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www/philosophy android-and-users-freedom.html p...

From: James Turner
Subject: www/philosophy android-and-users-freedom.html p...
Date: Thu, 22 Sep 2011 14:43:21 +0000

CVSROOT:        /web/www
Module name:    www
Changes by:     James Turner <jturner>  11/09/22 14:43:21

Added files:
        philosophy     : android-and-users-freedom.html 
        philosophy/po  : android-and-users-freedom.translist 

Log message:
        Start work on new article about Android and Users' Freedom RT #709800


Index: android-and-users-freedom.html
RCS file: android-and-users-freedom.html
diff -N android-and-users-freedom.html
--- /dev/null   1 Jan 1970 00:00:00 -0000
+++ android-and-users-freedom.html      22 Sep 2011 14:43:09 -0000      1.1
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+<!-- Parent-Version: 1.57 -->
+<!--#include virtual="/server/header.html" -->
+<title>Android and Users' Freedom - GNU Project - Free Software
+<!--#include virtual="/server/banner.html" -->
+<!--#include virtual="/philosophy/po/android-and-users-freedom.translist" -->
+<h2>Android and Users' Freedom</h2>
+<p>by Richard Stallman<br />First published in <a
+The Guardian</a></p>
+<p>To what extent does Android respect the freedom of its users? For a
+computer user that values freedom, that is the most important question
+to ask about any software system.</p>
+<p>In the <a href="http://fsf.org";>free/libre software movement</a>, we develop
+software that respects users' freedom, so we and you can escape from
+software that doesn't. By contrast, the idea of &ldquo;open
+source&rdquo; focuses on how to develop code; it is a different current of
+thought whose principal value is <a
+quality rather than freedom</a>. Thus, the concern here is not whether Android 
+&ldquo;open&rdquo;, but whether it allows users to be free.</p>
+<p>Android is an operating system primarily for mobile phones, which
+consists of Linux (Torvalds' kernel), some libraries, a Java platform
+and some applications. Linux aside, the software of Android versions
+1 and 2 was mostly developed by Google; Google released it under the
+Apache 2.0 license, which is a lax free software license without
+<a href="http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/copyleft.html";>copyleft</a>.</p>
+<p>The version of Linux included in Android is not entirely free
+software, since it contains nonfree &ldquo;binary blobs&rdquo; (just like
+Torvalds' version of Linux), some of which are really used in some
+Android devices. Android platforms use other nonfree firmware, too,
+and nonfree libraries. Aside from those, the source code of Android
+versions 1 and 2, as released by Google, is free software &mdash; but this
+code is insufficient to run the device. Some of the applications that
+generally come with Android are nonfree, too.</p>
+<p>Android is very different from the <a
+href="http://www.gnu.org/gnu/the-gnu-project.html";>GNU/Linux operating
+system</a> because it contains very little of GNU. Indeed, just about the
+only component in common between Android and GNU/Linux is Linux, the kernel.
+People who erroneously think &ldquo;Linux&rdquo; refers to the entire GNU/Linux
+combination get tied in knots by these facts, and make paradoxical statements
+such as &ldquo;Android contains Linux, but it isn't Linux.&rdquo; If we avoid
+starting from the confusion, the situation is simple: Android contains Linux,
+but not GNU; thus, Android and GNU/Linux are mostly different.</p>
+<p>Within Android, Linux the kernel remains a separate program, with its
+source code under <a href="http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-2.0.html";>GNU GPL
+version 2</a>. To combine Linux with code under the Apache 2.0 license would
+be <a
+infringement</a>, since GPL version 2 and Apache 2.0 are <a
+Rumors that Google has somehow converted Linux to the Apache license are
+erroneous; Google has no power to change the license on the code of Linux, and
+did not try. If the authors of Linux allowed its use under <a
+href="http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html";>GPL version 3</a>,
+then that code could be combined with Apache-licensed code, with the
+combination could be released under GPL version 3. But Linux has not
+been released that way.</p>
+<p>Google has complied with the requirements of the GNU General Public
+License for Linux, but the Apache license on the rest of Android does
+not require source release. Google has said it will never publish the
+source code of Android 3.0 (aside from Linux), even though executables
+have been released to the public. Android 3.1 source code is also
+being withheld. Thus, Android 3, apart from Linux, is nonfree
+software pure and simple.</p>
+<p>Google said it withheld the 3.0 source code because it was buggy, and
+that people should wait for the next release. That may be good advice
+for people who simply want to run the Android system, but the users
+should be the ones to decide this. Anyway, developers and tinkerers
+who want to include some of the changes in their own versions could
+use that code just fine.</p>
+<p>The nonrelease of two versions' source code raises concern that Google
+might intend to turn Android proprietary permanently; that the release
+of some Android versions as free software may have been a temporary
+ploy to get community assistance in improving a proprietary software
+product. Let us hope does not happen.</p>
+<p>In any case, most of the source code of some versions of Android has
+been released as free software. Does that mean that products using
+those Android versions respect users' freedom? No, for several
+<p>First of all, most of them contain nonfree Google applications for
+talking to services such as YouTube and Google Maps. These are
+officially not part of Android, but that doesn't make the product ok.
+There are also nonfree libraries; whether they are part of Android is
+a moot point. What matters is that various functionalities need
+<p>Even the executables that are officially part of Android may not
+correspond to the source code Google releases. Manufacturers may
+change this code, and often they don't release the source code for
+their versions. The GNU GPL requires them to distribute the code for
+their versions of Linux, if they comply. The rest of the code, under
+the lax Apache license, does not require them to release the source
