“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”
These powerful lines by Rabindranath Tagore reverberated through the walls of Bearys Institute of Technology, Mangalore, and laid the founding stone for the Hacktivist Camp organized by Free Software Movement Karnataka (FSMK), for the year 2018. The camp witnessed the wonderful journey of 74 bright students from various institutions of Karnataka, as they travelled through the stream of reason and depths of truth to emerge fearless in expressing their minds and motivated to create a world where knowledge is free and freedom is absolute.
The 4 day camp, which was conducted from 19th to 22nd of July, 2018, was hosted by BIT, Mangalore. It’ll be an understatement if we said that the campus is a heaven on earth. The participants enjoyed the breathtaking view of Nethravati river kissing the feet of the elevated plateau, aptly named “Lands End” and densely covered by forest, on top of which stands the beautiful campus. The hospitality of the college administration was beyond any expectations as they ensured a wonderful stay and the tastiest of the food of the land for all the participants, FSMK volunteers and speakers.
Day 1: 19th July, 2018
The inaugural ceremony was one of the best beginnings to an FSMK camp, as several dignitaries from FSMK and BIT gathered on the dais to formally offer a warm welcome to the participants, motivating them to make the maximum out of this important camp. The ceremony arrived to a conclusion and the camp sessions began with the National Anthem.
In the first session of the camp, the participants were provided a gentle introduction about the movement and organization, and were briefed about the importance of the camp by Ramaseshan, Executive Committee member of FSMK.
The gist of the discussion from the session is as follows:
What are the Freedoms of Free Software?
Freedom to read and understand the source code, freedom to distribute, freedom to modify the source code and freedom to redistribute the modified code.
‘Free’ has no relation to cost. It only signifies freedom.
Should free software be “free” of cost?
Free Software need not necessarily be free of cost. There are several business models using free software. Few are:
Freedom to the source code of the software is available. But the compiled version of the source code, as a software, can be sold for money.
Freedom to source and free of cost for the compiled software. But the post usage services can be charged a cost.
The base version of the software has all freedom and is available free of cost. But the extensions/plug-ins can be sold as proprietary or as free software.
What are the various relationship between people at work?
Individual: Without any/minimal assistance from others, an individual can work for a purpose.
Collaboration: Few individuals come together for some purpose. and once it is achieved, they part ways. Bonding between people is weak. Ethics is weak/non-existent
E.g.: Group of citizens reporting traffic violations to authorities.
Community: People living in the same locality/coming together for a justified cause to achieve a goal. They debate and discuss to grow stronger in the idea behind the cause. The bond among people is stronger.
E.g.: Wikipedia. Based on knowledge sharing.
Movement: A larger collective of various communities trying to create a base to discuss and widely act, without compromise on basic ethics. They try to spread the ideology to as many as possible.
E.g.: FSMK (which is a collection of several GLUGs)
A movement is strongly defined by the philosophy that drives it. We all can agree that no cause can be achieved through authoritarianism and everybody’s voice must be heard. No central authority is required to achieve a goal if every individual in a movement is aligned to the ethics and ideology. A movement should always grow together with it’s individuals.
Since we, FSMK, chose to work in the domain of knowledge and technology, our activities include technical sessions along with philosophical ones.
We live in an information age. We must not let big corporations squeeze trust (or fear) out of us for the software they provide us. We must be able to know what the code does and even correct it for ourselves when there is a bug.
We cannot ask people to compromise on trust for profits. The only way to achieve complete and absolute trust is only by providing all the freedom to the source code.
Sharing knowledge never amounts to stealing. Stealing is when you take something away from someone so that they cannot use it. Copying information is never stealing.
The demand of making “profits” from knowledge never came from individual creators/developers. It primarily came from companies to make money and also have monopoly or control over people.
Post-lunch session was primarily aimed at motivating the participants and making them aware of the impact of their potential contributions to the free software and free knowledge movement. Volunteers from FSMK and FSFTN shared their experience with free software movements and their contributions.
Abhinav from FSMK shared his experience about how philosophical understanding is the primary driving force for his contributions to the movement.
Ruchika from FSMK briefed her contributions towards “Project Vidyalaya”. “Schools should teach their students to be citizens of a strong, capable, independent and free society”. With this remark, Ruchika emphasized the necessity of Free Software in educational institutions: for Sharing of knowledge, to work with social responsibility, for complete independence on what camp be taught and studied, for wholesome learning, to save cost and to ensure the best quality.
Project Vidyalaya aims to create a wholesome package of free software OS and applications for schools, which will offer the schools complete freedom to create not just highly educated, but also valuable and socially responsible citizens out of their students.
