The Computer User's Bill of Rights
In an age where computing devices give outsiders unprecedented control over our lives, we the users need a "bill of rights" to protect us from them. These are the things we should demand from those that provide us our computing experience:
- I have the right to do whatever I want with my computing hardware. I bought it I own it. This includes:
- Fixing it
- Modifying it
- Access to schematics.
- Access to all tech specs.
- Installing whatever software, including OS, I choose to use on it.
- I even have the right to turn it into a brick, paper weight, door stop, ...
- I and anyone I pass it on to have the right to keep it running for as long as we care to.
- I have the right to program it from the bare-metal up
- I have the right to "root", "admin", "administrator", whatever account in an OS gives absolute control over it.
- I have the right to not upgrade.
- I have the right to determine what security measures I want or don't want and arrange my own security posture.
- This means I also have the right to evaluate the vendor's security measures and use or reject them based on my preference.
- I have the right not to be in the cloud! Any of it! In other words vendors don't have the right to my data.
- I have the right to own a license to use and physically hold in my hand any software or data (music, movies, ...) I choose to purchase and use for as long as I, or whoever I might pass it on to, cares to do so. This is not a right to pirate or steal. But just like owning a book allows the owner indefinite access to its content owning a license to a piece software or data shall be indefinite and transferable.
- I have the right not to be spied on. Specifically I have the right to expect a program to do as advertised or what's obvious by its interface and not go poking out to the Internet in unexpected ways, including sending my data for cloud processing unless specifically stated and expressly agreed to by me. Even checking for updates without my explicit permission is a forbidden.
- I have the right to only get the software or data that I bought and not get stuff that was not asked for when I bought the program, data or computer.
- I have the right to technology that works as advertised without having to figure out how to work around faults preventing its function.
- And just in case it wasn't clear: I have the right to expect my computing devices and services aren't spying on me.
I want to make it very clear: when I talk about "computers" or "computing devices" I'm not just talking about laptops, desktops, tablets, smart-phones. I'm referring to everything with a computer chip in it. This would include things like thermostats, smart bulbs, smart speakers, other connected appliances, security systems, cars, trucks, motorcycles, tractors, ... If it has a microprocessor or microcontroller in it, or is based on similar technoology I expect it to fit this bill of rights.
If you read those over it will become obvious that nothing (or very little) available today provides for these rights. So why write this? I have two reasons: First to tell vendors what I expect in my computer based products and what I won't buy. Secondly to inform the vast hordes of new computer users what they should demand from their computing devices, software, data and related services. This is what I had with my PC and software of the 1970s and '80s.
I will not give up my privacy or allow corporations to control me. Don't scoff. If you don't believe they want to then you haven't been watching the news and you might as well go back to your FaceBook. But for those like me who don't want to fear their computing devices what are we to do? Open Source is the only viable alternative right now. Not just with software but with the hardware as well. Only if you have access to inspect it and change it (if needed) will you have some degree of trust that your rights are being respected. Without being able to look inside you have no hope. As long as you can't look inside the supplier can make any claims they want and do something entirely different.
Honestly folks this bill of rights is critical for your freedom not just in front of the computer, but your whole life. Corporations have unprecedented access to and control over your life via the computer related devices you invite in. This could very well become a life and death issue for some.