Cyborg lawyer demands software source

Summary:Lawyer Karen Sandler's heart condition means she needs a pacemaker-defibrillator to avoid sudden death, so she has one simple question: what software does it run?

Lawyer Karen Sandler's heart condition means she needs a pacemaker-defibrillator to avoid sudden death, so she has one simple question: what software does it run?

Karen Sandler
(Credit: Linux.conf.au)

Yet it turns out that it's impossible for her to see and understand the technology that's being installed into her own body and upon which her life depends. Regulatory authorities don't see or review the software either.

She simply has to trust that the vendor is telling the truth and doing things right.

In this third of four daily podcasts from Linux.conf.au 2012 (LCA) in Ballarat, you'll hear Sandler discuss the real-world implications of this very personal software story.

How do we know the software works as advertised? How do we know it's secure? And what will happen if something goes wrong and the vendor tries to cover up the flaws, or if the vendor just goes bankrupt and the software stops being maintained?

Sandler also discusses legal cases where the prosecution's evidence was unreliable because it relied on software that turned out to be flawed — yet another practical reason to demand the source.

You'll also hear part two of our look at FreedomBox, a project to create a platform for privacy-enhancing social networks. Following on from yesterday's episode, FreedomBox Foundation board member and developer Bdale Garbee gives us a status update on the project's software stack.

There's also a conversation with Mary Gardiner and Valerie Aurora about the Ada Initiative, a project to increase the participation of women in open technology and culture. Also, Linux kernel developer "Rusty" Russell and geek-advocate Pia Waugh explain why the Ada Initiative and other work won Mary Gardiner this year's Rusty Wrench award for services to the Australian Linux community.

Running time: 42 minutes, 45 seconds

"Metal Free Software Song 2: This Time It's Personal" by Jono Bacon is based on the original "Free Software Song" by Richard Stallman, used under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike licence.

Topics: Legal, Open Source

About

Stilgherrian is a freelance journalist, commentator and podcaster interested in big-picture internet issues, especially security, cybercrime and hoovering up bulldust. He studied computing science and linguistics before a wide-ranging media career and a stint at running an IT business. He can write iptables firewall rules, set a rabbit tr... Full Bio

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