Resisting Proprietary Software

Teachers, students, parents, free software advocates and the community at large are taking action to stop the use of nonfree programs in schools. They are doing it by telling schools about free software and raising awareness of the dangers nonfree programs pose to students' computer freedom and privacy. They are objecting persistently to the nonfree software that the schools suggest to them.

The recent health emergency situation caused by COVID-19 presented a new challenge. Traditional in-person classes were suddenly disallowed, and overnight thousands of schools around the world were confronted with a decision to make: either suspend their teaching activities entirely or comply by switching to online classes.

Schools from areas of the world where Internet connection and access to technology is readily available decided to go online. Unfortunately, most school administrators and teachers had never heard about free software, so they couldn't think of anything but whatever they knew or had already used —namely, freedom-denying programs for video conferencing and online communication such as Zoom and Skype, among others.

It's no secret, however, that the companies that distribute these programs use them to collect personal data to profile their users(1). These data, in turn, can be seized by the State. It is the moral responsibility of schools to protect their students from being spied on, but if the school fails to do so, students and their parents should object and not let it happen.

More generally, schools should reject all proprietary software for a number of reasons.

The free software community responded by offering communication and videoconferencing programs that respect freedom and privacy, because staying away from health hazards is a duty, as it is to stay safe from nonfree software.

See examples of how people are successfully resisting nonfree software.

Footnote

  1. The article cited uses the word “cloud” to refer to computing done on servers owned by third parties. The term is too broad, it generalizes about various uses of servers that are totally different from a moral point of view. See more about why the GNU Project strongly recommends not to use the term “cloud”.

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