The NSA Siphons and "Not Doing No Evil"

In November 2013, as we had watched 4-5 months of news pouring about back doors built into software products like Microsoft, Google and the rest of the US who-is-who software companies, to siphon personal and business information to the US government, it was finally a wake-up call to me, a business owner, who has trusted Google’s services  since around 2005 to handle every one of our 15+ employees email, interactions with customers, almost all of our documentation, and almost all of our Instant Message conversations.

131121_NSA_PRISM

Mikko Hypponen’s Ted Talk

It finally seems like the Google founders’ promise to the Internet of “Do no Evil” doesn’t hold water. I type those words with sadness and disappointment.  As we slowly but surely decide, enough is enough, I wrote this message to my team:

For the longest time, we trusted Google with all our email conversations, customer interactions, HR stuff, most of our documents, most of our Internet searches, and more.

But it turns out that they have been leaking data to the NSA since 2009, personal and business. We don’t have anything to hide, but the thought of being lied to and stolen from is sickening. Today, I wanna cry out loud – IS GOOGLE ANY DIFFERENT THAN FACEBOOK IN IT’S PRIVACY POLICY?

It will take us a while to understand indepth the link between privacy-freedom-and-democracy, but I know we have to stop this breach _now.
So we will fight this, we will fight this by deepening our commitment to Open Source, which we love, we live, and we know won’t fail us. Over the next year, we’ll look into solutions that will replace Gmail and Google Apps.

Regards
Ashant

So as 2013 draws to an end, it turns out that we have an internal project for 2014 of some importance – cut down our dependence, if possible to 0, on US software companies working with the US government to defeat our privacy in Germany and India, and replace them with Open Source solutions, which we will learn to host, manage and use.
This blog-post is an attempt to protocol our experience.

Services we Need

  1. Email (replace G-Mail)
  2. Calendar (replace G-Calendar)
  3. Mailing-list (replace G-Groups)
  4. Instant Messaging, Chat (replace Talk)
  5. VoIP calls (replace Skype)
  6. Collaborative Documents (replace G-Apps, MS-Word)
  7. Wiki / Knowledge Base (replace G-Sites)
  8. File Sharing (replace Dropbox)
  9. URL Shortener (replace goo.gl)

In 5 Years..

So this change will happen to our company, and love it or not, it will stick with us for the next 5 years (that’s 2019 on the calendar).  Last time we made such a long-term decision we sacrificed our trust in our industry-leaders. What will we be sacrificing this time?
  • Innovation: the Open Source community won’t be able to deliver the break neck speed of innovation that  companies behind Gmail, G-Apps, Windows, Dropbox, Skype etc were able
  • It will cost us more money, to own and maintain our own IT infrastructure

And the upside will be..

  • We get to own all of our company’s digital content
  • Sharpen our skills in maintaining our infrastructure, hence helping us to develop knowledge-assets
  • (Probably) helps us focus on the bare-bones features that add value to the company, rather than fall for bells and whilstles, which has kind of become a habit in the last years as seductive new US venture-backed SaaS product launched and closed at the pace of governments in Italy.
  • (Probably) Give back to the community, if we get to contribute Open Source code.

Possible Open Source Solutions

Groupware

Group-Office PHP NL
Office-Exchange _ DE
Zimbra JAVA US
Zarafa PHP NL
FengOffice PHP UY

Collaborative Editing

http://www.firepad.io Acquired by Google in Oct. 2014. Now we await the project’s death
Etherpad

Research Material and Media Coverage

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