Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Stallman on Android - Maybe Not So Free After All

Ricky reporting at the digitizor - Richard Stallman: “Android Phones Do Not Respect Your Freedom”:
In an article for The Guardian published today, Stallman is questioning if Android is really free software as claimed by Google.

In the article, he said that even though Google has released the source code of the kernel, as required by the GPL, the fact that they have no intention of releasing the part under the Apache License means that Android 3 is not a free software.
Google has complied with the requirements of the GNU General Public License for Linux, but the Apache license on the rest of Android does not require source release. Google has said it will never publish the source code of Android 3.0 (aside from Linux), even though executables have been released to the public. Android 3.1 source code is also being withheld. Thus, Android 3, apart from Linux, is non-free software, pure and simple.
Stallman also raised the issue about the handset manufacturers locking down their device to make sure that only their codes run on the hardware. Many Android handset manufacturers, currently does this. They ship their device with locked boot loader so that custom ROMs will not boot.

Some device models are designed to stop users from installing and using modified software. In that situation, the executables are not free even if they were made from sources that are free and available to you.
Stallman concludes by saying that Android is major step for free-software on phones - but right now, it does not respect the users' software freedom.
Android is a major step towards an ethical, user-controlled, free-software portable phone, but there is a long way to go. Even though the Android phones of today are considerably less bad than Apple or Windows smartphones, they cannot be said to respect your freedom.
Do you agree with Stallman's assessment of Android? Let us know your views in the comments.

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