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DRAFT of PR publication from FSF

From: Ruben Rodriguez
Subject: DRAFT of PR publication from FSF
Date: Fri, 9 Apr 2021 11:09:12 -0400
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:68.0) Gecko/20100101 Icedove/68.10.0

This is a work-in-progress document. Still pending a better project
name, and a specific call for contributors.


Free Software Foundation announces start of development on JavaScript
Shield browser extension

BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA -- FIXME DAY, DATE -- The Free Software
Foundation (FSF) today announced the start of development on JavaScript
Shield, an anti-malware Web browser extension to mitigate potential
threats from proprietary nonfree JavaScript, including fingerprinting,
tracking, and data collection. The project is supported by NLnet
Foundation's NGI Zero Privacy & Trust Enhancing Technologies fund.
Collaborators include Libor Polčák and Bednář Martin (Brno University of
Technology), Giorgio Maone (NoScript), and Ana Isabel Carvalho and
Ricardo Lafuente (Manufactura Independente). The JavaScript Shield
extension is projected for release in the third quarter of 2021.

Detecting and blocking nonfree JavaScript is of increasing importance
because nearly all Web pages use it, meaning that merely loading these
sites causes nonfree software to be automatically downloaded and
executed by your Web browser, without your explicit consent or
knowledge. These programs also pose significant threats to user freedom
and privacy: JavaScript can be exploited to obtain information about the
user by fingerprinting or reading what you type in a form even without
submitting it, or JavaScript can affect browser functionality like
disabling copying text or images.

The GNU LibreJS extension, sponsored by the Free Software Foundation,
detects JavaScript and allows you to choose to run only JavaScript
distributed under a free software license, thus enabling users to browse
the Web in full freedom. However, that extension only works to identify
nonfree licensing and does not address the functionality of those scripts.

The JavaScript Shield project is a freely licensed, anti-malware browser
extension to combat, and protect against, potential threats from
proprietary JavaScript, either in combination with the previously
developed GNU LibreJS and other script blockers, or on its own. The
project's repository is at https://pagure.io/JS-Shield/JS-Shield. It
will ask -- globally or per site -- if specific native functions
provided by the JavaScript engine and the Document Object Model (DOM)
are allowed by the user. It will also link to an explanatory page for
each function, to raise awareness of related threats. Depending on the
function being addressed, the user will have the option to allow it,
block it, or have it return a spoofed value. This extension will help
protect users from critical threats now, and contribute significantly to
progress on the necessary longer-term cultural shift of moving away from
nonfree JavaScript.

One overall, eventual goal of the FSF is to have all JavaScript on the
Web be free, so that users will be fully able to determine what
functions are taking place and freely change or disable programs as needed.

"This is a project I've been looking forward to for years, tired of
dealing with all kinds of potential antifeatures in the browsers I use
and distribute, and having to figure out some countermeasure for them
with configuration changes, patches or extensions," shared Ruben
Rodriguez, FSF chief technology officer. "Being able to wrap the
JavaScript engine in a layer of protection is a game changer."

FSF executive director, John Sullivan: "Besides providing much-needed
protection for users, this extension will help the FSF demonstrate the
power and usefulness of free 'as in freedom' software, serving as a
conversation starter about the importance of all free software and the
dangers of nonfree software while using the Web. We thank NLnet
Foundation for recognizing the importance of free software and investing
in the FSF's strategy for free JavaScript on the Web."


The FSF has been campaigning to free all JavaScript on the Web since
2013, and as part of this effort continues to support the development of
GNU LibreJS, in addition to outreach to users and developers about the
issue of freedom on the Web. Once developed, JavaScript Shield will form
a core part of the FSF's general recommendations for how to use the Web
without ethical compromise. In conjunction with a fully free
distribution of the GNU/Linux operating system and a free BIOS, it will
help users move toward the FSF's vision of a world where computing
upholds, rather than diminishes, their individual rights.
About the Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting
computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute
computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as
in freedom) software -- particularly the GNU operating system and its
GNU/Linux variants -- and free documentation for free software. The FSF
also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of
freedom in the use of software, and its Web sites, located at
https://fsf.org and https://gnu.org, are an important source of
information about GNU/Linux. Donations to support the FSF's work can be
made at https://donate.fsf.org. Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.

More information about the FSF, as well as important information for
journalists and publishers, is at https://www.fsf.org/press.
About the NLnet Foundation

Started in 1989, Stichting NLnet is an independent, recognized
philanthropic nonprofit foundation that stimulates network research and
development in the domain of Internet technology. The articles of
association for the NLnet foundation state: "to promote the exchange of
electronic information and all that is related or beneficial to that
purpose." The foundation actively engages with the global internet
community in many ways, with a joint goal to create a better, safer, and
more secure Internet for tomorrow. More information about Stichting
NLnet can be found at https://nlnet.nl/foundation/.

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