+version that they really use.</a>
+<p><a href="http://replicant.us";>Replicant</a>, a free version of
+Android that supports just a few phone models, has replaced many
+of these libraries, and you can do without the nonfree apps. But
+there are other problems.</p>
+<p>Some device models are designed to stop users from installing and
+using modified software. In that situation, the executables are not
+free even if they were made from sources that are free and available
+to you. However, some Android devices can be &ldquo;rooted&rdquo; so
+users can install different software.</p>
+<p>Important firmware or drivers are generally proprietary also. These
+handle the phone network radio, WiFi, bluetooth, GPS, 3D graphics, the
+camera, the speaker, and in some cases the microphone too. On some
+models, a few of these drivers are free, and there are some that you
+can do without -- but you can't do without the microphone or the phone
+network radio.</p>
+<p>The phone network firmware comes preinstalled. If all it did was sit
+there and run, we could regard it as equivalent to a circuit. When we
+insist that the software in a computing device must be free, we can
+overlook preinstalled firmware that will never be upgraded, because it
+makes no difference to the user that it's a program rather than a
+<p>Unfortunately, in this case it would be a malicious circuit.
+Malicious features are unacceptable no matter how they are
+<p>On most Android phones, this firmware has so much control that it
+could turn the product into a listening device. On some, it controls
+the microphone. On some, it can take full control of the main
+computer, through shared memory, and can thus override or replace
+whatever free software you have installed. With some models it is
+possible to exercise remote control of this firmware, and thus of the
+phone's computer, through the phone radio network. The point of free
+software is that we have control of our computing, and this doesn't
+qualify. While any computing system might HAVE bugs, these devices
+might BE bugs. (Craig Murray, in <a
+href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2006/aug/12/politics";>Murder in
+Samarkand</a>, relates his involvement in an intelligence operation
+that remotely converted an unsuspecting target's non-Android portable
+phone into a listening device.)</a>
+<p>In any case, the phone network firmware in an Android device is not
+equivalent to a circuit, because the hardware allows installation of
+new versions and this is actually done. Since it is proprietary
+firmware, in practice only the manufacturer can make new versions &mdash; 
+users can't.</p>
+<p>Putting these points together, we can tolerate nonfree phone network
+firmware provided new versions of it won't be loaded, it can't take
+control of the main computer, and it can only communicate when and as
+the free operating system chooses to let it communicate. In other
+words, it has to be equivalent to circuitry, and that circuitry must
+not be malicious. There is no obstacle to building an Android phone
+which has these characteristics, but we don't know of any.</p>
+<p>Recent press coverage of Android focuses on the patent wars. During
+20 years of campaigning for the abolition of software patents, we have
+warned such wars could happen. Software patents could force
+elimination of features from Android, or even make it unavailable.
+See <a href="http://endsoftpatents.org";>endsoftpatents.org</a> for more
+information about why software patents must be abolished.</p>
+<p>However, the patent attacks and Google's responses are not directly
+relevant to the topic of this article: how Android products approach
+an ethically system of distribution and how they fall short. This
+issue merits the attention of the press too.</p>
+<p>Android is a major step towards an ethical, user-controlled, free
+software portable phone, but there is a long way to go. Hackers are
+working on <a href="http://replicant.us";>Replicant</a>, but it's a big
+job to support a new phone model, and there remains the problem of the
+firmware. Even though the Android phones of today are considerably less
+bad than Apple or Windows smartphones, they cannot be said to respect
+your freedom.</p>
+<!-- If needed, change the copyright block at the bottom. In general,
+     all pages on the GNU web server should have the section about
+     verbatim copying.  Please do NOT remove this without talking
+     with the webmasters first.
+     Please make sure the copyright date is consistent with the document
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+</div><!-- for id="content", starts in the include above -->
+<!--#include virtual="/server/footer.html" -->
+<div id="footer">
+<p>Please send general FSF &amp; GNU inquiries to
+<a href="mailto:address@hidden";>&lt;address@hidden&gt;</a>.
+There are also <a href="/contact/">other ways to contact</a>
+the FSF.<br />
+Please send broken links and other corrections or suggestions to
+<a href="mailto:address@hidden";>&lt;address@hidden&gt;</a>.</p>
+<p>Please see the <a
+README</a> for information on coordinating and submitting translations
+of this article.</p>
+<p>Copyright &copy; 2011 Richard Stallman</p>
+<p>This page is licensed under a <a rel="license"
+Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License</a>.</p>
+<!-- timestamp start -->
+$Date: 2011/09/22 14:43:09 $
+<!-- timestamp end -->
+<!-- <div id="translations"> -->
+<!-- <h4>Translations of this page</h4> -->
+<!--  -->
+<!-- Please keep this list alphabetical by language code. -->
+<!--      Comment what the language is for each type, i.e. de is German. -->
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+<!--  -->
+<!-- <ul class="translations-list"> -->
+<!-- English -->
+<!-- <li><a -->
href="/philosophy/android-and-users-freedom.html">English</a>&nbsp;[en]</li> -->
+<!-- </ul> -->
+<!-- </div> -->

Index: po/android-and-users-freedom.translist
RCS file: po/android-and-users-freedom.translist
diff -N po/android-and-users-freedom.translist
--- /dev/null   1 Jan 1970 00:00:00 -0000
+++ po/android-and-users-freedom.translist      22 Sep 2011 14:43:16 -0000      
@@ -0,0 +1,8 @@
+<!-- begin translinks file -->
+<div id="translations">
+<ul class="translations-list">
+<!-- English -->
+</div> <!-- id="translations" -->
+<!-- end translinks file -->

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