Software Freedom Day (SFD) is an annual event observed around the world to celebrate Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). To kick-off this year’s SFD celebration in the Philippines, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) College of Engineering, through the combined effort of the College of Engineering Managers of Information Technology (CEMIT) and the Association of Concerned Computer Engineering Students for Services (ACCESS), together with 8Layer Technologies, organized a public forum on September 3, 2015 at the PUP Theater that was attended by 500 students
“This is my first time to attend an SFD event and I am very hounoured to be part of this year’s celebration,” says Nica Dumlao, FMA’s Internet Rights coordinator. Nica was invited to speak broadly on issues around Internet Rights and how these relate to FOSS.
Her presentation titled “Your Rights and Freedoms in Cyberspace” provided a basic orientation on Human Rights, how and why the concept of Human Rights online/Internet Rights came about, and why FOSS should be a human rights concern. She shared that many Internet rights, particularly the right to information, freedom of expression, and right to privacy online, can be somehow protected in using FOSS as it gives the user control over the technological platform she/he is using. “FOSS is actually secure and transparent as it gives citizens opportunity to be able to access source codes, unlike proprietary software that are limiting and have secret source codes.”
During the open forum, a student from the audience – after sharing that he read somewhere that a certain proprietary software has created a backdoor to harvest users data, asked if this is a human rights issue and how to concretely address this issue.
Nica responded that it was clearly violating users’ right to privacy, and reiterated that citizens should demand that the government must act on these violations. It is also always better to initiate dialogue with the companies that develop proprietary software and encourage them to be more transparent.
Nica also shared the initiative on the “Philippine Declaration on Internet Rights and Principles” and encouraged everyone to take part in the development of the Declaration. She enjoined the full house audience at the PUP theater to continue advocating to make sure that the government, the private sector, and even school officials consider the Declaration in crafting policies that will govern our Internet. “Aside from using FOSS, we urge all of you to take an active role in fighting for your rights and freedoms online and join us in the struggle for both software freedom and Internet Rights,” Nica concluded.