Tech corporations are taking over the field of education by pushing their proprietary products into educational institutions of all levels. Proprietary applications loaded with malicious functionalities such as surveillance and collection of sensitive personal data—among many others—are being imposed on schools’ staff, teachers, students, and even parents. With the rapid expansion of online teaching, these proprietary educational technologies not only spread dramatically across schools, but they went from the classroom to the home.

This is not to say that educational technology is a bad approach per se. The problem arises when the software used in EdTech is nonfree, meaning it denies students the rights that free software grants all users.

Nonfree EdTech fails to assist the learning process by forbidding students to study the programs they are required to use, thus opposing the very nature and purpose of education. It does not allow school administrators and teachers to safeguard students’ rights by forbidding them to inspect the source code of the programs they run. It does not enable parents to make sure their children are protected from surveillance, data collection, and other mistreatment by the owner of the proprietary program.

Proprietary video conferencing software, as well as other nonfree programs, are tethered to online dis-services that collect large amounts of personal data. The school may have to agree to the company’s unjust terms of dis-service. The school, in turn, will typically force students to create an account on the dis-service, which includes agreeing to the terms.

EdTech companies are already developing great power over the students in the schools where they operate, and it will get worse. They use their surveillance power to manipulate students by customizing learning materials in the same way they customize ads and pieces of news. This way, they direct students into tracks towards various levels of knowledge, power and prestige.

These companies also structure their terms and conditions so that they are never held responsible for the consequences.

This article argues that these companies should get licenses to operate. That wouldn’t hurt, but it doesn’t address the root of the problem. All data acquired in a school about any student, teacher, or employee, must not leave the school’s control: whatever computers store the data must belong to the school and run free software. That way the school district and/or parents can control what it does with those data.

Join us in the fight against the use of nonfree software in schools.


This writing is copyrighted to GNU Education Team and GNU.org web site, licensed under CC BY-SA.

Many publishers often refer to copying they don’t approve of as “piracy.” In this way, they imply that it is ethically equivalent to attacking ships on the high seas, kidnapping and murdering the people on them. Based on such propaganda, they have procured laws in most of the world to forbid copying in most (or sometimes all) circumstances. (They are still pressuring to make these prohibitions more complete.)

The supporters of a too-strict, repressive form of copyright often use words like “stolen” and “theft” to refer to copyright infringement. This is spin, but they would like you to take it for objective truth.

Unauthorized copying is forbidden by copyright law in many circumstances (not all!), but being forbidden doesn’t make it wrong. In general, laws don’t define right and wrong. Laws, at their best, attempt to implement justice. If the laws (the implementation) don’t fit our ideas of right and wrong (the spec), the laws are what should change.

People should have right to copy and share what they own. When you purchase something you should be able to do whatever you want with it and that means you should be able to copy it, share it, keep it secret, use it as you wish, burn or destroy it, or even throw it away without using it. If it’s yours, it should work as you wish, not as someone else says.

Many refer to copying as piracy or theft to manipulate you so you think you’re doing something ethically wrong but copying is not theft. In theft, you take something from somewhere or someone but with copying you’re just creating a new piece of that thing.

Imagine your car gets stolen but it’s still there!

If you don’t believe that copying not approved by the publisher is just like kidnapping and murder, you might prefer not to use the word “piracy” to describe it. Neutral terms such as “unauthorized copying” (or “prohibited copying” for the situation where it is illegal) are available for use instead. Some of us might even prefer to use a positive term such as “sharing information with your neighbor.”

A US judge, presiding over a trial for copyright infringement, recognized that “piracy” and “theft” are smear-words.


Part of this post is taken from GNU.org web site.

Today is the first Global Encryption Day. On this day, we ask people to Make the Switch to encrypted services like Tor. Encryption is our most vital and important tool against surveillance and privacy/security-violating services and programs.

