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<title>Proprietary Software
- GNU Project - Free Software Foundation</title>
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<h2>Proprietary Software Is Often Malware</h2>

<div id="skiplinks">
<p class="button"><a href="#TOC">Table of contents</a></p>
<p class="button"><a href="#latest">Latest additions</a></p>
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<div style="clear: both"></div>

<p>Proprietary software, also called nonfree software,
means software that doesn't
<a href="/philosophy/free-sw.html">respect users' freedom and
community</a>.  A proprietary program puts its developer or owner
<a href="/philosophy/free-software-even-more-important.html">
in a position of power over its users.</a>
This power is in itself an injustice.</p>

<p>The point of this page is that the initial injustice of proprietary
software often leads to further injustices: malicious
functionalities.</p>

<p>Power corrupts; the proprietary program's developer is tempted to
design the program to mistreat its users.  (Software whose functioning
mistreats the user is called <em>malware</em>.)  Of course, the
developer usually does not do this out of malice, but rather to profit
more at the users' expense.  That does not make it any less nasty or
more legitimate.</p>

<p>Yielding to that temptation has become ever more frequent; nowadays
it is standard practice.  Modern proprietary software is typically
a way to be had.</p>

<p>As of April, 2017, 2019, the files pages in this directory list around 300 400
instances of malicious functionalities, functionalities (with more than 450 references to
back them up), but there are surely thousands more we don't know about.</p>

<div class="toc">
<div class="companies">
<h3>Company

<table id="TOC">
 <tr>
  <th>Injustices or type of product</h3> techniques</th>
  <th>Products or companies</th>
 </tr>
 <tr>
  <td>
   <ul>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/malware-apple.html">Apple Malware</a></li> href="/proprietary/proprietary-addictions.html">Addictions</a></li>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/malware-microsoft.html">Microsoft Malware</a></li> href="/proprietary/proprietary-back-doors.html">Back doors</a> (<a href="#f1">1</a>)</li>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/malware-google.html">Google Malware</a></li> href="/proprietary/proprietary-censorship.html">Censorship</a></li>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/malware-adobe.html">Adobe Malware</a></li> href="/proprietary/proprietary-coverups.html">Coverups</a></li>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/malware-amazon.html">Amazon Malware</a></li> href="/proprietary/proprietary-deception.html">Deception</a></li>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/malware-webpages.html">Malware in webpages</a></li> href="/proprietary/proprietary-drm.html">DRM</a> (<a href="#f2">2</a>)</li>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/malware-mobiles.html">Malware in mobile devices</a></li> href="/proprietary/proprietary-incompatibility.html">Incompatibility</a></li>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/malware-games.html">Malware in games</a></li> href="/proprietary/proprietary-insecurity.html">Insecurity</a></li>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/malware-appliances.html">Malware in appliances</a></li> href="/proprietary/proprietary-interference.html">Interference</a></li>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/malware-cars.html">Malware in cars</a></li> href="/proprietary/proprietary-jails.html">Jails</a> (<a href="#f3">3</a>)</li>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/proprietary-manipulation.html">Manipulation</a></li>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/proprietary-sabotage.html">Sabotage</a></li>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/proprietary-subscriptions.html">Subscriptions</a></li>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/proprietary-surveillance.html">Surveillance</a></li>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/proprietary-tethers.html">Tethers</a> (<a href="#f4">4</a>)</li>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/proprietary-tyrants.html">Tyrants</a> (<a href="#f5">5</a>)</li>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/potential-malware.html">In the pipe</a></li>
   </ul>
</div>

<div class="malfunctions">
<h3>Type of malware</h3>
  </td>
  <td>
   <ul>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/proprietary-back-doors.html">Back doors</a></li> href="/proprietary/malware-appliances.html">Appliances</a></li>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/proprietary-censorship.html">Censorship</a></li> href="/proprietary/malware-cars.html">Cars</a></li>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/proprietary-coverups.html">Coverups</a></li> href="/proprietary/malware-games.html">Games</a></li>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/proprietary-deception.html">Deception</a></li> href="/proprietary/malware-mobiles.html">Mobiles</a></li>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/proprietary-incompatibility.html">Incompatibility</a></li> href="/proprietary/malware-webpages.html">Webpages</a></li>
   </ul>
   <ul>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/proprietary-insecurity.html">Insecurity</a></li> href="/proprietary/malware-adobe.html">Adobe</a></li>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/proprietary-interference.html">Interference</a></li> href="/proprietary/malware-amazon.html">Amazon</a></li>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/proprietary-sabotage.html">Sabotage</a></li> href="/proprietary/malware-apple.html">Apple</a></li>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/proprietary-surveillance.html">Surveillance</a></li>
<li><a href="/proprietary/proprietary-subscriptions.html">Subscriptions</a></li> href="/proprietary/malware-google.html">Google</a></li>
    <li><a href="/proprietary/proprietary-tethers.html">Tethers</a> href="/proprietary/malware-microsoft.html">Microsoft</a></li>
   </ul>
  </td>
 </tr>
 <tr>
  <td colspan="2">
   <ol>
    <li id="f1"><em>Back door:</em>  any feature of a program
     that enables someone who is not supposed to
servers</li>
<li><a href="/proprietary/proprietary-drm.html">Digital be in control of the
     computer where it is installed to send it commands.</li>

