As a reaction of our announcement encouraging our community to host online events, we received this amazing manifesto from our member Josh Clement - sharing essential information on why and how to use open source video conferencing software. It's super essential information, so please don't hesitate to spread the word!
Surveillance capitalism is a serious threat to democracy. Google pioneered the model of providing fundamental digital infrastructure in order to collect user behavior data, from which prediction products are extracted and sold to advertisers. The techniques for doing this are widely applicable in the domination of free peoples, and Google's expertise in abusing our data is used to develop all their services. This includes not only the mass manipulation of the public for petty consumer goods, but also a deep collaboration with the US intelligence and military to, among myriad less tangible projects, identify and execute targets of drone strikes.
Therefore, we must make use of existing high-quality communications alternatives. Jitsi is free software, released on the Apache 2.0 license. This allows anyone to view the source code, to modify it, and to redistribute it. These freedoms enable a dedicated community of users, volunteer coders, and some employees of 8x8 to develop it as a public good, and it is every bit as capable as Zoom of getting us through this crisis. We are dispossessed of our civil right to privacy if we are forced to cede that right in order to work. A political victory in securing our rights to privacy as employees is only possible if we decide to use jitsi (or other free software) instead of relying on Silicon Valley, allowing them to lead us in pretending that their model is indispensable.
Jitsi follows the ethical model characteristic of free software generally, 'free' being used as in 'freedom', not 'gratis'. No collection of personal data is necessary to stream video and audio between us. No logs need to be kept. Your data does not need to be sent to third parties. You do not need to run secret code on your own computer. You do not need to accept the declaration of an abuse of your rights. There does not need to be payment, either in the form of money or the raw material of your attention and behavior from which prediction products can be extracted. The only third party that needs to be trusted is the operator of the hosting server. Because the server software is free software too, we are all empowered to operate our own jitsi servers. We are empowered to pressure our employers to operate servers running jitsi so that we can communicate without reliance on any third party. In addition to respecting our privacy, this would be institutionally more secure than trusting Silicon Valley with, for example, DTU's internal discussions over patentable technologies. Free software empowers users in an ethical, sustainable, and scalable manner, creating robust institutions that respect us as citizens.
As an amateur, I set up a jitsi server in about a week of evening and weekend time. For a professional (and me, now that I know how), it could be a 30 minute procedure. If this project succeeds, it would be proof to our employers, our colleagues, and our governments that we don't need to give up our civil rights in order to survive this crisis. I can't promise to use unlimited time, but I am willing to consult for free insofar as I'm capable to assist anyone who wants to set up a server for their workplace or organization. Send me any questions, even if you have no idea how to begin.
A huge shout out to Josh for sharing your knowledge and raising awareness about the privacy issue with zoom! Josh is a PhD student at DTU Physics, and we're super grateful for him putting his expertise out there. If you also have relevant knowledge related to holistic sustainability you want to share in this page, don't hesitate to get in touch!