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> I certainly wouldn't be able to live with myself if I knew I was writing software with the explicit purpose of being able to track down rebels in Yemen, catch illegal immigrants, and violate the constitutional rights of millions of Americans.

Perhaps open-source licenses should explicitly exclude use in certain applications. Even if not legally enforceable, it would serve as a constant reminder to developers who DO work in these fields of what they are doing.

Something along the lines of "The Software shall be used for Good, not Evil"? ;) https://tanguy.ortolo.eu/blog/article46/json-license

When I was at IBM the story about IBM legal asking for permission to use JSLint for evil was a classic. The original post appears to be dead, but https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5138866 discusses it.

The Internet Archive has an archived copy of the blog post, which links to the original source at


Wow 2002 was so long ago. We had no idea.

What am I saying? Most of us still have no idea.

s/shall/should rather/

This raises some good points, but that was to be expected as licenses are a tricky business.

I do think our profession needs more awareness of ethics, and a usage suggestion (rather than an order) in the license of software may be a good start.

Reminds me of how Google bans its employees from using code released under certain licenses: https://opensource.google.com/docs/thirdparty/licenses/#bann...

I wonder if Palantir has any similar policies?

I find it interesting that Google seems to allow GPL (though they ban AGPL). I know at many companies the GPL is an anathema that would be the first entry on a list like this one.

IANAL, but my understanding is that the GPL only requires you to release source code if you "distribute" the resulting binary. As a web company, most of Google's code would not be considered distributed, only the output of that code. The AGPL was created to close that gag for web companies, probably the reason Google bans it.

They certainly are legally enforceable and some software does this already. I can't recall exactly which software it was, but I know I have encountered multiple times software licenses which forbid the softwares use by military organizations or for military purposes, or which forbid government use. Licenses can contain practically anything you like. And thus far, courts haven't been restrictive at all in terms of what can be included.

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