    <li id="f2"><em>Digital restrictions
    management</a> management, or “DRM” means
     “DRM”:</em>  functionalities designed to restrict
     what users can do with the data in their computers.</li>
<li><a href="/proprietary/proprietary-jails.html">Jails</a>—systems

    <li id="f3"><em>Jail:</em>  system that impose imposes censorship on
     application programs.</li>
<li><a href="/proprietary/proprietary-tyrants.html">Tyrants</a>—systems

    <li id="f4"><em>Tether:</em>  functionality that requires
     permanent (or very frequent) connection to a server.</li>

    <li id="f5"><em>Tyrant:</em>  system that reject rejects any operating
     system not “authorized” by the manufacturer.</li>
<li><a href="/proprietary/potential-malware.html">Potential Malware</a></li>
</ul>
</div>
</div>
   </ol>
  </td>
 </tr>
</table>

<p>Users of proprietary software are defenseless against these forms
of mistreatment.  The way to avoid them is by insisting on
<a href="/philosophy/free-software-even-more-important.html">free
(freedom-respecting) software.</a> software</a>.  Since free software is controlled
by its users, they have a pretty good defense against malicious
software functionality.</p>


<h3 id="latest">Latest additions</h3>

<ul class="blurbs">
  <li id="M201907090">
    <p>Resourceful children figured out how to <a
    href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-48908766"> empty their
    parents' bank account</a> buying packs of special players for an
    Electronic Arts soccer game.</p>

    <p>The random element of these packs (also called “loot
    boxes”) makes the game <a
    href="/proprietary/proprietary-addictions#addictiveness">
    strongly addictive</a>, but the fact that players
    are pressured to spend more in order to get ahead of their
    competitors further qualifies it as <em>predatory</em>.
    Note that Belgium <a
    href="https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2019/01/29/fifa-ultimate-team-packs-blocked-in-belgium/">
    made these loot boxes illegal</a> in 2018.</p>

    <p>The only good reason to have a copy of such a proprietary
    game is to study it for free software development.</p>
  </li>

  <li id="M201907100">
    <p>Apple appears to say that <a
    href="https://techcrunch.com/2019/07/10/apple-silent-update-zoom-app/">
    there is a back door in MacOS</a> for automatically updating some
    (all?) apps.</p>

    <p>The specific change described in the article was not
    malicious—it protected users from surveillance by third
    parties—but that is a separate question.</p>
  </li>

  <li id="M201907080">
    <p>Many Android apps can track
    users' movements even when the user says <a
    href="https://www.theverge.com/2019/7/8/20686514/android-covert-channel-permissions-data-collection-imei-ssid-location">
    not to allow them access to locations</a>.</p>

    <p>This involves an apparently unintentional weakness in Android,
    exploited intentionally by malicious apps.</p>
  </li>

  <li id="M201809210">
    <p>Cash of Clans is a good example of a gratis mobile game that its
    developers <a href="https://gamerant.com/clash-of-clans-addiction/">
    made very addictive</a> for a large proportion of its users—and
    turned into a cash machine for themselves—by using <a
    href="/proprietary/proprietary-addictions.html#addictiveness">
    psychological manipulation techniques</a>.</p>

    <p>The article uses “free” to mean “zero
    price,” which is a usage we should avoid. We recommend saying
    “gratis” instead.</p>
  </li>

  <li id="M209800000">
    <p>The developers of gratis mobile games apply <a
    href="/proprietary/proprietary-addictions.html#addictiveness">
    behavioral manipulation techniques</a> to <a
    href="https://www.psychguides.com/interact/the-psychology-of-freemium/">
    turn their products into slot machines</a>. This is clearly described
    in an infographic.</p>

    <p>The revenue generated by these games is directly related to the
    number of strongly addicted gamers (called “whales”) and
    to the amount of money they are willing to spend. Thus developers
    carefully study the behavior of millions of users to increase the
    addictiveness of their games.</p>

    <p>Unfortunately, the article uses “free” to mean
    “zero price.”  We recommend saying “gratis”
    instead.</p>
  </li>
</ul>


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