No, You Can’t Own Your Computer  

I want a computer that I own completely. I want a computer that does what I want it to do, not one that has a hidden agenda programmed into it at the factory. And, I want to have these capabilities regardless of what anyone has done to the Internet to prevent me from having them. I don’t want to be dependent on the whims of a government or the good will of a giant corporation.

Tie goes on to describe his ideal system and mulls over what he currently has to live with.

This made me think if such a system, or a group of systems for that matter - it’s not just a computer that Tie is talking about here - can actually exist. There’s no incentive for any organization, profit or non-profit, to build such a system. It will not be of interest for an everyday consumer, it would be too dull for him. He would, unmindful of the harms, load it with the unnecessary bloat, ruining the whole promise the system was built on.

So, the answer to Tie’s question - will I ever have a computer that I own? - is unfortunately is a big, fat NO.

Building the necessary constructs to keep the system (and its user) autonomous and anonymous would involve a huge investment. Without a ready incentive, no organization would be interested to put down such an investment.

But can I not build such a computer on my own? What about Raspberry Pi? One might say. Maybe you could – may you already have. But it’s not the whole system. Do you plan to connect to the Internet and surf the Web? Well, that computer you built is anonymous no more. You cannot build or own the whole pipe – software and services you use or your ISPs.

That’s such a defeatist view, some might say. However, I have lost the faith that any sane default from an organization with budget gives a damn about preventing the user’s autonomy or identity. That is, unless someone proves otherwise, backing it up with some real examples.

On a side note, I find this question from the Hacker News thread a lot more poignant (emphasis mine).

[W]hen have you ever been able to communicate with guaranteed privacy?

Seriously, was there ever a time when we could do that? Will we ever be able to do that? How earnest are our current communication channels, iMessage, Signal et al., on upholding their privacy promise?


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