%type archive - Aug 2011

A very short comparison between the TFF UVT project and the Freedom Box

The Learn About the FreedomBox! page of the FreedomBox Foundation explains that their FreedomBox "integrates privacy protection on a cheap plug server so everybody can have privacy. Data stays in your home and can't be mined by governments, billionaires, thugs or even gossipy neighbors... FreedomBox will put in people's own hands and under their own control encrypted voice and text communication, anonymous publishing, social networking, media sharing, and (micro)blogging."

According to that page, the services provided by the FreedomBox are:

  • Email and telecommunications that protects privacy and resists eavesdropping
  • A publishing platform that resists oppression and censorship.
  • An organizing tool for democratic activists in hostile regimes.
  • An emergency communication network in times of crisis.

The User Verifiable Telematics project (UVT) of the Telematics Freedom Foundation has some goals and services in common with the FreedomBox, but takes a different approach. From a purely technical point of view, UVT aims to provide the first two services mentioned above, but:

  • works through end-user devices that are communication terminals with a completely open architecture, like the FreedomBox, but working through any ordinary cellphone
  • hosts the content crypted with those terminals on external, not on personal servers
  • is 100% compliant by design with existing lawful interception laws and requirement for telecom equipment. While this doesn't, of course, provide total protection from interception, it guarantees that it will only be performed in compliance with existing laws. In other words, TFF makes impossible for anybody, be they law enforcement officers or private parties, to illegally intercept the communications of large numbers of people, for as long as they want, at an affordable cost

In addition to this, UVT was conceived thinking to a different use case. The FreedomBox is a (fixed?) server that requires a certain amount of knowledge to operate. Regardless of how much or how little that knowledge is, it can constitute quite a psychological barrier, if we think to how many people still consider computers and software as black magic (even when they use them daily). The FreedomBOx is also less dependent on external, pre-existing large telecom infrastructures than UVT.

UVT, however, is made to order for a much larger class of people (especially, but not only, in developing countries), that is ordinary cellphone users. Besides, UVT will be much simpler to use than a FreedomBox, in the sense that it will require zero set-up and configuration, and the same skills needed to operate a basic cellphone. For these reasons, we believe that UVT may be a better solution for many people, that is a better compromise between ease of use and higher privacy.

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