Firechat, this «freedom of speech-app» is bogus

Bethany groundhog593 at
Tue Sep 30 02:39:00 PDT 2014

I'm mostly a lurker, too, but I'll remark that Firechat can't be bogus:
its use caught on in a massive way, and the ease of use and the P2P
connection feature is playing an active part in a community's SUCCESSFUL
self-organization in the face of real repression. While you're
absolutely right that an app can't call itself anonymous if it collects
Google Play information on its users, the question about whether the app
allows perfect anonymity isn't as important as: does the app allow
perfect anonymity from Beijing? Is there a danger that Google Co. Inc.
will help the government of China identify Firechat users in the case of
a retroactive crackdown? This is a political problem North Americans
could indeed work on, if it came down to that. This conversation reminds
me of Quinn Norton's "assess your adversary" talk at HOPE

I'd also point out that I believe Firechat is open source. And on
Github: They're working on adding

On 30/09/14 07:23 AM, Xavier wrote:
> Hello there,
> Mostly I'm just a lurker here but for once I will ask some
> questions/make remarks about Firechat.
> As you may know, this app just got extensive media coverage due to
> their widespread use in Hong Kong «Occupy-central». Check on the
> Guardian for
> example:
> So, out of curiosity, I just downloaded the app. Below are my remarks
> on the process:
> - You can't directly download the apk from the website. For android,
>   the only link available is from the Google store. As if, if you
>   really need privacy and freedom of speech, the first thing that you
>   do is have a google account linked to your android device. I
>   downloaded the app from Aptoide, but well…
> - Once you download the app, required permissions include:
> 	- Localization
> 	- Read contacts
> 	- Search accounts on the device
> How are those permissions necessary ? I just want to connect to nearby
> people. I don't need firechat servers to point me to those people nor
> to know where I am or with whom I chat.
> - Once you launch the app, there comes the cherry on the cake, you need
>   to have properly activated and updated Google Play background
>   services in order to run the app. I suppose that it implies that you
>   must have a Google account linked to your device and that, thanks to
>   the «Search account» permission, Firechat just like Google are
>   perfectly aware of who you exactly are ??
> If my goal was just to chat with my neighbors without paying during
> the Worldcup, that would be fine, but the problem here is that this app
> is now also marketed in newspapers as a privacy app, thanks to Hong Kong
> protests.
> When the product was released a few month ago, I already tried it but
> abandoned immediately due to those privacy problems. What I want first
> of all is privacy, not to avoid paying my provider. Now I understand
> that for Hong Kong people this is a lesser evil solution because they
> fear an Internet shutdown, but well, I am disappointed to remark that
> «freedom-of-speech» and «privacy-aware» are so strongly disconnected
> even in a promising app like this one. 
> Xavier

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