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Proprietary Software Is Often Malware

Proprietary software, also called nonfree software, means software that doesn't respect users' freedom and community. A proprietary program puts its developer or owner in a position of power over its users. This power is in itself an injustice.

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

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 malware.) 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.

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


As of November, 2020, the pages in this directory list around 450 instances of malicious functionalities (with more than 550 references to back them up), but there are surely thousands more we don't know about.

Injustices or techniques Products or companies
  1. Back door:  any feature of a program that enables someone who is not supposed to be in control of the computer where it is installed to send it commands.
  2. Digital restrictions management, or “DRM”:  functionalities designed to restrict what users can do with the data in their computers.
  3. Jail:  system that imposes censorship on application programs.
  4. Tether:  functionality that requires permanent (or very frequent) connection to a server.
  5. Tyrant:  system that rejects any operating system not “authorized” by the manufacturer.

Users of proprietary software are defenseless against these forms of mistreatment. The way to avoid them is by insisting on free (freedom-respecting) software. Since free software is controlled by its users, they have a pretty good defense against malicious software functionality.

Latest additions

  • Apple has implemented a malware in its computers that imposes surveillance on users and reports users' computing to Apple.

    The reports are even unencrypted and they've been leaking this data for two years already. This malware is reporting to Apple what user opens what program at what time. It also gives Apple power to sabotage users' computing.

  • According to FTC, the company behind the Zoom conferencing software has lied to users about its end-to-end encryption for years, at least since 2016.

    People can use free (as in freedom) programs such as Jitsi or BigBlueButton, better still if installed in a server controlled by the users.

  • Riot Games’ new anti-cheat is malware; runs on system boot at kernel level on Windows. It is insecure software that increases the attack surface of the operating system.

  • The Apple iOS version of Zoom is sending users' data to Facebook even if the user doesn't have a Facebook account. According to the article, Zoom and Facebook don't even mention this surveillance on their privacy policy page, making this an obvious violation of people's privacy even in their own terms.

  • A new app published by Google lets banks and creditors deactivate people's Android devices if they fail to make payments. If someone's device gets deactivated, it will be limited to basic functionality, such as emergency calling and access to settings.


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