FSF Giving Guide: Freedom is the greatest gift of all

It seems like the usual holiday sales just get earlier and earlier. Not content with just hammering us with ads, certain megalithic companies named after large rivers or fruits try to foist their "deals" on us as soon as they can. Given the degree to which our lives are mediated by technology, it's no surprise that so many holiday sales focus on "devices," that catch-all name we've given to those computers that run in our pockets, laps, and living rooms. Yet before you cave to pressure, you should make sure that gift isn't putting your friend or family member under unjust control.

For the last twelve years, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) has published our Ethical Tech Giving Guide as a way to help concerned individuals make sure that the gift they might plan on giving their loved ones doesn't deprive them of their freedom. It's natural to want the very best gift for that special person in your life. It's also natural to want that gift to last them as long as possible. But if you plan on giving any devices, it's important to carefully consider the gift that you choose and the message it sends. The Amazon Echo or Chromebook that you're buying today has a good chance of being obsolete in the next few years, and more importantly, could set your friend or family member's digital freedom back even longer.

Freedom is the best gift you can give, and the one that keeps on giving. Rather than purchasing that new gadget, we encourage you to take the time to explore installing free software on one your friend or family member already owns. Taking your first steps to freedom often doesn't just help you win back your digital autonomy: it provides an opportunity for you to deepen your relationship with the ones you care about through a shared learning experience, and inaugurates you into a worldwide community of users.

This year, we've bolstered the Guide with new recommendations on DRM-free media for you and your loved ones to enjoy, including publishers and storefronts that respect software freedom at the same time, such as Nantucket E-Books, a publisher and writing platform interviewed in this season's upcoming Free Software Foundation Bulletin.

Taking a step forward

The Giving Guide is a helpful and practical tool we create every year to highlight issues with technology that other tech gift guides don't touch. Can you join our effort as an FSF associate member? You can start for as little as $10 per month ($5 for students), or $120 per year. With your support we can continue paving a way to freedom and create practical tools like these that people can use to help bring them closer to user freedom.

Besides that, your associate membership gives strength to the idea of user software. No other organization stands for this idea like the FSF does. The more members we have, the better we can defend everyone's freedoms against the largest companies and governments on the planet, and this starts with achieving our fall goal of 500 new associate members. Plus, you'll be able to enjoy all of our membership benefits, which include merchandise discounts, a 16GB bootable membership card, and use of our associate member videoconferencing server.

We hope that you'll take the time to share the Guide with your friends family, but more importantly, we hope that you'll commit to moving forward on your own individual journey to freedom. The holiday season is the best time to get the message of user freedom on everyone's lips, and around the kitchen table globally. We know that it can be tempting to buy that new device, especially when you're looking forward to the reaction of the people you love. Yet no matter how abstract or lackluster it might initially seem, full freedom is the greatest gift of all, and each step you or your loved ones take toward that goal helps us all collectively. We hope that you'll move forward towards that goal, and climb the Freedom Ladder. For one thing, it means you'll be safe from those Black Friday lines.

Illustration Copyright © 2021, Free Software Foundation, Inc. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.