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Re: [libreplanet-discuss] We need clear advocacy for software freedom, n

From: Aaron E-J
Subject: Re: [libreplanet-discuss] We need clear advocacy for software freedom, not proprietary greenwashing
Date: Thu, 18 Aug 2016 13:16:23 -0400
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I guess where I was going with my line of reasoning is not to limit information on how to modify a device but actually do the opposite – make modification be easy and safe.  It is the fact that there is often little documentation on a device that contributes to accidents.  At the same time, it is important to make there be clear warnings when doing something may be dangerous and security must be paramount.  To use the car analogy, you need to have a driver's license in order to drive and in order to do that, you need to know how to drive.  If people who get medical devices are also trained in how the device works, this would have the potential to save lives, regardless of whether the user has the desire to modify it.

Aaron E-J (Blog)
On 2016-08-16 11:27 PM, J.B. Nicholson wrote: wrote:
There is a very mixed bag situation on medical device hacking, in that
yes, it is definitely possible to cause potentially life threatening
situations if one makes modifications the wrong way...

The problem with this argument is that we wouldn't accept this line of logic for any other device. We've already dealt with this level of danger and accepted it on a national scale. There's a strong history in the US (and I imagine other countries) of people being able to modify their cars. This goes back to well before computers were in cars. Cars have long been known to be radically unsafe for both the passengers and the people in the vicinity of the car (making what we've already accepted objectively more dangerous than a medical device such as a pacemaker/defibrillator like what Karen Sandler has) and yet we have no problem with car owners changing what they like in their cars so long as the end result doesn't break certain laws. As a result of car hacking we now enjoy a mix of hobbyists and commercial garages some of which came up from people learning by experimenting on their own vehicles.

We never let those potentially life threatening situations hinder someone's access to fully control their own devices before and we ought not do so now that computers and software are involved.

I think that what should be done at a minimum is to allow any
programming parameters to be changed, even if the program itself is more
thoroughly locked down, or more difficult to modify, while providing a
good and accessible set of information and warnings on what they do...
I am far from thrilled by the multiple 'Are you SURE?' checkboxes that
some proprietary O/S's put you through, but could see some level of that
on particularly dangerous parameters....

That's not software freedom and there's no reason to set such a minimum. What you're describing is indistinguishable from highly-configurable proprietary software.

This fight has to be about software freedom, not half-measures like open source; open source is a developmental methodology which is okay with proprietary software and asking proprietors for a chance to help a commercial developer improve a program. The free software movement demands software freedom for all computer users on ethical grounds.

In terms of the medical device area, I think that it would be VERY good
to do something on the line of an open source hardware group for medical
devices.  I have had a long time interest in trying to make better
chairs but have been worried about how to handle the regulatory and
liability concerns.  Among other things, a collected knowledge base of
how to do things without getting into problems with the government
bodies dedicated to blocking progress...

Perhaps, if this group was interested in software freedom and not "open source" and if membership isn't about identity politics (only people with medical backgrounds can be members, for instance, thus negating any chance free software activists would represent the group). Otherwise it would become important to oppose any such group. Greenwashing (or as Brad Kuhn put it, "openwashing"[1]) is a real problem with groups like this because they're often corporate shills looking to preserve the status quo in service to their interests and the interests of their employers.


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