Why Free Software Is More Important Now Than Ever Before

Richard Stallman | Wired.com | September 28, 2013

Much has changed since the beginning of the free software movement: Most people in advanced countries now own computers — sometimes called “phones” — and use the internet with them. Non-free software still makes the users surrender control over their computing to someone else, but now there is another way to lose it: Service as a Software Substitute, or SaaSS, which means letting someone else’s server do your own computing activities.

Both non-free software and SaaSS can spy on the user, shackle the user, and even attack the user. Malware is common in services and proprietary software products because the users don’t have control over them. That’s the fundamental issue: while non-free software and SaaSS are controlled by some other entity (typically a corporation or a state), free software is controlled by its users.

Why does this control matter? Because freedom means having control over your own life. If you use a program to carry out activities in your life, your freedom depends on your having control over the program. You deserve to have control over the programs you use, and all the more so when you use them for something important in your life...

The indirect harm is magnified when the user is a public entity or a school. Public agencies exist for the people — not for themselves. When they do computing, they do it for the people. They have a duty to maintain full control over that computing on the people’s behalf. Therefore, they must use only free software and reject SaaSS...Schools — and all educational activities — influence the future of society through what they teach. So schools should teach exclusively free software, to transmit democratic values and the habit of helping other people. (Not to mention it helps a future generation of programmers master the craft.) To teach use of a non-free program is to implant dependence on its owner, which contradicts the social mission of the school...

Open Health News' Take: 

I agree whole heartedly with Stallman's points on FOSS and SaaS in regards to freedom/libre.  As a Linux trainer and Open Source consultant, I personally advocate and promote using FOSS for similar reasons as noted, though I prefer to also include "more stable, more secure, and cost effective".  By being able to study the code, and thus in turn being able to contribute back (e.g., enhancing the code, reporting bug/issues), the application does achieve better security and stability.  In regards to freedom from being "data mined" (i.e., applications taking my information and using it against my wishes), I do believe FOSS is the (much) better approach as well especially with recent relivations by the NSA "spying" on US citizens and others in general instead of respecting one's privacy. 

Just my $0.02 of course, for what it is worth.

Crawford Rainwater, [email protected] Health News and CEO & President, The Linux ETC Company