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Google Chrome OS is "careless computing"

A veteran champion of free software has claimed Google's Chrome OS will accelerate a drive towards "careless computing", and that users risk losing control over their data by storing it in the cloud.

Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation and creator in the 1980s of freebie operating GNU, warned the Guardian's Technology Blog:

"In the US, you even lose legal rights if you store your data in a company's machines instead of your own.".

"The police need to present you with a search warrant to get your data from you," said Stallman. "But if they are stored in a company's server, the police can get it without showing you anything. They may not even have to give the company a search warrant."

Stallman, who previously branded cloud computing services such as Google's Gmail "worse than stupidity", told The Guardian he expected the drift towards the cloud to continue, "because there's a sucker born every minute".

Stallman called on users to demand greater control over their own data, adding: "we had better do so, or the option may disappear."

Google officially unveiled Chrome last week, with the launch of a limited pilot programme handing out its dedicated Cr-48 notebook to selected users.

The Chrome OS stores little information on a user's machine, relying instead on an Internet connection for applications, services and data stored on Google servers.

Stallman described Chrome as, essentially, a "GNU/Linux operating system", but warned that it was "delivered without the usual applications, and rigged up to impede and discourage installing applications".

Machines featuring the OS are not expected to go on sale until mid-2011.