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Re: [libreplanet-discuss] [GNU-linux-libre] QTWebengine is nonfree

From: Brigham Keys, Esq.
Subject: Re: [libreplanet-discuss] [GNU-linux-libre] QTWebengine is nonfree
Date: Sat, 11 Mar 2017 17:23:00 +0000

    I read your email and have several issues with the statements you
have made in regards to chromium.

"By default, Chromium still has many lines of hard-coded internet
queries to Google."

The only evidence I have personally seen of Chromium phoning home is on
a subreddit where the only time it pinged Google was to check for add on
updates, which is benign at worst. Even so this is an easy patch to
make. Your accusation that there is harmful phoning home going on is so
far unfounded. Can you point us to a packet sniffer log, or some code
specifically that reflects harmful snooping?

"Building it unpatched essentially puts your browser into the cloud.
As mentioned in our article "Who does that server really serve?"[2],
free software is only free when you are in control and should not be
dependant on third-party web services. Some work has already been done
to free Chromium from this enslavement, including the removal of "Google
OK" after user outcry.[3]"

Given that Chromium is client side software, I fail to see how any of
this applies. Your confusing usage of the term "the cloud" is
misleading, because Chromium is ran on the users device. There are web
services it can integrate with; but Chromium is not the only free
software browser to do this, and the options can be disabled, so I am
not sure what the issue is there.

"By default, Chromium still includes some pre-built binaries to aid in
faster compiling. In order to have fully free software, we require all
software to be built from source. Packagers should not use
"use_prebuilt" as a compile option."

If the software was not built from source, then where did the blob come
from? Blobs are not anti-freedom so long as it is made clear where the
proper upstream is. People download precompiled binaries of many free
softwares through their package manager.

"Chromium supports the use of Widevine DRM, Adobe Pepper Flash, and
third-party codecs which are non-free. Packagers must ensure that these
are removed and disabled in the makefile options prior to compiling in
order to be free software compliant."
No issues on the DRM, that should be an option to disable it. However
other popular packages such as firefox and VLC also support non free
codecs. It is the codecs themselves that are non-free; but I do not
think it is condemning to support a non-free codec.

"While not specific to free software, we would like for users to have
control over their private information. Chromium has a number of
reported privacy concerns which made it ineligible for use with Tor.
Free software users should be aware of these issues and work to patch
them upstream and in their packages as needed.[4]"
Did you read your own link? If you click on the links on that page it
will show you all the reported Chromium issues for what you pointed out;
and all of the problems have been fixed years ago, so this whole section
is rubbish. The only issue they did not (or refused to) fix was relating
to Flash, but can we really blame them for that?

"We are hopeful that the various projects currently working with
Chromium will continue their efforts to liberate the code, making the
internet safer, as well as more freedom respecting, for everyone."
"With each consecutive Chromium release a new patchset must be created
to remove Google specific code and binaries which affect your freedom."
"Licensing the remaining code with GPL-compatible licensing is fairly
trivial and is expected to be completed soon - the majority of it being
minified _javascript_."
If you read this link I went as far as putting up a Bugzilla issue, the
maintainer appears to of sorted through this and found no non free
files; the appropriate upstream was located for the files in Chromium.
Can you point us to any files that are specifically non free and are
unable to find an upstream for? It seems like you are saying this
without any tangible information, just suspicion and your personal bias.
If you find any please comment on the issue I posted and let the
maintainer know.

In short most of the accusations you make towards chromium are either
completely unfounded, or very misleading at best. A lot of the
information is just out of date. The only solid grounds the accusation
has is that it supports DRM and a few non free codecs (which the codecs
are not really chromium's fault). So if we are going to write an article
about chromium supporting DRM and non free codecs, why would we only
write about Chromium? An article about why browsers should not support
DRM sounds more appropriate, since Firefox does this too.

*Brigham Keys, Esq.*
|Software Maintainer|

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