Groklaw shutting down.

Today is a sad day for the world of Information Technology and the cause of software freedom. PJ just announced she’ll be shutting down Groklaw.

It’s hard to overestimate the role that Groklaw has played in the past years. Many of us, myself included, have worked with Groklaw over the years. I still take pride my article about the dangers of OOXML for Free Software and Open Standards might have been the first of many calls to arms on this topic. Or how Groklaw followed the Microsoft antitrust case that FSFE fought for and with the Samba team, and won for all of software freedom. Groklaw was essential in helping us counter some of the Microsoft spin-doctoring. Or the Sean Daly interview with Volker Lendecke, Jeremy Allison, Carlo Piana and myself for Groklaw after the landslide victory against Microsoft in court.

I remember very well how giddy I still was during the interview for having realized that Microsoft would not be able to take down FSFE, because that would have been the consequence had they gotten their way. We bet our life’s work at the time. And won. The relief was incredible.

So there is a good deal of personal sadness to hear about this, as well as a general concern which Paul Adams just summarized rather well on the #kolab IRC channel:

the world of IT is just that little bit less safe without groklaw

And it’s true. Groklaw has been the most important platform to counter corporate spin doctoring, has practiced an important form of whistleblowing long before Wikileaks, and has been giving alternative and background perspective on some of the most important things going on inside and outside the media limelight. without Groklaw, all of us will lack that essential information.

So firstly, I’d like to thank PJ for all the hard years of work on Groklaw. Never having had the pleasure of meeting her in real life, I still feel that I know her from the conversations we had over email over so many years. And I know how she got weary of the pressure, the death threats and the attempts at intimidating her into silence. Thank you for putting up with it for so long, and for doing what you felt was right and necessary despite the personal cost to yourself! The world needs more people like you.

But with email having been the only channel of communication she was comfortable using for reasons of personal safety, when Edward Snowden revealed the PRISM program, when Lavabit and Silent Circle shut down, when the boyfriends of journalists get detained at Heathrow, she apparently drew the conclusion this was no longer good enough to protect her own safety and the safety of the people she was in communication with.

That she chose as the service to confide in with her remaining communication lines at least to me confirms that we did the right thing when we launched and also that we did the right thing in the way we did it. But it cannot mitigate the feeling of loss for seeing Groklaw fall victim to the totalitarian tendencies our societies are exhibiting and apparently willingly embracing over the past years.

While we’re happy to provide a privacy asylum in a safe legislation, society should not need them. Privacy should be the default, not the exception.

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About Georg Greve

Georg Greve is a technologist and entrepreneur. Background as a software developer and physicist. Head of product development and Chairman at Vereign AG. Founding president of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE). Previously president and CEO at Kolab Systems AG, a Swiss Open Source ISV. In 2009 Georg was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit on Ribbon by the Federal Republic of Germany for his contributions to Open Source and Open Standards.
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9 Responses to Groklaw shutting down.

  1. Paul says:

    Kolab falls (as your service says under the privacy page) under swiss lawfull interception regulations – I can’t see why this is any better than other services. It might be better than running it from another country – it’s nowhere to be assumed totally safe though.

  2. greve says:

    The reasons are explained in the & sections.

    Ultimately, the barrier to access by authorites is higher in Switzerland than virtually anywhere else. There must be concrete evidence of an actual crime according to Swiss law, otherwise the judge will throw the request out immediately. And requests to a Swiss provider by other countries must meet the identical, Swiss, requirements. Which is why hardly any LI requests ever get approved.

    But yes, you are right. Absolute security does not exist .

    As far as relative, obtainable security is concerned, Switzerland is a good place for getting that. Also see Do cloud right: Four critical steps to selecting the provider for you for some more context.

  3. Pingback: Groklaw schließt: Aus und vorbei für die Chronisten unendlicher Geschichten |

  4. Joe says:

    One thing that I do not understand with Mykolab:

    How can signing up for an email address at require that one provide an already existing email address?
    It is like the bank asking for bank statements from the previous bank when signing up for a bank account.
    What if I do not care about password recovery options but would instead prefer to sign-up without providing another email address?Surely the invoices can be sent to the mykolab email account itself?

    Can you make this possible? Make this “Existing Email Address” field optional please.
    Looking forward to using your service.
    Thank you.

  5. greve says:

    The primary use case is password reset. Which, frankly, happens surprisingly often. So there must be an automated way for this. But then you’re right, having alternative paths would be better, so we’ll be working to provide those. It was just a matter of what was easiest to implement first.

    Looking forward to having you on! :)

  6. Joe says:

    Thank you for the quick reply.
    I will be paying attention to the developments. :)

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  8. Thanks for the details about the Groklaw story; never knew so much about it and especially its shutdown.

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