Google Is Quietly Providing AI Technology for Drone Strike Targeting Project
Google Is Helping the Pentagon Build AI for Drones

to automate the identification and classification of images taken by drones — cars, buildings, people — providing analysts with increased ability to make informed decisions on the battlefield

These news reports don't mention reCaptcha explicitly, but it's been asking about a lot of cars lately. Whatever the source of the data that Google is using for this, it's disgusting that they're mining it from us without our knowledge or consent.

Google claims that "The technology flags images for human review, and is for non-offensive uses only". So, if a drone operator has a neural network that we all were tricked & coerced into training to identify cars and people helping to highlight them on their screen and center the crosshairs just right, and the neural network is not pressing the kill switch, is it being used for "non-offensive purposes only"?

Google is known to be deathly allergic to the AGPL license. Not only on servers; they don't even allow employees to use AGPL software on workstations. If you write free software, and you'd prefer that Google not use it, a good way to ensure that is to license it under the AGPL.

I normally try to respect the privacy of users of my software, and of personal conversations. But at this point, I feel that Google's behavior has mostly obviated those moral obligations. So...

Now seems like a good time to mention that I have been contacted by multiple people at Google about several of my AGPL licensed projects (git-annex and either keysafe or debug-me I can't remember which) trying to get me to switch them to the GPL, and had long conversations with them about it.

Google has some legal advice that the AGPL source provision triggers much more often than it's commonly understood to. I encouraged them to make that legal reasoning public, so the community could address/debunk it, but I don't think they have. I won't go into details about it here, other than it seemed pretty bonkers.

Mixing in some AGPL code with an otherwise GPL codebase also seems sufficient to trigger Google's allergy. In the case of git-annex, it's possible to build all releases (until next month's) with a flag that prevents linking with any AGPL code, which should mean the resulting binary is GPL licensed, but Google still didn't feel able to use it, since the git-annex source tree includes AGPL files.

I don't know if Google's allergy to the AGPL extends to software used for drone murder applications, but in any case I look forward to preventing Google from using more of my software in the future.

(Illustration by scatter//gather)

three conferences one week

Thought I'd pack my entire year's conference schedule into one week...

First was a Neuroinformatics infrastructure interoperability workshop at McGill, my second trip to Montreal this year. Well outside my wheelhouse, but there's a fair amount of interest in that community in git-annex/datalad. This was a roll with the acronyms, and try to draw parallels to things I know affair. Also excellent sushi and a bonus Secure Scuttlebutt meetup.

Then LibrePlanet. A unique and super special conference, that utterly flew by this year. This is my sixth LibrePlanet and I enjoy it more each time. Hghlights for me were Bassam's photogrammetry workshop, Karen receiving the Free Software award, and Seth's thought-provoking talk on "incompossibilities" especially as applied to social networks. And some epic dinner conversations in central square.

Finally today, a one-day local(!) functional programming(!!) conference in Knoxville TN. Lambda Squared was the best constructed single-track conference I've seen. Starting with an ex-pro-figure skater getting the whole audience to pirouette to capture that uncomfortable out of your element feeling you get learning FP, and ramping gradually past "functional javascript" to orthagonality, contravariant functors, the lambda cube, and constructivist logic.

I notice that I've spent a lot more time in Boston than I ever have in Knoxville -- Cambridge MA is starting to feel like my old haunts, though I've never really lived there. There are not a lot of functional programming conferences in the southeastern USA, and I think this explains how Lambda Squared attracted such a good lineup of speakers. Also Knoxville has a surprisingly large and lively FP community shaping up. There will be another Lambda Squared next year, and this might be a good opportunity to visit with me and go to a FP conference too.

And now time to retreat into my retreaty place for a good long while.