Our digital life is secured and private because of encryption. Encryption allows us to survive the dangerous time we’re living in. When our data is collected in every way possible, encryption makes us able to fight; to fight for our lives, fight for our privacy, fight for our security, fight for our freedoms, and fight for our rights.

When governments and organizations/corporations are trying hard to profile us in any way possible, encryption makes us able to resist. When everybody is trying to violate our privacy, or jeopardize our basic human rights, encryption makes us able to resist.

On Global Encryption Day we ask people to switch to encrypted services and programs:

  • For instant messaging, I use XMPP which is encrypted by OMEMO,
  • For voice/video calls, I use Jitsi, which has end-to-end encryption,
  • I only use web sites that encrypt my connection using TLS (HTTPS),
  • I use GNU+Linux operating system which lets me encrypt my computers’ hard drive,
  • I use LUKS/LVM to encrypt my portable hard drives,
  • I use GPG/PGP to encrypt my emails,
  • I use KeePassXC which encrypts my password vault,
  • I use Nextcloud which encrypts my files on the cloud,
  • and I use many more services and programs use encryption to make sure I’m private and secure.

In honor of this inaugural Global Encryption Day, the Tor Project, along with 148 other organizations and businesses have signed the Global Encryption Day Statement, calling on governments and businesses to reject efforts to undermine encryption and instead pursue policies that enhance, strengthen, and promote use of strong encryption to protect people everywhere.

As an individual, you can get involved with Global Encryption Day by:

I always encourage people to use RSS or Atom feeds to subscribe to people’s blogs but many people need an introduction and explanation about RSS and Atom.

Let’s talk about RSS, as it’s not much different with Atom. RSS is basically a web feed that is readable by computers. A web feed is a data format used for providing users with frequently updated content. It means that whenever the blog or news feed gets updated, the user can receive the update in user’s feed aggregator.

Writers or so-called content distributors syndicate a web feed, thereby allowing users to subscribe a channel to it by adding the feed address to a feed aggregator client (also called a feed reader or a news reader).

The information could be blog entries, news headlines, or audio or video files. RSS documents usually contain complete or summarized text, metadata, and author and publishing information.

There are some distinct advantages to using RSS. Instead of visiting the individual websites, RSS feeds can help provide users with updates and information from different sites in one convenient place. For example, instead of visiting 30 websites every day, I just open my feed aggregator and hit the update button, and I get the latest published writings or media from those blogs or news sites I’m subscribed to.

With RSS, subscribing doesn’t need email! You won’t be asked to give away your email address to any blog or site, and that site won’t be able to sell your data to anyone. RSS just simply visits or opens the blog’s RSS file and checks for new writings or media, and will show it to you in a human-readable way.

Just like how you read this blog post on your web browser, but RSS gives you ability to read everything on your own computer without being forced to open my blog.

Sample of a feed aggregator program (Liferea), featuring Chris Wiegman‘s blog post.

So what is Atom?

“The Atom Syndication Format is an XML language used for web feeds, while the Atom Publishing Protocol (AtomPub or APP) is a simple HTTP-based protocol for creating and updating web resources.” That was Wikipedia. In human terms, Atom is basically RSS with extra steps.

I personally prefer Atom feeds over RSS ones because Atom benefits from on-going innovation and is a standard. The Atom Syndication Format was published as an IETF proposed standard in RFC 4287 in December 2005, and the Atom Publishing Protocol was published as RFC 5023 two years later, in October 2007.

While the RSS vocabulary has a mechanism to indicate a human language for the feed, there is no way to specify a language for individual items or text elements. Atom, on the other hand, uses the standard xml:lang attribute to make it possible to specify a language context for every piece of human-readable content in the feed.

Also, the Atom working group chose to use timestamps formatted according to the rules specified by RFC 3339 (which is a subset of ISO 8601, my favorite time format).

How to use it really?

