Tor Project, Flash cloner win free software awards

Internet privacy project that helped Iranians and Egyptians wins award from Free Software Foundation.

The Free Software Foundation gave its annual awards to an Internet privacy project and the creator of a free alternative to Adobe Flash.

A project to ensure privacy and anonymity on the Web that helped dissident movements in Iran and Egypt was honored by the Free Software Foundation in the group's annual award ceremony. The Free Software Foundation also honored an individual who created an Adobe Flash player clone that contains no proprietary software.

The Free Software Foundation honored the Tor Project, which works to ensure anonymity online and defend users against network surveillance and traffic analysis. According to the Free Software Foundation, the Tor Project's network has been used by 36 million people globally "to experience freedom of access and expression on the Internet while keeping them in control of their privacy and anonymity" and "proved pivotal in dissident movements in both Iran and more recently Egypt."

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The Tor Project received the foundation's Award for Projects of Social Benefit, which in previous years has gone to the Internet Archive, Creative Commons, Groklaw and Wikipedia.

The Free Software Foundation, founded by Richard Stallman, gave its individual Award for the Advancement of Free Software to Rob Savoye, who has worked on dozens of projects including One Laptop Per Child and led the effort to produce Gnash, a free software Flash player.

The Free Software Foundation says software is "free" when users are free to study the source code, manipulate it and redistribute it as they wish. The free software designation does not require that software be given away, although in practice much free software is available at no cost.

Free software advocates object to the proprietary nature of Adobe Flash Player, which has been a hang-up in providing full Web access to users of operating systems based on GNU and the Linux kernel. Some distributions that are otherwise composed of free software do enable access to Flash. But Gnash is one of at least a couple of free alternatives to Flash, and users who wish to avoid all proprietary software can install it on, for example, the operating system gNewSense and browser GNU IceCat, a free software version of Firefox.

Gnash "has enabled free software users to avoid dependency on a pervasive piece of proprietary software," the Free Software Foundation says. Savoye "is also CTO and founder of Open Media Now, a nonprofit dedicated to producing a freely licensed media infrastructure," the group says.

The Tor Project is free software and can be installed on Windows, Mac, Linux, Unix and Android, working with Web browsers, IM clients, and remote login systems to "defend against a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security known as traffic analysis," the project says.

"Tor protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, and it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location," the Tor Project says on its website. "Tor works with many of your existing applications, including web browsers, instant messaging clients, remote login, and other applications based on the TCP protocol."

The Tor Project has detailed some of the impact it had in Iran on its blog. and has continued to monitor Iranian government attempts to stifle Internet connectivity.

The Free Software Foundation awards were given out March 19 in Boston.

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