Volkswagen’s Dieselgate and The Danger of Closed Source Intellectual Property

The not uncommon practice in the ICT/Mobile business of “doctoring”products to look good on benchmarks has find its way into the automotive (and God knows into how many others) business.

Volkswagen, though, isn’t the only to blame because, true, they cheated, but no public supervising authority  ever glimpsed at the software ran by its vehicles, only focusing on “hardware” tests. And – I guess – even if the controllers would have thought of examining the software, they would have been prevented to do so by “the need of protecting Intellectual Property” that – as the “National Security Excuse” – is a buzzphrase to stop any further investigation on controversial matters.

Volkswagen’s Dieselgate shows once more that (a certain way to think of) Intellectual Property – as well of Privacy – has neatly changed its role from being a tool to protect legitimate interests into a shield for wrongdoings.

Were the Volkswagen software released under an open source licensing model, the fear of being exposed would have forced the company to play by the book and would have allowed a true and thorough check by the competent authorities, avoiding a major damage for the industry, investors, employees and citizens.


Hacking Team: A Class Action Against Adobe?

After the Hacking Team scandal, everybody and his cousin is calling for a “death sentence” against Adobe Flash, accused of being the “vessel” that allowed Hacking Team’s malware to land on users’ PC and smartphones.

A logical consequence of this  vulnerability and its exploiting by several malwares, including those made by Hacking Team, would be a class-action against Adobe that, as a matter of fact, released a “bugged-by-design” application.

But this is not going to happens against Adobe, as against the other (big or small) fishes of the software pond. We are much too “programmed” to accept a software fault as an act of God instead of either a mistake or a deliberate marketing choice.

Will things change after the Hacking Team scandal? I don’t think so, thus get ready for the next viral infection, information theft or denial of service: is just business as usual.

Stop Apple and Google To Take Over Our Cars

Google just announced its “Android Auto” platform, while Apple already did  it with Carplay. Both platforms require an Internet connection and, it is just matter of time, will become more and more deeply interconnected with the car control system.

But software do fail. It fails because there’s no such thing as a bug-free software, it fails because people do mistakes, it fails because the software house’s roadmap not necessarily matches the final users’ safety.

And I don’t care about the usual PR stunts such as “as soon as we discovered the bug we did our best to fix it the fastest way” or “since the xyz library is licensed and proprietary we can’t keep responsibility for the way the software behave” or, finally, “if you just read the EULA you will find that it is clearly stated that we don’t take any responsibility for blah, blah, blah…”

This is a price we cannot afford to pay.

The Datagate and the Risk of Outlawing Encryption

A side-effect generated by the Datagate scandal is the privacy hysteria exploitation to sell encryption-based services. Taking apart some obvious exceptions (business transactions, health information, judiciary data) these services are useless, ineffective and dangerous for the citizen an such and for the society. Continue reading

More on the Snow Leopard Heat Issue…

Kidding apart, the Snow Leopard oddities (laptop heat issue, printer and application incompatibility and so on) raise a still unanswered question: can a software house – and in particular an operating system manufacturer – be free to sell a not well enough tested and not fully usable application?

This is not the rant of a discontented user but a precise legal question. Is it conceivable to let a producer of critical assets – as software surely is – to deliberately mass market unreliable products? Time has come when software manufacturer can’t be anymore allowed to “go crappy” treating users as a bunch of sheep and just “selling a roadmap”.

I don’t know if somebody ever did an assessment of the additional expenses caused by this marketing strategy (or, at least, I don’t know if this assessment has been made available to the public.) The fact is that software manufacturers should bear the legal consequences of their choice. But as Mark Minasi and Alan Cooper pointed out, software houses succeeded in convincing users that things must go that (wrong) way.