Open-Xchange CEO Rafael Laguna has hit out at the closed nature of services offered by Silicon Valley giants like Google and Facebook. 

Speaking in Paris earlier this month, Laguna said many of Silicon Valley's largest companies, and others like them, need to open up their proprietary systems to comply with laws around the world and uphold many of the citizen’s rights that people have fought for over the last several hundred years. 

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“Cloud services in my world need to be based on open source,” said Laguna. “They need to be available from many providers and need to give you the freedom to move your data from one to the other, otherwise they are not trustworthy.

“There would be no Google and no Facebook without open source technology but the services themselves are proprietary and dangerous. With software you run it yourself and the data sits on your machine, but with cloud services, it doesn’t, the data sits on their machines.”

Earlier this month Open-Xchange published a report revealing the number of people that are discontinuing their accounts on platforms like Facebook, Google and Whatsapp in light of the Snowden revelations. 

The Crossing the line report  based on interviews with 3,000 web users from Germany, the US and the UK  found that 35.5 per cent of German respondents have stopped using an online account or app, compared with 18 per cent in the UK and 13 per cent in the US.

Facebook was the most discontinued service across all three countries, with 17 percent of Germans, 9 percent of British and 6 percent of US internet users deciding to no longer use the social network. 

Nine percent of the Germans surveyed had also made an effort to stop using Google's apps and services but Laguna said many of them are still engaging with Google, whether they like it or not. 

"Trying to discontinue using Google is virtually impossible, and even if you do, you will be a passive Google smoker anyway because the people around you use it,” said Laguna. “For example, if you receive a message from a Gmail user or if a website uses Google Analytics, you may not know that, but you’re using Google. Only 10 percent of websites don’t use Google Analytics."

He added: "There’s no way of getting out of this hole you could say unless these services change by nature."

More than 50 percent of survey respondents said they would discontinue a service with a company if they knew it was selling their data to third parties, while 51 percent said they would quit if they knew their data could be accessed by governments. 

“We know that these services are leaking data,” said Laguna. “They’re trying to avoid it. The companies know that they have to work on this to regain trust because they are losing customers. 

“It’s not just the big social networks. We’ve also seen big US companies complain to the US government that the Snowden revelations led to them losing business." 

Lack of alternatives?

Laguna said a lack of education is the main reason that people are still using these apps like Facebook, although he acknowledges people are unlikely to turn their backs on proprietary platforms until there is a better open source alternative. 

“Services like social networks, messaging apps and cloud storage have become part of the fabric of our daily lives," said Laguna. "But by continuing to pursue exploitative, dishonest business models, we will see more and more people switch off from these online services."

He expects to see an increasing number of people switch off certain online services in 2015.

Open-Xchange has an open source software stack that companies can use to build cloud services on top of, while retaining access to their own data. The German platform provider has grown 40 percent year-on-year for the last eight years and its stack now underpins services that are used by 120 million people, a figure that it expects to rise to 200 million by the end of next year. 

Some of Open-Xchange’s largest customers are the big telcos and hosting companies that want to roll out platforms they control.  

Google claims it is a supporter of open source, having released well over 20 million lines of code and over 900 projects. One of its latest cloud platform investments Kubernetes is an open source container manager and it builds platform agnostic apps for consumers and for the workspace.

It also claims it does not scan, collect or use content in Google Apps services (including Business, Education, Government, or the legacy free version) for advertising purposes.  

Google and Facebook declined to comment. 

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