Getting Drunk with Eben Moglen

OK, so I apologize for the obviously attention-grabbing title of this blog. If you’re still with me, give me a chance to explain why we can ALL get drunk with Eben at the conference in the spirit of true open source bazaar participation.

Eben Moglen, who is the Director of the Software Freedom Law Center, will be opening up our Wednesday morning keynote extravaganza with a talk entitled “Freedom Businesses Protect Privacy“. When I first received a title from Eben, he had proposed the following title (snipped from my email from him):

“Why Free Beer Isn’t So Good if your Data are Getting Drunk: How Free
as in Freedom Businesses Help Prevent the Ultimate Privacy

The downside is that it doesn’t fit well on posters, where we
should use just the part left of the colon. The upside is that the
title is its own abstract.

Well, clearly, we decided to shorten the title, and indeed, I pretty much used his original title as the abstract for the keynote. 😉 Recently, I emailed Eben and asked him a question about his keynote, and what people will learn about. I asked him “Eben, let’s suppose all my data *are* getting drunk. Why should businesses care about free as in freedom if they can get free beer?”. he responded:

For two reasons: (1) Business value in the 21st century lies in the
value of the inferences that can be based on that data; if you are
storing your data for free somewhere on terms that give the value of the
inferences to someone else in return for keeping your data safe, or
operating on it for you, you may be overpaying wildly for the
service. (2) Privacy is an ecological value, like climate stability:
all our actions affect it overall–no one party’s decision to
store its data with a data miner has a disastrous effect on privacy
overall, but the aggregation of individual decisions has non-linear

Lawyers have such a pretty way with words, sometimes, don’t you agree? I especially like the phrase “the aggregation of individual decisions has non-linear consequences”. Bloody brilliant. And profoundly true in many ways. If we take a look at the recent Patriot Act happenings in the U.S., we see a similar situation: the American populace’ individual decisions to ignore the ramifications of such legislature have had an effect that can be argued have had a larger effect on the populace than the sum of the impact of the legislation on any individual. I am truly intrigued to see how Eben will explain this concept in relation to MySQL and the FLOSS ecosystem.

There are few people more qualified than Eben to speak about the overarching legal and privacy concerns that the FLOSS community (and, by osmosis, the majority of Internet application users) will be faced with in the next ten years. Again, this keynote is not to be missed. Join me and, oh, around 2000 other folks at the conference to hear Eben speak.