Free Speech Put Into Practice

OpenHack provides a completely open forum.

Information is the universal catalyst in a knowledge-driven society. We depend on accurate, timely information to make the right decisions. Thats not just a simple observation; its something fundamental to the operation of this nation. "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press," states the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Our task is to speak out and deliver the information and analysis IT professionals need to do their jobs. Were proud to do that job. We speak our mind and call it as we see it.

Getting the straight story out is the reason we organize and run ambitious research projects such as OpenHack, our series of e-business systems security tests. OpenHack 4, which starts this week, provides a completely open forum: Our configuration is public, our source code is published and our testing ground is the biggest network there is. Anyone can interact directly with the applications and servers we have put under the microscope. Unfortunately, this open approach to product testing and evaluation is rare. Many tech vendors have decided that the free sharing of information about their products isnt healthy for their businesses.

Its become standard practice for systems software vendors to include gag clauses in license agreements that prohibit publication of testing data and, in some cases, even reviews of any kind, without authorization. This obnoxious restriction has never been tested in court, but the threat of a lawsuit is usually enough to make customers and publications cower.

Since Oracle bears its share of responsibility in the creation of these clauses, were particularly glad to see Oracle and Microsoft as key players in OpenHack 4, demonstrating they are confident enough to let their products stand on their own merits.

We have fought many wars and are now fighting another one to defend essential freedoms, including freedom of speech. Its ironic that IT customers have often so easily set that freedom aside.

There ought to be more fully open testing. Vendors ought to scrap their gag orders. Users should decline to sign contracts that require them to give up their right to speak openly. Information must be free.