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Updated: 5 hours 15 min ago

Geoffrey Knauth elected Free Software Foundation president; Odile Bénassy joins the board

Wednesday 5th of August 2020 08:20:00 PM

BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA -- Wednesday, August 5th, 2020 -- The Free Software Foundation (FSF) today announced the addition of a new director to its board, and the election of a new president.

Long-time free software activist and developer Odile Bénassy, known especially for her work promoting free software in France, was elected to the FSF's board of directors. Geoffrey Knauth, who has served on the FSF's board for over twenty years, was elected president.

On her election, Bénassy said, "I'm happy and proud to accept FSF's invitation to be part of the board. I want to help keep steady the principles of free software, and the philosophical values around it. Free software counts among what the world badly needs nowadays."

Knauth welcomed Bénassy, saying, "I am delighted that Odile Bénassy has agreed to become a director of the FSF, FSF's first director from Europe. Odile is a mathematics educator, researcher, software engineer, and leader of the GNU Edu project. She has been advocating for and developing free software for more than twenty years."

FSF's executive director, John Sullivan, added, "Being on the FSF's board of directors means first and foremost standing as a guardian for free software and the associated user freedoms. With such a long track record, Odile has shown herself to be someone FSF members and supporters can count on. I'm really looking forward to working with her, and I'm excited to see all the ways she'll help the FSF be better and stronger."

Describing his approach to his new position as president, Knauth posted a statement which begins, "The FSF board chose me at this moment as a servant leader to help the community focus on our shared dedication to protect and grow software that respects our freedoms. It is also important to protect and grow the diverse membership of the community. It is through our diversity of backgrounds and opinions that we have creativity, perspective, intellectual strength and rigor."

The full list of FSF board members and officers can be found at https://www.fsf.org/about/staff-and-board.

About the Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software -- particularly the GNU operating system and its GNU/Linux variants -- and free documentation for free software. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software, and its Web sites, located at https://fsf.org and https://gnu.org, are an important source of information about GNU/Linux. Donations to support the FSF's work can be made at https://donate.fsf.org. Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.

More information about the FSF, as well as important information for journalists and publishers, is at https://www.fsf.org/press.

Media Contacts

John Sullivan
Executive Director
Free Software Foundation
+1 (617) 542 5942
campaigns@fsf.org

Geoffrey Knauth Photo Copyright ©2020 Geoffrey Knauth and used with permission. Odile Bénassy Photo Copyright ©2020 Odile Bénassy and used with permission.

Updated 2020-08-07: Knauth has served on the FSF board for over twenty years, not thirty.

Free Software Foundation announces freedom-respecting videoconferencing for its associate members

Thursday 28th of May 2020 05:30:00 PM

The FSF has been raising the alarm about encroachments upon freedom by remote communication tools since social distancing guidelines were issued. The FSF's new videoconferencing service powered by free software comes after several of its recent publications warned users about widely used nonfree applications for remote communication and education, like Zoom.

"The freedoms to associate and communicate are some of our most important. To have the means to exercise these freedoms online controlled by gatekeepers of despotic software is always dangerous and unacceptable, only more so when we can't safely gather in person," executive director John Sullivan explains. "We are a small nonprofit and can't provide hosting for the entire world, but we want to do our part. By offering feature-rich videoconferencing in freedom to our community of supporters, and sharing how others can do it, too, we demonstrate that it is possible to do this kind of communication in an ethical way."

This project came out of the working group the FSF established to document and address major issues facing free software communication platforms. Another initiative in its free communication toolbox is a collaborative resource page created to steer users to applications that respect them. The goal is to help users avoid conferencing tools like Zoom, which requires users to give up their software-related freedoms, and which has been a recent focal point for criticism due to problems ranging from security issues to privacy violations.

Zoom is not the only nonfree communication software that has received scrutiny recently while surging in popularity. Facebook's recently launched Messenger Rooms service may offer tools to keep users out, but it is not encrypted, nor does it offer protection from the ongoing data sharing issues that are inherent to the company. Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and Webex were also reported to be collecting more data than users realized. These kinds of problems, the FSF argues, are examples of what happens when the terms of the code users are running prohibits them from inspecting or improving it for themselves and their communities.

The platform the FSF will use to offer ethical videoconferencing access is Jitsi Meet. Jitsi Meet was also used when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the FSF to bring its annual LibrePlanet conference online. Choosing Jitsi Meet is the first step to addressing the problems posed to freedom by services like Zoom and Facebook. However, even users that start a call via a server running Jitsi could still be vulnerable, if that server depends on or shares information with third parties. The FSF made changes to the code it is running to enhance privacy and software freedom, and published the source code. The FSF instance does not use any third party servers for network initialization, and does not recommend or link to any potentially problematic services.

Jitsi Meet initiates an encrypted peer-to-peer conference when there are only two participants, but achieving end-to-end encryption for more than two people is not yet possible. FSF chief technical officer Ruben Rodriguez elaborates: "For any multiparticipant conversation, there will always be encryption at the network level, but you still have to place some level of trust in the server operator that processes your video stream. We are offering what is currently possible when it comes to multiparticipant privacy, and we are doing it on machines that we physically own." The FSF servers do not store any voice, video, or messages from calls, and logging is minimal and for the purpose of troubleshooting and abuse prevention only. According to its Web site, Jitsi is working to implement end-to-end encryption for multiple callers, and the FSF has confirmed plans to implement the improvements as soon as they become available.

Sullivan provided further comment: "The FSF is offering people a chance to keep their freedom and remain in touch at the same time. With these services, you usually have to sacrifice your freedom for the ability to stay in touch with the people you care about, and place your data in the hands of an organization you don't know. Our members trust the FSF not to compromise their data, and this way, we can offer both."

Associate members of the FSF pay a $10 USD monthly fee, which is discounted to $5 USD for students. An FSF associate membership will provide users with the ability to create their own meeting rooms for personal, noncommercial use, which they can use to invite others to join regardless of their location or membership status.

About the Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software -- particularly the GNU operating system and its GNU/Linux variants -- and free documentation for free software. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software, and its Web sites, located at https://fsf.org and https://gnu.org, are an important source of information about GNU/Linux.

Associate members are critical to the FSF, since they contribute to the existence of the foundation and help propel the movement forward. Besides gratis access to the FSF Jitsi Meet instance, they receive a range of additional benefits. Donations to support the FSF's work can be made at https://my.fsf.org/donate. Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.

More information about the FSF, as well as important information for journalists and publishers, is at https://www.fsf.org/press.

Media Contact

Zoë Kooyman
Program Manager
Free Software Foundation
+1 (617) 542 5942
campaigns@fsf.org

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