The U.S. Government’s ongoing crusade against WikiLeaks and the Egyptian Government’s shutdown of the Internet for five days force us to ask the question: How shall the commoners retain their right to communicate with each other when their own governments intervene to stifle communications that threaten their power?
Eben Moglen, a long-time free software advocate, is promoting a great insurance policy: decentralized, portable, personal servers. He calls them “Freedom Boxes.” The idea is that everyone should have a small, cheap personal server about the size of a cellphone charger. Such devices already exist, he points out in today’s NYT, and cost about $99, and will likely become cheaper in coming months and years. (A speech that Moglen gave on this topic, “Freedom in the Cloud,” on February 5, 2010, can be seen on YouTube here. )
What’s missing at the moment is the software to make them easy to use. So Moglen is calling upon the software programmers of the world to develop free software that could make the Freedom Box a viable, pervasive part of the Internet infrastructure. We would no longer have to depend upon the good graces of a Google, Facebook or Internet service provider to reliably connect us or transact business for us. We would have assured communications and commercial relationships without the threat of government interference or snooping, often through underhanded means.