Workshop on Privacy and Free Software

I led a workshop on Privacy and Free Software at FSFE’s Germanophone Team Meeting 2014. Here’s a summary.

Privacy Café

The Privacy Café is an initiative of Dutch digital rights organisation Bits of Freedom. Its purpose is to teach people to protect their privacy. They call it “digital self-defence”.

Whilst the Privacy Café has a lot in common with CryptoParties, there are some notable differences:

  • It usually takes place in a public library (instead of e.g. a hackerspace).
  • It targets a non-technical audience (which is why a public library is a very good venue).

The Privacy Café has a “menu” with

  • starters like Firefox, https everywhere,, choosing good passwords, automatic updates, screen locking, hard disk encryption;
  • main courses like Tor, GnuPG, OTR, Tails;
  • and desserts like,,

Volunteers from Bits of Freedom and hackerspaces (and sometimes FSFE) are there to answer questions, help people choose from the menu and install and configure the software.

Sometimes, there are also lightning talks. I gave one about the importance of Free Software at the Privacy Café in Utrecht.

Handouts: → Dutch (april), → Dutch (may), → English (june)

Software Freedom

The people that go to a Privacy Café are already aware of issues surrounding privacy and freedom. This gives us an opportunity to tell them about Free Software. A good place to start is by asking them “who controls the software?”.

Remarks from the Workshop

  • The timing is right, since awareness of privacy themes is very high at the moment and those who worry about privacy are already aware of the importance of freedom. This makes it much easier to show the link between freedom and control and Free Software.
  • It is unfortunate that the theme of Free Software is not already at the foreground, even though it is necessary for privacy.
  • We need all four freedoms, not just the ability to audit the software (i.e. source availability).
  • The menu metaphor is good (like the tools metaphor in the “tools leaflet”).
  • Using a public library as a venue is good, since it takes privacy out of the domain of hackers and “nerds” and makes it more approachable for non-technical people.
  • Free Software and encryption can be made more attractive with proper attention to presentation (e.g. websites and handouts).

Ideas from the Workshop

  • Making it more “fun” by using symbols (for signatures), stickers (for laptops) to show e.g. what “level” one has achieved.
  • Finish Lucile’s privacy flyer draft so it can be used for similar events.
  • Organise something similar (e.g. in Unperfekthaus).

non-free encryption software

What to do when those groups who teach encryption do so using non-free software?

  • Working together is desirable, so we have more Free Software people in the group and can explain our topic.
  • We should keep emphasising that only Free Software can ensure security (Kerckhoffs’s principle).
  • FSFE will never promote non-free software, and advises volunteers to also not recommend non-free software, but rather explain the issues mentioned above.

Links from the Workshop

- Felix

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