Subscribing to blog feeds may be the easiest thing you can do with your computer. First thing you need is a feed aggregator program. I use Liferea, which is a free (libre) program. There are a lot of other programs you can install. Thunderbird and Evolution email clients come with a built-in feed aggregator. If you use Nextcloud, the Nextcloud News app is super cool. Another suggestion is Akregator which is developed by KDE.

Second, you need to go to blogs or news sites you like and grab their RSS or Atom feed URLs. They usually provide their URLs somewhere in their site, possibly using the “subscribe” or similar phrases. An easy way to detect feed URLs is using web browser add-ons. I use Feed Indicator add-on on my Firefox-based browser. You can search similar terms to find more add-ons.

Third, you should copy the link of the RSS or Atom feed and paste it in your feed aggregator program new subscription form, and hit subscribe or OK or whatever it is. You’ll find out.

That’s it. You can now ask your program to update the feeds to get latest published writings or media on your favorite blogs or sites.

Apple’s new controversial feature “protections for children” opens a back door in your iPhone. The feature is controversial not because it protects children, which is very needed and good practice, but because it chooses a wrong way to do so.

Apple has explained its privacy and security practices in its proposed back door but at the end of the day, it’s a back door, and there’s no such thing as “only-good-guys back-door”.

Many people are angry about it and many are already campaigning to ask Apple reversing its decisions. A very known one, Apple Privacy Letter, is a campaign supported by famous EFF, Privacy Foundation, Freedom of the Press Foundation, and many others is asking people to sign the petition on GitHub and says “Apple’s proposal introduces a backdoor that threatens to undermine fundamental privacy protections for all users of Apple products.”

I don’t use Apple products. They’re proprietary and against computer user freedom. Instead, currently, I use a distribution of Android operating system named LineageOS. I’m not going to sign any campaign or beg Apple to respect my privacy.

When it comes to privacy, Apple is not a hero. It wasn’t long ago that Apple turned over iCloud data to Chinese government. Apple was not a privacy hero then, and is not a privacy hero now. They are very good at marketing and selling products, but they’re not, at all, a hero of privacy practices.

I agree, Apple’s privacy practices are much better than proprietary Android manufacturers, but that’s not enough. Respecting people is not giving them some privacy. As long as Apple is controlling everything and doesn’t give people full control and right over their devices, including software freedom and right to repair, they’re not a hero in anything but violating people’s rights and freedoms.

Many mobile operating systems and devices are not easy to use, I fully agree. GNU+Linux phones are not very suitable for daily use and Android devices may have some problems such as accessibility issues, but the real answer to, the real solution of, this kind of controversies is not to beg Apple or anyone to respect us, but is to respect ourselves by running free software and privacy-respecting operating systems, and those are not made by Apple or any other proprietor.

You may say free software also has bugs and insecurities, free programs is not perfect. Yes, that is true. However, the difference between free and proprietary software in this respect is the handling of the bugs: free software users are able to study the program and/or fix the bugs they find, often in communities as they are able to share the program, while proprietary program users are forced to rely on the program’s developer for fixes.

If the developer does not care to fix the problem — often the case for embedded software and old releases — the users are sunk. But if the developer does send a corrected version, it may contain new malicious functionalities as well as bug fixes.

I urge you to answer to what Apple is going to do by installing and running a free operating system. Put yourself in control, and run software in which you can run freely, study, share, modify, and share your modifications. Free software empowers users and is the best answer for any situation, specially in ones like what we’re facing with Apple right now.

A controversial law which many believe will lead the country to block, censor, and shut down the internet was passed today in Iran’s parliament. The law, named “Preserving the Rights of Users in Cyberspace” was passed as 121 of 204 voted yes, while 74 voted no.

It is believed, and by experience seems to be true, that the point and goal of this law is to limit internet messengers and social networks, specially WhatsApp and Instagram, as they’re most-used social and communication tools, and then ultimately shut down internet, limiting it to sites and networks located inside the country. This way the government can have full control over what people say, hear, do, or share.

