New Internationalist

10 steps to software freedom

December 2012

Charlie Harvey outlines 10 steps to software liberation and freedom on the internet.

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 458 This feature was published in the December 2012 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

1. Embrace free software
It costs nothing, is often more stable and sometimes works better. It also lets you see the code your computer is running, and change it if need be. Compatibility with other programs has greatly improved.

2. Get downloading
Give this software a whirl:
For browsing: Firefox
For secure web chat: CryptoCat
For word processing: LibreOffice
For graphic editing: GIMP

3. Start building
Help grow the free software community. You can report bugs, request new features, offer translation or design skills, or – if your inner geek is struggling to get out – write code.

4. Stay safe
Tor is a tool that anonymizes internet connections to allow free expression. Dissidents, who risk their lives to speak truth to power, use Tor as a way to side-step censorship and capture in repressive countries. Adding your traffic to the Tor server makes it harder for governments to crack down on online dissent: torproject.org

5. Embrace free culture
More and more artists are releasing their work under free or open licences like those from Creative Commons.
Listen to their music, read their books, and donate funds to support a blossoming re-mix culture: freemusicarchive.org search.creativecommons.org

6. Say no to ‘DRM
You bought it, it belongs to you – yet you don’t control it. Publishers can stop people from sharing e-books – and music – using Digital Rights Management. DRM adds malicious software into your e-book reader that lets the book publisher mess with your device remotely. Buy a New Internationalist DRM-free e-book! shop.newint.org

7. Protect your mobile phone
More and more people are carrying phones which can do things like sell your geo-data to companies, be easily intercepted and lock-down your software. If you have an Android, that means you have a 95% free operating system that can add privacy tools from The Guardian Project to stop snooping governments and marketers.

8. Put trackers off the scent
Many websites carry advertising, social media widgets and profile audiences. Somewhere there’s a record of your seeking advice about your embarrassing medical condition, or evidence of your unsavoury political interests. Protect yourself from unwanted tracking and ads with browser plugins like Ghostery or AdBlockPlus.

9. Get campaigning
Software can’t go it alone. We need political change, better privacy and copyright regulation too. Join these groups and support the fight for a free internet:

10. Get savvy
Digital Survival Guide: Basic intro to computers, internet and mobile use.
Top 12 ways to protect your online privacy: eff.org
Browse a selection of privacy-enhancing, technical resources: techtoolsforactivism.org

Slideshow photo: Vectorportal under a CC License.

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