European Foundation Says Android Impinges on Freedom and Privacy

by Ostatic Staff - Mar. 06, 2012

According to the Free Software Foundation Europe, the Android mobile OS and applications for it impinge on personal freedoms, and something needs to be done about this state of affairs. The foundation is encouraging community members to adopt numerous applications and services that it sees as preserving freedom, and encouraging developers to take Android alternatives to the next level. Here are the details.

According to the foundation's Free Your Android! page, there are ways that Android users can regain control of lost freedoms:

"Android is a mostly free operating system mainly developed by Google. Unfortunately, the drivers for most devices and most applications from the 'market' are not free (as in free speech, not free beer). They frequently work against the interest of the users, spy on them and sometimes can not even be removed. This campaign can help you to regain control of your Android device and your data. It collects information about running an Android system as free as possible and tries to coordinate the efforts in this area."

Many of the foundation's charges against Android stem from privacy concerns, and it flags certain applications and services as impinging on privacy and freedom:

"Privacy is one of the most important reasons to support Free Software. Proprietary add-ons like Carrier IQ spy on smart-phone users without their knowledge. Many apps from the market contain malicious features. They read your private data, such as your address book and 'phone home,' or they use Google Analytics to send data to Google. These are just examples that have been discovered so far. The lack of freedom impedes independent inspection and secret spy features only become known by accident."

Carrier IQ, of course, was at the center of much controversy not long ago after a researcher claimed that it captured keystrokes and other private information. Meanwhile, Richard Stallman, founder of the original Free Software Foundation, has been a vocal opponent of smartphones in general. As we reported here, Stallman once reportedly told Network World:

"I don't have a cell phone. I won't carry a cell phone. It's Stalin's dream. Cell phones are tools of Big Brother. I'm not going to carry a tracking device that records where I go all the time, and I'm not going to carry a surveillance device that can be turned on to eavesdrop."

To be fair, Stallman has made more even-toned comments about mobile phones since then, but there is a faction of the open source and free software community that stands opposed to even Android due to privacy and freedom-impingement concerns.

If you're interested in the FSFE's recommendations for how to liberate your Android device from forces of opression, see this page.  The foundation recommends CyanogenMod, a popular alternative distribution of Android, and a number of applications.