[Freedombox-discuss] What Do You want to use the FreedomBox for?

Jonathan Wilkes jancsika at yahoo.com
Thu Jun 14 21:48:59 UTC 2012

With the way most residential routers are set up, and the way in which most
privacy-preserving software leaves the ugly details of traversing a NAT to
the user, I can think of only a few ways I would benefit from
having a freedombox.  That is-- I can't think of a single instance where routing
around the most common ISP obstacles (like not wanting me to run a globally-
reachable service from my home, throttling, etc.) would be made easier by
introducing another piece of hardware into the mix.
However, I would still like to use the Freedombox for three inter-related purposes. 

In order of immediate importance for potential users, they are:
1) As a foolproof, turn-key solution for low risk, private browsing and data retention.
2) As an introduction to f2f identities, and chat that is end-to-end encrypted.
3) As a physical metaphor for seriousness about control over one's data.

#1 is the most important because it is the only use case for which the
Freedombox offers a unique solution that _doesn't_ depend on potential
users understanding the dangers of online surveillance vis a vis Google,
Facebook, and others.  Even those who are perfectly happy expressing
a large part of their social lives on Facebook have a need/desire for privacy
in _some_ domain.  For one who lacks any knowledge whatsoever of privacy
issues, this domain is probably pornography.  With limited knowledge it is
pornography and career-sensitive data.  And so on up the ladder until we
arrive at complex technical and philosophical issues of privacy and data
control for which members of this list are quite familiar.
Basically I'm talking about Freedombox as a machine on which the user runs
Vidalia or the Tor Browser Bundle (not exactly sure how that would work), plus
some encrypted storage.  As far as I know, these are the only pieces of
peer-reviewed, actively maintained software for which the user can simply click
an icon and have the privacy-preserving service "just work".  The benefit of
running it on a separate piece of hardware is small, but the benefit exists (ease
of mind knowing that any data stored from private browsing or anything else
is encrypted, without having to follow an online tutorial).  More importantly, that
benefit exists and is meaningful to the user whether the data itself is frivolous or
potentially life-altering.

#2 is secondary because there really isn't a benefit to the user who has no
understanding of the importance of online privacy.  It's also questionable whether
this is even important to users with an above-average understanding of privacy
issues.  I see an enormous amount of data shared _publicly_ on Diaspora by
people who left Facebook ostensibly because of its privacy issues, for example.
It's not clear to me that such users would understand the importance of
developing a bottom-up system of peer-to-peer trust themselves, rather than
just having their data housed unencrypted on a server and making it available to
the public.

There is the future benefit of being able to backup data with your friends' Freedomboxes. 
But that presupposes a critical mass of online activity happening through the Freedbombox
rather than the current centralized services being used.
#3 Is probably most important as an explanatory technique.  Here's a block of hardware. 
This is your data vault.  Get seven of your friends to run one and you've got an encrypted
backup.  Put it where it's safe, and that's where it stays.  (I think this is how Eben Moglen
originally described it.)

Anyway, as I see it this is the only set of uses that doesn't exclude 99% of the population
from actually wanting to buy a box, plug it in, and get to work on it.  Everything else is great
_if_ one already understands about privacy and freedom; unfortunately, most people do not, and
I'd rather they find out through software updates that add a feature to the box they are
already using for _some_purpose, or by a friend programming it to route around the govt's filters,
than by yet more of their data getting leaked, or picked through for potential profit, or harassment.

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