Open source software is similar to peer-reviewed articles. Despite its ability to catch problems it can still fall victim to the frailties of men. This essay will discuss the recent eavesdropping scandal involving the open source web browser Chromium. It will do this by explaining Google's involvement with Chromium. Then, a brief discussion on open source software will be made. Finally, this essay will draw sources from many primary accounts. It will use ticket responses posted on Google's Chromium code discussion boards and a couple of related articles in order to create discussion topics. This essay poses the general question to the reader as a point of reflection: does open source software always result in excellent programs?
The eavesdropping bug recently discovered in the Chromium web browser is a concern for anyone using it. The crux of the problem is that Google released a binary blob that Chromium downloads and installs because of its default settings. A binary blob is a piece of code that is closed source; it cannot be accessed by anyone and is usually proprietary code not intended to be viewed by others outside of the sphere in which it was created. These default settings in Chromium allow the computer to listen to anyone within "earshot" of the computer microphone. "The key here is that Chromium is not a Google product (we do not directly distribute it, or make any guarantees with respect to compliance with various open source policies). Our primary focus is getting code ready for Google Chrome" . This is not inherently a Google problem but since it affects the open source community and the binary blob is a product of Google, most people became outraged.
Google was ultimately responsible for creating a bug in Chromium. The other issue is that Google Chrome automatically installs the "hotword" module. The module is essentially always listening for the hotword "OK, Google." Google says that "While we do download the hotword module on startup, we do not activate it unless you opt in to hotwording" . Google claims that this module is only intended to be used on Chrome, "We call extensions that are built into, or automatically downloaded by, Chrome "component extensions " and we do not show them in the extension list by design" . This essentially says the Google does not feel the need to tell people that this module is active on their version of Chrome. However, Google did decide to make the hotword module no longer a default piece of software in Chromium. "Note: Chromium will no longer download/install the hotword Shared Module, and will automatically remove the hotword Shared Module on startup if it was previously installed" .
The open source community is great because it allows many eyes to look over a program and find problems. "The 2004 report of the California Performance Review, a report from the state of California, urges that; the state should more extensively consider use of open source software" . Although open source programs are still susceptible to bugs and security concerns they are discovered and are remedied, usually, much faster than proprietary software.
Open source software is acclaimed by many to be the best way of testing code. Open source software often drives people to work harder than they would at a normal place of business. These volunteers are often "Motivated by the personal benefit of using an improved software product and by social values such as altruism, reputation and ideology" . The only major concern generally associated by open source software is usability. According to one study, "Most developers have a very limited understanding of usability, and there is a lack of resources and evaluation methods fitting into the OSS paradigm" . But despite these minor concerns open source projects are often of a very high caliber. In regards to this "Software developers have produced systems with a functionality that is competitive with similar proprietary software developed by commercial software organizations" . This is remarkable considering this software is done essentially free of pay or public recognition. Despite the open source movement companies are still producing great software capable of many exciting new functionalities.
Many devices are available to the public that include similar capabilities as the aforementioned Chrome hotword module. Recently, Samsung produced a smart TV capable of voice command. People were uneasy when they discovered the fine print in the user manual stating, "'Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party'" . Motorola's MotoX phone has the capability to actively listen for a hotword, which works very similarly to Chrome's hotword module.
Consumers today, need to be aware and beware of the functionality of their electronic devices. Increased ease of use is always a goal of technology companies such as Google. Concerns and questions arise when these companies tread on new domains. Areas of privacy and security are always tedious topics for new technology.
This ticket post talks about Googles stance on the hot-word module. Google claims that the Chrome browser is their own browser and thus it does not need any new permissions to install the hot-word module. The also claim the Debian has to take care of their own bundles of Chromium. Google reports that it is not their concern what Debian does with a Chromium bundle. Thus, Google decides to not fix the Chromium problem concerning the hot-word module. Specifically, with the concern that the hot-word module is a "binary blob" that is essentially a black box of code in and open source product. Google decided to not fix the problem and explains that it is the problem of third party developers such as Debian, concerning the bit of black box code.
This article talks about how the Google Chrome web browser does not automatically opt users in while the open source Chromium web browser does. Google claims that it is not their fault that the open source Linux distribution decided to download the plugin with the Chromium browser. Google feels like it is not their responsibility to test how their hands free search feature works with programs that are not theirs. The open source community is upset simply because this feature does not display its source code although it does get including in the Chromium browser which is open source. This article primarily discusses the debate between Google's attitudes toward the Chromium browser.
This is a a comment made by the author that changed parts of the Chromium browser. The browsers source code was changed and this required that the person or persons responsible for the change post a comment concerning what was changed. The majority of this change is a result of Chromium having a big from the eavesdropping binary blob inserted into its code.
This article talks about the use of open source software. According to this review of software most of the software that was done by volunteers was more secure and less prone to mistakes. This essay attempts to persuade the reader to consider using this type of software for more purposes. It also gives compelling evidence for state and federal run institutions to use this type of software. It is very lengthy and has many sources that are outdated. But the sources used for this essay were checked to be working links and accurate sources.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) produced an article that tries to understand the open source programming paradigm. It is a business article that relates this paradigm to the business world. It presents ideas and research that could be useful to business owners. Businesses are still working on a 20th century platform whereas technology is evolving to a less commercial driven ideology. This essay attempts to understand why this is and how business need to adapt in order to keep hiring great employees.
This essay was written as research from Kansas University of Technology. It is essentially a survey and study of the open source paradigm. "Open Source Software (OSS) development has gained significant importance in the production of soft-ware products." As a result of this, this essay attempts to study the effectiveness of OSS. It draws the conclusion that OSS is good and less error prone that many commercial products. The main problem is that it often is not at user friendly as most commercial software.
The article discusses various concerns about the eavesdropping in general on new electronic devices. It discusses the rising popularity of cell phones and smart TVs new voice activated features. This source is not a primary source it just discusses various ideas concerning the newest eavesdropping features. It talks about Samsungs smart TVs and how they can be activated with key words. Likewise, the Samsung phones can also interact with a user through voice recognition key words.
This simple defines binary blob. It is wikipedia so it was not used as a in text citation. This was used to give the reader a general understanding of the phrase "binary blob." It discuss what one is and how it is commonly used. It also discusses what open source software is and why binary blobs are considered bad practice for use in open source software.
This is an eye witness account of a blogger that records his reactions to discovering the Chromium eavesdropping bug. He reports that the LED on his microphone for his computer kept turning on and off. He begins by checking what resources might be using it on this computer. After being a little confused about the problem he does a little online research and finds out that it’s the Chromium browser that is responsible for the microphone turning on and off. This is a reaction and an open question presented by an eye witness of the eavesdropping bug. It is cited in a post from "The Guardian" and is perhaps one of the first recorded reports of the event.
This is a ticket response to the Chromium web browser automatically downloading the hot-word module. Google reports that the newest version of Chromium does not download with the hot-word binary blob. It requires one to go to the Chrome web store and activity choose to download it. They report that they do care about the open source community and think it the hot-word module should be excluded default Chromium builds. They also report that the module runs in a sandbox. This is important because it helps to add security to the feature should one decide to use it. Google reports to have released the version of Chromium that does not have the hot-word module. They explain that even with the module installed in chrome one needs to activate the extension and then enable it. Once it is enabled it still does not process anything spoken until the key word "Ok, Google" is spoken. The processing until the key word is spoken is done on one's computer and thus no statistics are sent back to Google.