Moglen Backs 'Freedom Box' to Deliver Internet Privacy, Security

Eben Moglen has been asking developers for a long time to make the Freedom Box software to have privacy and anonymity online again. He now has a foundation to get it done.

The Secretary of State recently called Internet freedom a foreign policy priority for the United States. Now a law professor at Columbia University has very clear plans on how to make it possible to have privacy and security online.

It all begins with the Freedom Box, a personal server running free software that would make it possible for users to securely share files with friends, encrypt their data online and maintain their privacy when surfing the Web, Columbia University's Eben Moglen told eWEEK.

"Turn freedom on," Moglen said.

A system with built-in privacy and security, the Freedom Box would encrypt connections, let users check out sites online privately in "normal life" and provide a mechanism for communicating safely for people living in oppressive regimes, Moglen said. Simply put, the little device is intended to be a network appliance that allows people to be safe and anonymous online, according to Moglen. It can run on any number of hardware, even on just a plain SD card, he said.

If two people have Freedom Boxes, they can directly share files without having to worry about going through Facebook and chat securely, bypassing government monitoring, according to Moglen. People can maintain their privacy and "not live in a database controlled by fools," he said.

Moglen has been talking about the Freedom Box for a while now at various conferences and meetings with developers, but nothing has happened yet. He created the Freedom Box Foundation on Feb. 16 to organize the software development efforts.

"Events around the world are making it clear we can't wait another year before getting Freedom Boxes off of the technical design board and into people's lives," according to the foundation's Website.

The foundation launched on Feb. 17 a Kickstarter campaign to raise $60,000 in 30 days. If the goal is met, the plan is to release a first version of the software six months later. According to the foundation's Website, the goal is to eventually raise $500,000.

Freedom Boxes have often been described as a "personal server," a device the size of a cell phone charger. These chips are "not as powerful as the ones from Intel" but are more power-efficient, Moglen said. Currently available for limited applications and still rather costly, he expects these devices to be ubiquitous and much cheaper in the next several years.