Groklaw closes down

Today PJ at Groklaw posted the last article that Groklaw will host. She is closing down the site in direct response to the loss of privacy that we now must realise is close to absolute for anyone with a substantial online life.

Groklaw was a superb resource for trying to understand what was happening in the various court cases that challenged the concepts of free and open source software. I was only ever a lurker, I did not contribute to the discussions. Nonetheless it was invaluable to me for following the myriad twists and turns in the court cases between Apple and Samsung, offering a view and a community dissection of the often complex law at stake , and also of the conventions and idiosyncrasies of the court process and protocol. As an additional tool to go alongside the rest of the journalism reporting the case, it was incredibly useful.

We’ve lost a massive and valuable resource. What PJ created had immense impact and presented a plethora of essential information. Information that becomes ever more essential as computing becomes ever more embedded.

PJ never did want to become a public persona, her identity becoming public eventually, largely a victim of Groklaw’s success, it’s value.

Losing resources like this are part of the reason why the modern surveillance paradigm is a problem. Beyond the complex issues of humanity, that PJ’s essay does an excellent job of identifying, there is an insight here on the old deceit, “if you do nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear”.

PJ was doing nothing wrong. The 1000’s upon 1000’s of people who relied on her knowledge and the community she created were doing nothing wrong, but they all now suffer a loss.

When people consider the effect of surveillance they usually consider their own situation. So, for most people whose thinking and writing (if it even gets written down) is fairly straightforward there is little to fear. What I write here is not going to have an effect on the important issues of the day, even if my blog posts are being read by shadowy government figures I will find little concern to keep me from sleep. I am simply not important.

The people that do get affected by this surveillance paradigm are important. The people who say the extraordinary but transformative things. The people who can offer insights unafforded to the rest of us. The people that can make a difference.

They really do have something to be concerned about, because being the special sauce, the factor that makes the difference…well that means that they do need to worry about who reads their email. Making a difference often means leading a change.

Nobody is suggesting that PJ was threatened, or that any pressure was brought to bear on her. But, as an intelligent individual with a high profile digital life reporting on issues pertinent to security, computing and law she felt the need to bow out, the thought that she was being monitored (or perhaps even simply the possibility of being monitored) was enough to disrupt her peace of mind.

As a result, we all lose out. Adios Groklaw.

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