Arun Isaac, a research scholar at IISc and volunteer for FSMK, explained his contribution to the GUIX project, which is a package manager that allows reversal of updates. Every update is categorized as a generation and it is possible to completely delete the updates of a generation.
Vignesh, a senior member of FSFTN, shared about the Libre Digital Library (LDL) project, of which he was a key contributor. LDL project is primary aimed to provide learning materials for schools, educational institutions and communities in remote localities which are devoid of any Internet connection. In LDL project, several learning materials which are openly available to all (Commons), including Wikipedia articles, Wikimedia contents, research articles, books, etc., are collected and an offline library/repository of these is created. These materials will be available in the local server of the community and can be accessed through the local network without Internet.
Students were also made aware of Localization efforts by Rizma, FSMK member, who was the primary contributor to the “Namma Fedora” project which provided an OS completely using Kannada language.
Students were now aware of several possible contributions to free software movement. Many came forward to contribute to these projects.
Post-Sessions: Fun and Discussion
Post these sessions, fun activity was conducted. Students were segregated into 10 teams. It was ensured that each group was diverse, both in terms of gender and students from various GLUGs.
“Snake Game” was conducted, which was a fun game which also helped create a coordination for among the students.
Post the fun session, the groups were encouraged to sit together and discuss on the day’s sessions, share their skill-sets and interests with each other and build a strong network, thereby a strong and self-reliant collective of GLUGs can be achieved.
Day 2: 20th July, 2018
Second day began with the continuation of group-wise discussions from Day 1. Groups (now 5 in number), were asked to work on thought experiments on planning to execute a real life task, and discuss about prospective new projects through which they can provide their contribution to the movement.
The speaker for the morning session was Kiran Chandra, General Secretary of Free Software Movement of India (FSMI). Kiran’s talk in the morning session was primarily focussed on History of Knowledge in the societies of the world and the control over the knowledge. The summary of the discussion is as follows:
We all want the world to be a better place with equality and gender sensitivity.
We find that the prominent scientists (philosophers) of ancient age, like Archimedes, Socrates, Plato, Ptolemy, etc., were primarily from Greece. This was because there was no cap on Knowledge system in ancient Greek society. Anybody could learn anything.
Any proposition needs to stand the test of time and tested on-ground.
Philosophy helps to break things down around us and understand the reality systematically.
Method-Thesis-Hypothesis. This was the basic approach of all philosophers.
Later Greek kingdom became unbearable War developed. Open knowledge society slowly perished. Science was abolished and brought under purview of priestly society.
In later times, Middle East and India were hub of discovery. In India, we had zinc and alloy manufacturing much earlier in pre-medieval times.
Here too, once knowledge was suppressed and held with one set of people in the name of caste and clan, scientific advancement slowed down.
Medieval times saw Europe prosper. With peasant revolt against the Church and the advent of secularism, science prospered. Renaissance movement. This led to industrial revolution.
Real innovations happen only when ideas are open. When we stretch the boundaries of existence.
Limitations of Structured Programming Language led to Object-oriented Programming Language. (Read: “Art of Computer Programming”, book by Donald Knuth).
In essence, ASK “WHY?”. The question, “Why?” will necessitate knowledge to be free and shared and motivate us to expand and challenge boundaries.
It is not “genius” of individuals that drives invention. Necessity drives invention. It was the necessity to drag hunted animals into caves that led to invention of wheels by early humans.
Earlier people lived in tribes and Human Energy into production was primary.
Later Animal Husbandry led to usage of Animal power in production.
Energy to Energy emerged only 300 years ago. Primitive was Steam Energy in locomotion. Later electricity radicalised production.
Progress of Society: Primitive --> Slave --> Feudal --> Capitalist (Currently)
World of Information Technology:
When computing tasks were automated, the minor mathematical tasks were later called as computer science.
Role of data changed: Computing got into all fields of production. It took over every field of industry.
What happens when information is confined in various places?
Copyrights and Patents are two methods of suppressing ideas.
Idea & Instance of an idea. E=mc2 is an idea. Nuclear bomb is an instance of that idea.
In information science, the boundary between idea and instance of an idea is blurred. So, if you patent the instance of an idea, you end up patenting the idea itself.
Patents are new ways in which caps are put on knowledge systems. It ensures decay of progress. Patents should be unacceptable for us.
GPL and Copyleft are licenses which ensure that the credit of invention/discovery goes to the creator/developer and not the corporations. They ensure that patents and copyrights are not allowed.
Ideally we should abolish copyright too. But in today’s battle, we are against patents. But we say that copyrights are okay.
