Overview on the past year

[ Article transferred from my old wiki ]

What an exciting although tough year we just went through with regards to digital freedoms. After starting so sadly with the tragic death of one of our youngest heroes, 2013 saw the rise of a bunch of other courageous figures who risked their lives to defend our rights.

Aaron Swartz’s suicide has shaken up the whole community and awaken the feeling that we could no longer remain passive faced with a growing number of abuses from governments and big industries, perpetuated either in the name of security or intellectual property – the two main obstacles to liberties in this early 21th century.

The Snowden affair marks a turning point in both digital rights and open source history. A sudden awareness that the world wide web we evolve in is aptly named and could become the bars of the cage we would end up stuck in.

Aldeous Huxley had warned us in 1931 with his novel ‘Brave New World’, stating that “​the perfect dictatorship would have the appearance of a democracy, a prison without walls in which the prisoners would not even dream of escaping ; a system of slavery where, through entertainment and consumption the slaves would love their servitude.”​

Whereas the progresses in terms of privacy protection and freedom of speech remain mitigated, with new measures taken by governments everyday as desperate attempts to control the internet – DRM in HTML5, EU telecom package, censorship on Google search results, TTIP … – the boost for open source is quite spectacular.

Finally, citizen and public administrations start understanding the issues at stake when it comes to compare free software and proprietary models. Control or be controlled. Stay free to use, study, improve and share the product you legitimately acquired, or be monitored by it.

Open source gives you these freedoms. The source code is accessible to you, and a community of developers is constantly improving the reliability of the product so that at any time, you can check how your data is being processed. At the opposite, there is no chance for you to figure out what happens to your data while using closed source, which is how private information ends up under the scan of the NSA or less dramatically but as much annoying, used for targeted advertising.

Together with the open source spurring, open data became a rather fashion issue last year. Just as with the free software movement, the concept is to open up access to certain categories of resources for a complete free use. The aim is to foster education, innovation and competition. Efforts still need to be made though, as so far words and intentions have been followed by very few actions.

Open currency offers much more concrete perspectives. With the advent of Bitcoin, the alternative economy we’ve heard of for years is not a dream anymore. Let’s wish good luck to this new currency rewarding contributions to existing problems, and hope that open source keeps inspiring innovators from all sectors.

Best wishes for 2014 !