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Software pioneer exits Groove board

Mitchell Kapor steps down as a director to focus on nonprofit activities--and also reportedly because he's troubled that Groove's software may be used in domestic surveillance.

Software pioneer and privacy activist Mitchell Kapor has stepped down from the board of Groove Networks, the company has confirmed.

Groove, which makes collaboration software, quietly gave word of the resignation last week when it announced an additional $38 million in funding for its operations from existing investors such as Microsoft and Intel Capital.

"Mr. Kapor resigned from the board to focus 100 percent of his time on nonprofit activities," according to a company statement.

Kapor, who co-founded Lotus Development in 1982 and designed the landmark Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet, has been increasingly involved in the open-source movement. In October, Kapor said he was exploring ways to create an open-source personal information manager that could help cut administrative costs for small- and medium-size companies and for schools.

The New York Times, citing a person close to Kapor, provided another reason for the departure, saying that Kapor was disturbed that Groove's software was a crucial part of an antiterrorist software being tested in the government's Total Information Awareness (TIA) program, under the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency. The controversial data-mining project is intended to compile electronic dossiers on Americans, data repositories that the government said might aid in its antiterrorism efforts.

Through a representative, Kapor declined to comment on the connection between his resignation and the TIA program. But the representative confirmed that Kapor will devote more of his time to the Open Source Applications Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization.

In 1990, Kapor co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit civil liberties group advocating free expression and the right to electronic privacy. He served as its chairman until 1994.

Groove, based in Beverly, Mass, makes software that takes a Napster-like approach to sharing files, ideas and data. The software uses peer-to-peer networks that link computers without the need for central servers.