Sony patented idea of neuron simulation through radiation. IKEA works on neuro-marketing technique.
When certain corporations patent something, they monopolise and control us.
Difference between “Process Patenting” and “Product Patenting”.
If a drug (say, Paracetamol) is discovered, the process of preparing Paracetamol is patented (“Process Patenting”). If someone else finds another process, they can still manufacture Paracetamol.
But patenting Paracetamol itself is “Product Patenting”. Then nobody can manufacture Paracetamol. This is very dangerous. Corporations will sell for very high prices.
There is a huge pressure on India to allow Product Patenting.
When a writer writes a book, because of the power and money of publishing houses, the writer ends of selling the copyright of the book to the publisher. Writer now has no control.
Similar case with discovery and patents.
If someone finds a drug, society can compensate the person very well, heftily. But patents can’t be allowed.
How is this patenting possible? There is an institutional arrangement that allows this.
Lobby for no subsidies for farmers or small producers.
Support abolishing duties on imports
Vasco da Gama came to India in search of food and spice. Similarly, WTO wants us to produce food which they can’t in west, and take them away from us easily.
Because of no duties on imports and no subsidies, our farmers don’t get Minimum Support Price. This leads to Farmers’ Suicide.
WTO demands product patenting and Software patenting There is a huge pressure on India from WTO. WTO is backed by whom? Microsoft, IBM, etc.
IBM manufactured “Punch Cards” (similar to Aadhar, now) for Germany, which Hitler later used to identify and target Jews. IBM has blood of holocaust on its hands.
When you get a job in IBM, take it. But be critical.
Find ways in your capacity to resist these corporations. We’ll be doing a great service to the nation if we resist. But we also have to resist for our own survival.
We can use technology to resist. The problems in technology are related to problems in society (Like how problem of “proprietary” software is linked to the social problem of greed of big corporations to make huge profits and control us).
Kiran’s talk post-lunch focussed on “The Second Machine Age” where data is a commodity and means of control over people. Summary of the same below:
Steam Energy–>Electricity–>Internet Revolution–>IOT
The 3rd Industrial Revolution saw computation in all fields of production. Data was generated during the production process.
The 4th Industrial Revolution (or) The Second Machine Age (Age of IOT) sees every individual producing data. Role of data changed.
Every year, we produce twice the data we produced earlier. 10.5ZB (1 ZB=1013 TB) of data every year. In 2-3 years it is going to be 35 ZB.
Data generation and capture has moved to new regime. IOT- everything is connected to internet.
After inception of IOT in 2009, devices relaying data increased exponentially (Half a billion in 2003 to 23 billion in 2016 and will be 50 billion by 2020).
Technology like IOT and Machine Learning must be used in innovative ways. But corporations use it to monitor us.
Every human is surrounded, on average, by at least 10 devices of surveillance.
All these data are used as commodity. Our privacy is now a commodity for sale.
Google and Facebook give advertisement with extreme customization. You can keep secrets from best friend but you cannot keep any secret from Google.
We are moving to a plane where we let Google and FB tell us how to think and behave.
In year 2000, entire newspapers industry had $67 billion revenue. In 2017- FB $17 billion, Google $67 billion.
Social media is documenting the mood of users.
Big brother is not just watching you, but is subjecting you to think the way they want.
FB creating divide. E.g.: “Brahmin bank” targeted only at Iyengar.
Two people sitting together will have a thick invisible wall separating them. This is the business model of Google and Facebook.
There are 46.8 registered job seekers (unemplyed) in India. Technology is only worsening this.
“We are the warriors of technology. We must decide when we are going to begin thinking critically”
Post-Sessions: Fun and Discussion
After the sessions, fun activity (“Leg Cricket” outdoor game) and group-wise discussions were held, similar to Day 1. Group of students also had an intense discussion with FSHM (Free Software and Hardware Movement), Puducherry team on Patents, Copyrights and Commons.
Day 3: 21st July, 2018
Day 3 sessions were primarily handled by FSHM, Puducherry team comprising of Prasanna, Ganesh, Maniraj, Kamal and Rahul. The sessions were interesting combination of talks, demonstrations and group activities, focussing on Privacy, Surveillance and Decentralized Networks.
Initial half of the morning session was a brief talk by FSHM team on how Google and Facebook violates our privacy. The summary of the talk is as follows:
Twenty years ago, flesh and bones used to be the identity of a person.
In today’s world, purpose of an information, whether it is identity or not, is not decided by the person providing the information.
Everyone has a perception of identity for themselves. Identity has to come from the citizen. The state can merely provide the proof of identity.
If we receive something for free, then we are paying a fee much costlier than the value of the service, indirectly.
