Use of "open source" in website name

Philippe Verdy verdy_p at
Fri Jun 13 10:03:40 UTC 2008

Ben Tilly [mailto:btilly at] 
> On Thu, Jun 12, 2008 at 10:10 AM, Cinly Ooi 
> <cinly.ooi at> wrote:
> > 2008/6/12 John Cowan <cowan at>:
> >> Ethically, nobody should use it in a way that could reasonably be 
> >> confused with the software term.  There are already such uses: in 
> >> intelligence work, an "open source" is a source of 
> information that 
> >> anyone can obtain, like a newspaper.
> >
> > Is your example of intelligent work an example of 
> "confusion" or  an 
> > example of other use of "open source"?
> FYI when John said "intelligence work" he was almost surely 
> discussing the kind of work done by organizations like the 
> CIA.  Which would make it an example of another use of "open 
> source" that has been around longer than the software term, 
> and quite possibly longer than the term software!

Today, most of the "intelligence work" is now performed by private
organizations. Strictly speaking this is not always illegal, as this just
consists in collecting and organizing information that is available
somewhere legally. The only bad thing is that the means taken allows these
organisms to collect from a very broad range of sources, in various
contries, and the fact that they correlate these data in a way that was not
even suspected by the submitters of this data. The other thing is that those
sources are rarely verified to see if they were legal and not just stolen,
or published illegally somewhere, or by negligence, or because of bad
security practices.

Care must be taken when you publish any piece of personnally identifiable
data that you would not want someone to collect and correlate with other
data collected from somewhere else where you also permitted some use by
external third parties. But the bad thing is that you can't even be sure
that your private data will be kept secret by the one you trusted initially:
commercial companies are wellknown for reselling or exchanging their
databases with their affiliates. The situation worsens when an organization
is sold and split across several other organizations each one using their
own policies.

What is the role of this "intelligence work" organisms? Basically, there are
really tons of sources, and most of them are unqualified. Their role is to
qualify these sources of data. The best tool they have to qualify them is
effectively to find correlations: this means that they will process data
from really a lot of sources. The "truth" they can discover this way is just
evaluated on a statistic way. This is not necessarily the truth, but
globally, this method is scientific and produces valuable and valid results
that allows their clients to be satistifed by what they have collected, as a
way to optimize their commercial campaigns or practices instead of seeking
randomly in a vast market.

The clients of these data collection organisms can be a lot of people or
organisms (generally rich enough to pay for this service, so this is not for
the beta users in their home). But anyway, one of the largest intelligence
company remains today a very wellknown company: Google with its thousands of
data collection points spread across the world: it can collect data not only
on the "visible" Internet but also from the various sources collected by
monitoring the searches and visits performed by billions of its users just
wandering everywhere on the net.

Clients of these intelligence services are not just commercial
organizations. They also include governments. It is now proven that these
organisms are now much more powerful than the "official" intelligence
services that are better controled than these private organisms and so
cannot use some sources of data as easily as the way the private
intelligence services are doing. For this reason, the classical governmental
intelligence services no longer perform themselves their own economical
spying, but they are also buying the services of these private agencies
operating around the world: it's simply much cheaper to use these services
than operating your own one. In fact they are not interested in getting the
absolute truth, most of the time: they just want "pointers" to know where to
seek. Then the official agencies will use their own means trying to verify
the facts discovered more or less legally; but this allows tem to proceed
much faster in their searches.

Well I don't know what this means in terms of protection of "open sources",
but at least the existence of these private services should be favorable in
the protection of their rights, against abusive later claims (such as
patents). The problem is that most "open source" promoters don't have the
money to pay these private intelligence services, and have lots of
difficulties when one of their creation is taken over and abused by large
organizations that are constantly pushing patents and copyright
reassignments for things that they have not created themselves, but just
discovered using "intelligence services"...

So the only effective protection or open sourcers is effectively to publish
their work initially on very well known and trustable places (so that this
initial publication will be immediately visible and archived in many places
with a reliable date of first publication), even if they decide to maintain
their own website for their daily work and further works or improvements
(including updates). It's also important that open sourcers identifty
themselves correctly at the first time, in a stable way, so that no one else
will claim their work. The open source licence itself is not enough to
protect these authors.

Beware of ideas published just in some obscure mailing list or online forum
that has no reliable archive, because someone with bad intents will try to
steal your idea and protect it; and if you even discover later that your own
idea is now protected by someone else, you won't have lots of success if
youvcan't prove your prior creation AND use of your concept.

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