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Wednesday, 08 May 2019 11:51

Red Hat makes money off killing machines like the F-22

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Red Hat makes money off killing machines like the F-22 Image by Military_Material from Pixabay

The world's biggest open source company Red Hat appears to have somewhat skewed priorities, judging by the fact that it has been rejoicing over helping aircraft maker Lockheed Martin improve the F-22 Raptor, one of the world's premier fighter jets.

Red Hat was so proud of this achievement that it announced its tie-up with Lockheed at its annual summit that is being held in Boston, Massachusetts, this week.

In a media release, the company gloated: "The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is one of the world’s premier fighter jets, thanks to its unique combination of stealth, speed, agility, and situational awareness. Lockheed Martin is working with the US Air Force on innovative, agile new ways to deliver the Raptor’s critical capabilities to warfighters faster and more affordably."

Is this what open source has come to – taking money to help develop machines that kill and maim?

Employees of the company appear to have no issue with helping to improve machines that are used to kill people – and getting paid for it.

Red Hat crossed US$3 billion in annual revenue in March, so it's not as though the company is short of a dollar or two and cannot think through the ethics of accepting deals from a company that makes death and destruction its prime objective.

It's probably a lot easier for Red Hat to take money from the likes of Lockheed Martin because it is now owned by IBM. And we all know how that firm has profited from war.

But Red Hat has form in accepting contracts for controversial deals.

In 2015, it was reported that the NSA runs its XKEYSCORE program — an application that The Intercept, the website run by journalist Glenn Greenwald, describes as NSA's Google for private communications — for the most part on Red Hat Linux servers.

Were any company, even a terrorist group, to use open source software that they obtain on their own, one could not complain. But when companies like Red Hat salt away moolah made from deals like this, it does tend to cast a dark shadow over a genre of software that was conceived with noble objectives.

The lack of reaction from Red Hat's workers is simply amazing.

Employees of other technology companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Google have protested when their respective employers indulge in activities that are unethical. Microsoft employees protested against their employer working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the wake of the agency's separation of migrant children from their parents at the Mexico-US border.

Workers at Amazon wrote to chief executive Jeff Bezos, telling him not to sell Rekognition facial recognition software to law enforcement agencies and to cancel the contract for hosting data-mining company Palantir on its cloud.

And Google employees protested their employer's involvement in a US Defence Department programme that uses artificial intelligence to interpret video images and assist in targeting enemies in drone strikes.

So why are Red Hat employees silent about their company's role in helping one of the major companies in the military-industrial complex design planes that can kill more efficiently?

Sure, the dollars are the same colour, but they are tainted all the same - with human blood.

For all the big talk that Red Hat chief executive Jim Whitehurst indulges in about open source, values and the like, he might as well join the Pentagon and help plan the next war - which, most likely, will be against Iran.

I've heard there's big money in war. But I guess Whitehurst would know better than me exactly how much can be made. Who knows? It might help Red Hat cross the US$4 billion annual revenue next year or in 2021.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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