We pay with “data” to Gmail to receive the services ( personal information like Name, Age, Phone Number, etc.). After receiving, while utilising the service, we continue to provide data again (the e-mails which we receive and are stored in Gmail servers).
As we provide more and more data, the cloud servers of Gmail can simulate us completely.
3 Layers of Security:
Outermost Layer. We reveal to everyone. Like Name.
Intermediate Layer. Merge between external ID and internal ID. We reveal to only select few based on our trust.
Opaque Layer. It is the actual us. Nobody knows.
The digital world has come to a stage where they can even penetrate the Opaque Layer.
“I am deciding what I want to show about my life, to others”. That is privacy. Partial disclosure is what privacy is.
We are no longer allowed to identify ourselves the way we want. That is how privacy is invaded (E.g.: Aadhaar).
FB and Google asks us to trust them with the data. But why should we? They claim to conduct 3rd Party audit. But why can very well have a deal with the auditors.
“Request of Trust”, “3rd Party Audit”, etc., are “defect by design”. They don’t build trust. We can trust for ourselves only if we can see their source code.
If we want privacy in the first place, we must understand how it is violated.
Every photo we click on mobile has a metadata (like model of phone, location of picture, etc.). This metadata is given to the social media websites without our knowledge, when we upload them.
Visit prashere.gitlab.io/exifdata to know what metadata is shared. Use “Scrambled Exif” app on android before uploading, to delete metadata. Don’t use FB’s/Instagram’s own camera.
We have to educate ourselves with these information and pass it on to others.
FB has a patent. They have contract with the tele companies. TV channels will emit a particular frequency of sound which will be picked up by the FB app on mobile. Now there is no privacy on TV too.
FB and Google, with all these data, can “manufacture consent”. They can influence you and use you like a “lab rat”.
If a citizen cannot make a decision out of his/her own free will, how can we call ourselves a “democracy”?
Students came up with several interesting points – The source code will be completely open source, Data will only be collected with consent of users, the users will have complete control over the data they provide at any point of time, end-to-end encryption, no advertisements, etc.
The speakers appreciated these ideas. They also pointed out that all the decisions regarding the application should not be taken unilaterally by the developers and users must also be included.
The speakers also pointed out that merely making promises of “no advertisement”, “data will not be used without consent”, etc., will not solve the issue at hand, and there is a possibility that the social media site changes their policy over time. They provided the example of FB which promised no advertisements in initial perid.
They also clarified the common myth that “if source code is open, then encryption will not work”. Hiding your code/data will not work. Encryption uses cryptographic and mathematical techniques to protect the data and not by merely hiding the data.
They explained that FB and Google are able to do surveillance and invade our privacy only because our data is stored in a centralized server and the companies have complete access to it. CENTRALIZED SERVERS are the primary issue.
In centralized servers, we users do not have control over features and usage of the app.
The alternate to this is Decentralized network where communication happens through multiple centres and each centre is connected to every other. We can go even further and opt for Distributed Network.
Once money becomes primary driving force, privacy can no longer be respected (The same happened in case of FB). That is why we cannot aim to bring capital into our model of communication.
Now a person with account in twitter cannot communicate with a person with account in Facebook. It is because they do not use a standardised protocol. We only need a common protocol to communicate. It doesn’t matter whether people have accounts in different platforms.
Earlier social networking platforms like Diaspora, GNU Social, etc. incorporated Ostatus protocol to communicate. Now ActivityPub protocol is leading the way. Platforms like Mastodon and Plemora incorporate this protocol.
These platforms doesn’t necessitate a centralized server. Allows “Decentralisation”
Just like how “firstname.lastname@example.org” can send a mail to “email@example.com”, anyone with account in “mastodon.social” instance can send a message to “mastodon.xyz” instance. This is called “Federate”
“DECENTRALISATION–> FEDERATION–>FEDIVERSE”. This must be our goal. 5 among us can pool in money (Rs. 50/- per month approx.) and host a server for ourselves. This is the first step in breaking the “data monopoly” of big corporations.
The same concept of decentralisation and federation applies to internet as well. “MeshNet” as alternative to Internet. Read more about it on “pymeshnet.gitlab.io”
In the final session for the day by Ramaseshan, the socio-political conditions which are prevalent in our country relating to the sphere of knowledge and technology, was discussed. This discussion laid the platform for the necessity for a movement like FSMK and the necessity for every citizen to participate in the movement and struggle.
In this platform, the primary vision of FSMK in the sphere of GLUG activities was explained to all the students. The students were provided a direction for their activities in their respective GLUGs and their potential contribution to the free software movement.
