A FreedomBox is a small low-power computer that enables its users to host popular services like social networking (Facebook, Twitter), personal websites, web-mail, web access to personal data files etc. in their own home. This prevents the massive spying that takes place by the current centralized services, and gives users back the control of their own data.
The name FreedomBox was first coined by Eben Moglen a professor of law at Columbia Law School and founder of the Software Freedom Law Center. Work on the FreedomBox is loosely coordinated by the Debian community and the FreedomBox Foundation.
Why do we need a FreedomBox?
Today’s internet is highly centralized. All the important services like searching, social networking and even the access to the internet are controlled by only a few companies. This centralization is a threat to the internet and its users.
The first threat is to privacy. Companies like Facebook and Google are making money by profiling the users of their services. They sell their knowledge directly or indirectly without the user knowing:
- When data about them is sold.
- What data is sold.
- To whom the data is sold.
Users have no way to check the data and cannot prevent the selling of data, even if the data is (possible) harmful to them. The data about them simply is no longer controlled by them.
The next threat is to society. Social networking sites are important for discussing things that go on in the society. Governments that do not like a discussion can do several things:
- Block the social networking site.
- Monitor who is taking part in the discussion (and deal with them).
- Censor or influence the discussion.
- Make an “offer” to the social networking company it can’t refuse.
Undisturbed communication is essential for a society where people can live in freedom. A large centralized social networking site can be controlled or manipulated relatively easy. Not only by governments, but also by the company that runs the social networking site.
The last threat has to do with security. Almost all internet traffic is insecure because it is not encrypted. Your unencrypted HTTP request passes many computer systems, and each of these systems can spy on your request. Some of the systems that a HTTP request passes are special because they connect two networks (the internet is a large network consisting of smaller networks). These systems concentrate all the traffic to a particular website and are ideal for governments that want to spy on its people. (China probably gets a lot of information by copying every request to Google, maybe they don’t want Google to leave?)