While I condemn the use of any proprietary app, I can’t agree to any kind of censorship. Whether it’s proprietary or free (libre), it doesn’t matter for me today because what people use should be up to them and nobody, absolutely nobody, shouldn’t be able to force people use anything they don’t like, for any purpose.

According to this law, social networks and messengers like Instagram will be blocked inside the country if they don’t assign a representative and according to article 17 of the law, their bandwidth/speed can be reduced too much that using them would be impossible practically.

Instagram is one of the most popular social networks in Iran and Iranian citizens do economic activities such as sales of goods and supply services. Iran’s officials, including Ali Khamenei, also use this social network. Mr. Khamenei recently said that the country’s cyberspace is abandoned and officials should do something about it.

Blocking social networks and messengers has a history in the country. Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, Signal, and many Mastodon instances are blocked and people are forced to use internet censorship circumvention tools.

People are against this law. I can say the majority of people are concerned about the results of this and are concerned about their businesses, social life, communications, and privacy. While I don’t use any of those proprietary apps and services, internet being limited affects me too. Even if it wasn’t affecting me, I would still oppose it because it’s against people’s rights and freedoms.

Ahmad Haghighi, a Fedora GNU+Linux contributor and ambassador was removed from the project because of his nationality. He mentioned this in a tweet announcing his contributions and posts in “Ask Fedora” are removed. Even the long first post of the Persian Ask Fedora is removed.

Matthew Miller, Fedora Project Leader and engineer at Red Hat said that “haghighi linked to a bio page he created on Fedora wiki which states that his location is in Iran. Once Fedora as a project becomes aware of that information, we have no option. Personally, I do not think this is a good policy. But it is not a Fedora policy or Red Hat policy — we need to do it to comply with the law, which the US government enforces seriously.”

I stopped using Fedora because of the same thing. The fact that Fedora complies with U.S. laws no matter if it imposes injustice on people is very disappointing for me. I know they are forced to do this but that doesn’t mean I can ignore this injustice.

Free software philosophy won’t allow any restriction on using the computer program, but doesn’t say anything about who can contribute on the main project. I believe the base of that is to restrict developers from doing injustices to people and since I believe the philosophy of free software is to avoid injustices, I believe this kind of act is against the soul of software freedom.

This action, whether from U.S. government or anyone else, is very hurtful not only to free software community but to all people and should be stopped. Whether it’s law or not doesn’t justify the action. I understand they’re forced to but don’t ask me to understand I’m considered an illegal being because of my location or nationality.

Close Windows, Open Doors
Picture courtesy of Free Software Foundation (CC BY 3.0 US license)

Two days ago, Microsoft introduced new version of Windows operating system and many seem to be excited and interested. Microsoft did some changes to the user interface and added what seem to be a cool feature, running Android apps, but, after all, it is same old Windows.

New versions of Windows might change the UI or underlying components, but they don’t change the only thing important to know about Windows: it’s nonfree software. Windows is closed to everyone, a proprietary operating system that neither users nor independent experts can view the system’s source code, make modifications or fixes, or copy the system.

This puts Microsoft in a dominant position over its customers, which it takes advantage of to treat them as a product. A nonfree operating system, just like any nonfree software, puts the developer in a controlling position over users’ computing, unlike free operating systems and programs that respect people.

Windows is privacy-violating, discriminatory, and a spyware. However, since a long time ago a group of hackers and a community of freedom-minded people are using and continuously developing a free (as in freedom) and privacy-respecting operating system named GNU, and most of them are using the Linux kernel.

By contrast, free software like the GNU+Linux operating system is developed by professional and volunteer communities working transparently, freely sharing their work with each other and the world. Users have meaningful influence over the software development process and complete choice over what code they run.

This means the software usually treats them with respect. Even if a free software developer took a page from Microsoft’s book and began abusing its users, it would have no way to keep them locked in — when this happens, independent experts copy the source code, remove the offending bits and help people switch to the user-respecting version.

Avoid Windows and install a free and privacy-respecting operating system. Close Windows, Open Doors.