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Re: [libreplanet-discuss] We need clear advocacy for software freedom, n

From: J.B. Nicholson
Subject: Re: [libreplanet-discuss] We need clear advocacy for software freedom, not proprietary greenwashing
Date: Fri, 19 Aug 2016 21:14:33 -0500
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:45.0) Gecko/20100101 Icedove/45.2.0 wrote:
I agree, although at least from the evidence we see of users in the
power chair world, a great many don't have any interest is knowing how
their technology works. This seems really strange to me, but is it that
much different from the computer owners that don't care about the O/S,
programs, etc. as long as they can surf the web, look at FeceBook, write
their documents, etc..

Most computer users are non-technical and are not interested in becoming programmers. But that doesn't address the issue of inequity involved in software freedom -- in proprietary programs, the program's programmers have the power to make that program do what they want. Users have no freedom to inspect, share, modify, or sometimes even run the program when they want to. There's a clear class issue here. Software freedom aims to (and does) resolve this inequity between programmers and users by letting anyone with a copy of the free program participate fully in its development.

There is a more important ethical issue here as well: it's wrong to deny others the freedoms of free software even if one doesn't want to take advantage of those freedoms. Software freedom is not and never was about compelling users to program. There are good reasons to want to understand how things work, and more people than ever before depend on computers in their daily lives. But one's unwillingness to learn even simple programming has nothing to do with whether such freedoms should exist for all other computer users.

It's more than a little disturbing that software freedom needs explication or defense on libreplanet-discuss. My understanding was that this was a mailing list run by the FSF for discussing free software with the understanding that universal software freedom was the goal.

If I go into my chair's Pilot+ controller with the 'escaped into the
wild' OEM level programming software, I get a list of parameters that
let me change the way the chair operates in a multitude of ways, many of
which would make it all but undriveable, and a couple that are
dangerous, but all are at least somewhat documented and predictable...
Going in and changing the actual software runs all sorts of risks of
un-intended and unpredictable results - including possible security
risks if the chair is connected to anything (Mine isn't and won't be,
but many of the new chairs are...)

By endorsing software freedom one runs the risk of being able to let programmers (including oneself) locate and fix privacy violations; perhaps your chair is surreptitiously uploading data about your movements without your consent. It would be good to fix that so tracking data only goes where you want when you want that data to be distributed.

By endorsing software freedom one runs the risk of letting security-minded free software hackers (using that term in the original sense of 'playful cleverness') identify and fix flaws which let outsiders control critical devices without the owner's permission. For all you know those security flaws you don't want already exist in the chair's proprietary software you have now.

But the most important thing one gets from endorsing software freedom for its own sake is a constructive community of people who can help themselves control their lives and help others control their lives. This is an ethical way to treat other people when it comes to computer software.

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