Open Process Search Systems

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Discussion

We need Open Process Search Systems

Toni Prug:

"Search systems, as several participants at the Deep Search conference noted, is an essential component of the Web. And given the importance of the Web, and its embeddedness into multiple key aspects of life, the society cannot do without one. The architecture and protocols of the Internet and the Web might be open, developed by IETF via open process, running mostly Free Software, but the architecture of search systems remains closed. This is not good enough. As part of the democratic practice of the common, we have to have search systems built on the basis of IETF and Free Software principles. We need Open Process search systems.

Search systems have four distinct components: Crawler, Index, Search and Rank, and GUI. We could and should build a public infrastructure where first two components are shared, and on top of the indexed Web, open interfaces to various Search and Rank algorithms and user interfaces are provided (Rieder 2008). There are different ways this could be done. One is through existing grid systems used in academia, this system is already distributed, staffed with highly skilled people and like the rest of the Web, mostly built using Free Software. Other option is to internationalize Google. A worldwide public organization could demand from USA to break Google search system away from the rest of the company, release all knowledge to do with how it operates (technical documentation) into the common and make it into a separate globally owned company. Democratic ownership would also ensure accountability in dealing with user data, something Google arrogantly refuses to do. The form of such global ownership, the model of the new management of the commons, remains an issue to solve. Google uses Free Software to utilize the commons (Web) as their core profit stream. Yet neither belong to any single nation.

Hence, the solution on how to manage it should not belong to any single nation’s economic and legal system – regardless of where the Google corporation, or any other entity utilizing the commons for the profit, is legally based. Indeed, in the discussion on the patenting of biological material, the question of disclosing the origin of the material part of a patent application is one of the key political issues (Howard 2008). When a seed of a Brazilian, or an Indian origin is to be patented, mandating disclosing the origin in the application can be used to deny bio-piracy by the more developed economies of the biological material originating in less developed countries. In a similar way, who gives the Google right to utilize what is common to the world, the Web, for private profit and without global accountability?

Why would we allow Google to be subject to the laws of any single state? The French state attempt to control what Google does within their web-territory renders the tension between the commons, for profit organizations and the state visible. The question is then, why do not other organizations, in other states, do what Google does, and why not use them instead? They might do so in future better than Google does, and thus become a predominantly used system, but that is beyond the point. They would be under the same logic presented here, regardless of their location. Furthermore, i can limit my websites exposure to Google by denying their spiders access to it. That still does not address the core issues at stake here. Google would still be utilizing everything that belongs to economic system of which i’m part of, which at minimum, in the narrowest sense, is the national economy to which i pay taxes, in which i live and work, in which i produce and consume. As a member of such entity, as a citizen of a state, i want to assert the ability to dictate conditions under which anyone, including Google, utilizes anything produced by any members of the state i live in.

In other words, a state ought to control its economic affairs. Yet, with the Web, such affairs, economic activity, cannot be fully geographically located. Although i work in London/UK, the product of my work may appear is text based, and as such can be hosted by any of the servers i choose for hosting, in large number of states worldwide. Who should have a say in the economic benefits derived from what i produce? The state does it by having me immediately pay taxes on what i earn from it. Institutions which might impose and enforce copyright or patent over it might benefit long term from it too. Yet, organizations such as Google benefit economically from it as well. While the state and institutions i work for have a more direct and historical claims over my work, and while these relations are known, regulated and even democratically controlled to a very limited extent, entities like Google derive economic benefits from it without any regulation or democratic control.

Any organization that seeks to utilize the commons and that does it on the large scale should be, under the some form of democratic management of the commons. No entity should be allowed to utilize the commons without a form of such control. In order to give credit to the remaining Google company and to keep it developing, part of the revenue from the adds would have to go to the company. The difference would be that in this case accountable organization would be setting what kind of adverts to accept, or reject, instead of relying on couple of super rich people and their sense of good and evil. Although, banning adverts for guns is a welcome decision (Lowe 2009, 140).

In short, the issue of utilization of the commons ought not be left to the capitalist corporations. First the states, like the French are trying to do now, and then us, the political multitude in becoming, should intervene. The disruption that Google’s project introduce into the sectors adopting the possibilities of new technologies, mass book scanning for example, are welcome. But not under the rules chosen by the Google’s board." (http://hackthestate.org/2010/03/05/series-on-commuonism-open-process-the-organizational-spirit-of-the-internet-model-2/)