Software Freedom Doesn't Kill People, Your Security Through Obscurity Kills People

Saturday 13 August 2016 by Bradley M. Kuhn

The time has come that I must speak out against the inappropriate rhetoric used by those who (ostensibly) advocate for FLOSS usage in automotive applications.

There was a catalyst that convinced me to finally speak up. I heard a talk today from a company representative of a software supplier for the automotive industry. He said during his talk: putting GPLv3 software in cars will kill people and opening up the source code to cars will cause more harm than good. These statements are completely disingenuous. Most importantly, it ignores the fact that proprietary software in cars is at least equally, if not more, dangerous. At least one person has already been killed in a crash while using a proprietary software auto-control system. Volkswagen decided to take a different route; they decided to kill us all slowly (rather than quickly) by using proprietary software to lie about their emissions and illegally polluting our air.

Meanwhile, there has been not a single example yet about use of GPLv3 software that has harmed anyone. If you have such an example, email it to me and I promise to add it right here to this blog post.

So, to the auto industry folks and vendors who market to/for them: until you can prove that proprietary software assures safety in a way that FLOSS cannot, I will continue to tell you this: in the long and sad tradition of the Therac 25, your proprietary software has killed people, both quickly and slowly, and your attacks on GPLv3 and software freedom are not only unwarranted, they are clearly part of a political strategy to divert attention from your own industry's bad behavior and graft unfair blame onto FLOSS.

As a side note, during the talk's Q&A session, I asked this company's representatives how they assure compliance with the GPLv2 — particularly their compliance with provision of scripts used to control compilation and installation of the executable, which are so often missing for many products, including vehicles. The official answer was: Oh, I don't know. Not only does this company publicly claim security through obscurity is a viable solution, and accuse copyleft advocates of endangering the public safety, they also seem to have not fully learned the lessons of making FLOSS license compliance a clear part of their workflow.

This is, unfortunately, my general impression of the status of the automotive industry.

Posted on Saturday 13 August 2016 at 06:00 by Bradley M. Kuhn.

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Both previously and presently, I have been employed by and/or done work for various organizations that also have views on Free, Libre, and Open Source Software. As should be blatantly obvious, this is my website, not theirs, so please do not assume views and opinions here belong to any such organization. Since I do co-own ebb.org with my wife, it may not be so obvious that these aren't her views and opinions, either.

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Bradley M. Kuhn <bkuhn@ebb.org>