Smartphones have a privacy problem. This is one of the reasons why the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is launching its "Free Your Android!" campaign today.
"Users deserve to have full control over their mobile devices", says Torsten Grote, FSFE member and initiator of the campaign. "If your phone runs Free Software, you're in charge. If it runs proprietary software, you're handing control of your digital life to manufacturers and app developers."
The lack of software freedom on smartphones and tablets is becoming increasingly problematic. Many apps spy on their users without their knowledge (Carrier IQ) and transmit personal data such as address books on the iPhone. Other devices are completely locked down, prevent users from uninstalling certain apps, or just do not receive updates. "Free Your Android!" promotes versions of Android optimised for user control, and an alternative market that only provides free-as-in-freedom apps. It also invites people to contribute to various initiatives and to identify essential apps that still have no free alternatives.
"The Android operating system may be mostly free, but many applications are not", says Karsten Gerloff, FSFE's President. "Mobile devices contain lots of data about our lives. With this campaign, we will not only build awareness of how much privacy and freedom matter for smartphones and tablets, we will also give users the means to make their own devices better."
The Free Your Android campaign encourages people to get in touch with developers of useful proprietary apps. Often these apps are distributed free of charge, but not under a free licence. Responses and objections by developers are collected and analysed in a wiki.
Currently the FSF, and the German privacy organisation FoeBuD e.V. are working with FSFE in an effort to improve the conditions for software freedom and privacy in the mobile space. FSFE is looking forward to other organisations joining the campaign.