Technology as it Should Be – Purism


In Imagine a world without apps Shira Ovide asks “a wild question: What if we played games, shopped, watched Netflix and read news on our smartphones — without using apps? Our smartphones, like our computers, would instead mostly be gateways to go online through a web browser.”

This question can be extrapolated into a larger question: “What do we want from our technology?”

The power of control by Big-Tech in the app store is but a small example of exploitation of our digital lives. If you don’t control the software, the companies who wrote that software control you. You become a digital prisoner.

What people desire from technology is well documented and can be summed up with a series of buzzwords. The difficulty isn’t knowing what society wants, it is knowing the path to get there.

What do we want from our technology?

  • We want the right to change providers.
  • We want the right to protect personal data.
  • We want the right to verify.
  • We want the right to not be tracked.
  • We want the right to access.

We want the right to change providers

This one is such an important right, and something I think is completely missed by most journalists writing on the subject. As an example, let’s look at when cellphone numbers were married to phone carriers. This was a means of stickiness for the phone carriers. By preventing you from moving your phone number to a competitor, the carrier locked you into their network.

The US Congress—against the complaints of the phone carriers yelling from the rooftops that changing to anything else would destroy their businesses by introducing too much complexity—enacted law that required interoperability. This allowed an individual to change providers freely while keeping their same phone number. If Congress—and the media—applied this example to the walled gardens of big-tech it would allow an individual choice and freedom to move accounts from one provider to another. Even if you could not transfer your exact handle within a domain, you could—through interoperability—easily forward, export, respond, and change providers.

Without regulatory assistance to protect this right, the alternative is to use services that honor this right. Services that are decentralized offer interoperability, such as Matrix (for chat, calling, video), Mastodon (for social), XMPP (for messaging), and Email (for well… email). Librem One provides these services in a decentralized manner.

We want the right to protect personal data

The ability to encrypt your personal data with your own keys on your own device ensures that you fully control your digital life. With this as the starting point, you can then choose (aka opt-in) to share what you want with the people you want. This right is rooted in personal property rights, and is one of the most egregious abuses by Big Tech and those that have influence over them. If manufacturers, operating system developers, and software developers took a Hippocratic-like oath, one area society would agree on is the right that your personal data is your personal property and something you must retain control over and consent to share before it leaves your possession.

Without regulatory assistance to protect personal data, society is left to fend for itself against the pressure from a multi-trillion dollar industry to exploit that personal data. There is no way to resist that pressure without the market creating convenient alternatives that honor that right while completely avoiding Big Tech. Purism creates products that are increasing in convenience daily, that fully protect you, and these products are the market answer to the worst abuses of Big Tech companies.

We want the right to verify

This right is simple, but often overlooked. If you cannot verify the claims made by Big Tech companies, you are left to wonder if any claim is true, and usually they are quite the opposite. Hearing “We care about your privacy” from Facebook is a clear violation of that trust since exploiting your privacy is inherent in their business model. Other such claims from Big Tech would require verifying code, and to do that properly all code should be released under freedom respecting licenses. After 30+ years of the free software movement, we see that verifying the source code is the proper answer to allow people to retain full control of their digital lives. It is no wonder why the right to verify is such an important right.

Without regulatory assistance requiring public money to produce public code, we are left with addressing it by where we allocate our money within society. If all those that cared about their digital footprint spent money on products that protected that digital footprint the positive feedback loop would solve this within the market itself. Purism releases all our software under free software licenses and honors this right.

We want the right to not be tracked

We simply want the right to have access to and knowledge of all collection and uses of personal data; and to obtain, correct, or permanently delete personal data controlled by any company and to have those requests honored by third parties; to opt-in consent for only the minimum personal data necessary to use a service; and to have all personal data permanently deleted once the data is no longer required, or upon request. If we couple this with the other rights above, we start off with full protection that then allows opt-in sharing, with a ratchet-back plan to remove what was shared from any organization.

Without regulatory assistance requiring the right not to be tracked, we have to solve it by supporting products that honor this right from hardware, operating system, software, applications, and services. Purism honors this right.

We want the right to access

We as society do not want to be discriminated against nor exploited based on personal data; to be able to access and use the internet without internet service providers blocking, throttling, engaging in paid prioritization or otherwise unfairly favoring content, applications, services or devices; to have access to multiple viable, affordable internet platforms, services, and providers with clear and transparent pricing; and not to have any of these rights removed through any terms of service.

Without regulatory assistance in this right, the market will have to pick-up the slack and use, fund, and support companies and services that honor this right. Purism of course honors this right.

If we look at all five of these rights, we know how to create technology as it should be, but unless the market chooses alternatives or regulatory assistance is provided or a combination of those two, we will continue to complain about the abuses of Big Tech without doing anything to solve it.

Purism is creating the alternatives that are ever improving with every purchase of hardware, every use of software, and every subscription of services. Thank you for changing the future of computing for the better with us.