Before we get into it, a couple of things to keep in mind:
1. The Bank of America is a Silver member of The Linux Foundation.
2. Tim Golden -- Senior vice president at Bank of America sits on the
Linux Foundation Board of Directors.
You might want to take a look at what Mr. Golden has to say in the above link about Linux on the Desktop and in the racks before you go any further.
With that being said...
That would be Bank of America.
It dealt with his online banking and it concerned the "Electronic Disclosure Statement" online agreement to which he was being asked to agree.
In a nutshell, it is asking BOA online banking users to agree that they are using specific hardware and software to do said banking. It isn't giving an option to opt-out...it is asking you to say you are using specific hardware and software...even if you are not.
As you can see in the graphic above, Linux users are not included.
Skip wasn't comfortable in "agreeing" to this so he began the laborious task of trying to find the person who could change it.
Now, with legal issues in mind here, I am going to walk a fine line in reporting the back-and-forth between the BOA representative and Skip Guenter. Some of the emails had confidentiality statements attached to them and some did not.
To protect ourselves, I will only post those communications that did not have such agreements. They tell the story well enough.
Look, we all know that we use a less-common OS. We can argue the numbers all day but whether we have 1 percent usage or 7 percent usage, we can all agree that some would consider the Linux Operating System "obscure".
Skip finally contacted someone who deals with browser support strategy and compatibility. I will post the text of the most important dialog below:
Guenter: First off I want to thank you for taking the time to reply. It's appreciated.
I understand the desktop user base issue (especially here in the US, maybe 1%) and I don't really need or expect you to "support" Linux in any direct manor since you are supporting the Firefox browser.
I am not having any problems using Firefox on Ubuntu to do my on-line banking nor have I over the years I've been doing biz with Bank of America.
My issue is purely that the electronic disclosure statement that I'm being required to sign in order to access my account (Hardware & Software Requirements, which, btw, seems to be completely software) says that I *AM* using the software listed. Since I am not using this I don't feel right in signing it. Is there any way some wording could be changed to say that I understand using anything else is "unsupported" instead of asking me to sign something saying that I 'am' using Windows or OS/X (eg. opt out with... "Yes, I'm a demented geek and understand that BAC will not support issues arising from my use of the Linux OS")?
As it is now I can't even pay my upcoming payment due because I can't get past checking "I agree" to this. I have talked to customer service and requested to be changed back to paper billing but certainly this can't be the direction you want to drive customers.
I also have an account with Chase. They use a link to all the legalize at the bottom of each page. The one that covers roughly the same topic is item #5 in the below.
(note we received the following message when clicking the above-noted url: Due to the presence of characters known to be used in Cross Site Scripting attacks, access is forbidden. This web site does not allow Urls which might include embedded HTML tags. )
The only Chase Bank requirements are below:
Hardware and Software Requirements. In order to access, view, and retain electronic Communications that we make available to you, you must have:
- an up to date Internet browser that we support;
- sufficient electronic storage capacity on your computer's hard drive or other data storage unit;
- an e-mail account with an Internet service provider and e-mail software in order to participate in our electronic Communications programs;
- a personal computer (for PC's: Pentium 120 Hhz or higher; for Macintosh, Power Mac 9500, Power PC 604 processor 120-MHz Base or higher), operating system and telecommunications connections to the Internet capable of receiving, accessing, displaying, and either printing or storing Communications received from us in electronic form via a plain text-formatted e-mail or by access to our web site using one of the browsers specified above.
- software that enables you to view files in the Portable Document Format ("PDF").
In other words, I am not expecting you to support Firefox/Linux, just don't make me 'sign' saying I'm using Win/OS/x when I'm not, to continue using your on-line banking service.
Thank you very much for your time,
S. R. 'Skip' Guenter
The response from the BOA rep follows:
BOA Rep: Mr. Guenter, I apologize for taking so long to get back to you. Our legal team reviewed the language of the disclosure and your concerns and here is what they had to say:
We are required by the Electronic Signatures and Global and National Commerce Act (E-Sign) to disclose the hardware and software requirements a customer needs to access any legally required disclosures, such as our transfer and bill pay disclosures contained in the OLB Service Agreement. The hardware and software requirements disclosed should be based on what the Bank actually tests against to make sure the information is accessible.
If we water down the language by making the hardware and software disclosures more generic or saying that the hardware and software is merely suggested/recommended, we risk a couple of things:
1. You would be creating an obligation to test every single combination of browser, operating system, and PDF reader in use out there to make sure the information is accessible; and 2. If you don't test every combination and a customer using an obscure combination can't access legally required disclosures, they could argue that the Bank didn't actually deliver these disclosures in compliance with law.
So, in the end, while we appreciate your concerns, we need to keep the language as stated in order to keep ourselves compliant with the E-Sign act. Basically, how we interpret the language is to say that in order for us to fully support any issues and the security of our customers, we require them to use only certain browser operating system combinations. However, if you CHOOSE to use a different browser or OS, you will not receive that full support and protection. Accepting the terms and conditions merely signifies that you understand and accept this risk. Does that clear things up for you?
To which Skip replied:
Guenter: I do appreciate the fact that you took the time to respond. I'm going to have to think about what I do now.
Funny thing - Last night I was watching a show on Hulu.com and the primary sponsor was your company. They had a good advert basically showing folks how they could do their banking from their mobile devices, mentioning by name the Android. I thought, no kidding, I wonder if the legal guys know what "obscure" operating system runs on that! I'm sure you do and I needn't elaborate my point here. I wonder what OLB Service agreement the users of those devices are presented with.
Again, Thank you,
S. R. 'Skip' Guenter
So that brings up a number of questions. Doesn't BOA offer an Android app for phones and tablets? This link states that they do. Is there a different requirement for phones vs. computers?
And I won't insult your intelligence by asking you what the Android platform is based on...Guenter alludes to that in his response.
And what part, if any will Canonical play in this? They are the big dogs in the pit so to speak. If anyone in the Linux or Open Source community has reason to interact with this effort then it would be them. With their upcoming and somewhat abrupt switch to Unity vs Gnome...one would think.
So once again, we are seeing "Linux Foundation members" doing the same thing that Netflix did recently. They lay the whole thing on "legal" issues....In the case of Netflix, intertwined with DRM and the DMCA.
It's been fairly evident that The Linux Foundation isn't really concerned with Desktop use...it wants membership from the Enterprise. Those who use Linux more on the server side. That's where the money is, at least according to a conversation Tom King and I had with Jim Zemlin at the 2008 Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit.
They want to play in the pool but they don't want to do any of the maintenance. At least from a Desktop point of view. Of course, as a Linux Desktop advocate, I would see such things through that filter. That's not saying it's an accurate observation.
Maybe from a business standpoint, Bank of America is doing what they are legally responsible for...making stockholders happy? Holding down costs?
I'm not going to make any further judgments...above are the facts.
We can sort it out in the comments.