The key goals of FSMK for the upcoming year are explained as follows:
Entrust in GLUG’s and its members to be strong in philosophy and the related tech / dept
Regular discussions in GLUG sessions on philosophy and its importance
Culture of sharing (Knowledge and Resources)
Next 1 year:
Articles on various issues that concern FSMK.
Localization efforts across all GLUG’s
Every GLUG to be active and pushing people towards contributing towards other efforts of FSMK than just GLUG
Decentralized platforms over centralized platforms as a primary medium
Regional Techno-Hacktivism Camp
Post the sessions, the students gathered together with their respective college GLUGs. They discussed together to devise an extensive plan to be executed over the course of next one year through which they’ll build their GLUGs and also themselves contribute to the movement and grow individually. The intense discussions proceeded till the following day morning and the One-Year plan was in accordance with the capability and aspirations of the GLUGs, and also in line of FSMK’s vision for them.
Day 4: 22nd July, 2018
A portion of the morning session on Day 4 was conducted as “Digital Security Training”, sponsored by SFLC. The speaker for the session was Ramaseshan.
The rest of the day continued with discussion among GLUGs about their one-year plan and presenting the same.
The day and the camp concluded with the Valedictory Ceremony.
Digital Security Training:
Securing our Online Space:
It depends on how smart we are.
Ensuring our power to decide on who reads our information.
On how do one provides digital consent.
Use FOSS OS (Debian, Fedora, etc.)
Update regularly. Flaws in existing code must be fixed. Else the device is more prone to attack and theft.
Review Security Setting and fix what you want and what is not necessary (E.g.: Pop-ups might be allowed on default and several websites will track your journey).
Install only what you need and read Terms and Conditions before installing (E.g.: Malicious links installing plug-ins that collects data).
Your IP address and the IP address of server where the website is stored generally communicates through Google DNS server. So, you are tracked even when you don’t use Google at all.
Reconfigure browser with OpenNIC server which doesn’t log IP requests/responses.
In “/etc/hosts” give your own IP address as address for facebook.com , twitter.com , or other uncomfortable websites (sudo vim /etc/hosts on Terminal).
If connected to public Wifi, the IP of that Wifi is public and so anybody can crack into your device. Avoid it. (Visit: privacytools.io).
Use DuckDuckGo or StartPage search engines.
Use Firefox browser and Firefox Master Password.
Privacy Badgr : Removes default script that tracks us, and replaces with FOSS script for “Social Media Buttons” while “sharing” articles/online contents on social media.
Ublock Origin: Ad Blocker
Cookie Autodelete: Websites load cookies in your browser to identify and track your action across all websites.
HTTPS Everywhere: Forces you to use https websites.
Use Silence App for SMS that provides end-to-end encryption.
Use XMPP/Riot for chat.
“Mumble” for Audio Chat.
Jetsi : Uses WebRTC protocol. Allows audio/video chat from browser itself.
Self Defence against surveillance is essential to protect yourself.
Use e-mail clients like Thunderbird+Enigmail(GPG) that prevents e-mail analytics. Enigmail allows to send encrypted mails. Similarly K9 mail client for android.
gpg -d .gpg (To open encrypted file).
Send encrypted file in one platform and password in another platform.
Use Password Manager: “LessPass”
The session was followed by GLUGs presenting their one-year plan.
In the afternoon session, 8 GLUGs from various institutions presented their one-year plan for their operation in their respective institutions. Women Empowerment in technology was a primary task in the plan of several GLUGs. Other ideas included conducting Regional Camps, reaching out to PU Colleges, Projects related to Hardware Freedom, etc. The GLUGs presented and received feedback from FSMK members and peers.
At the end of all the sessions for the camp, the valedictory session was organized. Dignitaries of the institution and from FSMK gathered on the dais. FSMK members greatly thanked the college administration for providing space for conducting the camp and also for the excellent support provided all throughout the camp. College dignitaries congratulated FSMK and all the participants for their involvement in such a wonderful camp aimed at creating a community of individuals who can take the society in the progressive direction.
The preliminary feedback for the camp was widely positive. Even though few students felt few sessions to be a little overwhelming in terms of the information provided, as the camp progressed, they understood the need to seek and propagate those information. Absence of daily feedback sessions in this camp, which is the most common feature of every camp organized by FSMK, was regretted by few.
The ceremony and the camp came to a conclusion with the National Anthem.
Due to constraints imposed by college timings, feedback sessions couldn’t be conducted. It is necessary that an anonymous feedback form is widely circulated to receive feedback from all the students.
Blogs of speakers:
Contact information of speakers: