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Android and Users' Freedom - By Richard Stallman

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First published in The Guardian

Android and Users' Freedom

by Richard Stallman 

First published in The Guardian

To what extent does Android respect the freedom of its users? For a computer user that values freedom, that is the most important question to ask about any software system.

In the free/libre software movement, we develop software that respects users' freedom, so we and you can escape from software that doesn't. By contrast, the idea of “open source” focuses on how to develop code; it is a different current of thought whose principal value is code quality rather than freedom. Thus, the concern here is not whether Android is “open”, but whether it allows users to be free.

Android is an operating system primarily for mobile phones, which consists of Linux (Torvalds' kernel), some libraries, a Java platform and some applications. Linux aside, the software of Android versions 1 and 2 was mostly developed by Google; Google released it under the Apache 2.0 license, which is a lax free software license without copyleft.

The version of Linux included in Android is not entirely free software, since it contains nonfree “binary blobs” (just like Torvalds' version of Linux), some of which are really used in some Android devices. Android platforms use other nonfree firmware, too, and nonfree libraries. Aside from those, the source code of Android versions 1 and 2, as released by Google, is free software—but this code is insufficient to run the device. Some of the applications that generally come with Android are nonfree, too. Read More

 

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