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 January, 2020, the pages in this directory list around 450 instances of malicious functionalities (with more than 500 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

  • Runescape is a popular online game with some addictive features derived from behavioral manipulation techniques. Certain repetitive aspects of the game, like grinding, can be minimised by becoming a paying member, and can thus encourage children and impressionable people to spend money on the game.

  • Most apps are malware, but Trump's campaign app, like Modi's campaign app, is especially nasty malware, helping companies snoop on users as well as snooping on them itself.

    The article says that Biden's app has a less manipulative overall approach, but that does not tell us whether it has functionalities we consider malicious, such as sending data the user has not explicitly asked to send.

  • TV manufacturers are able to snoop every second of what the user is watching. This is illegal due to the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988, but they're circumventing it through EULAs.

  • A disasterous security bug touches millions of products in the Internet of Stings.

    As a result, anyone can sting the user, not only the manufacturer.

  • Best Buy made controllable appliances and shut down the service to control them through.

    While it is laudable that Best Buy recognized it was mistreating the customers by doing so, this doesn't alter the facts that tethering the device to a particular server is a path to screwing the users, and that it is a consequence of having nonfree software in the device.

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