Garbee (below), the head of open source and Linux technologies at HP and a senior Debian developer, asked for a show of hands and found that every member of the audience used one of either Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or Google+.
He had a sobering bit of advice to the audience: each of these services involved a big tradeoff in personal privacy and people had to think before they used such services, he said, adding as an example the fact that photos uploaded to Facebook were subject to face recognition technology ostensibly for the purposes of catching bad guys. But it could just as easily be used to harass innocent people.
From this it was a short step to the topic of his talk, FreedomBox, a personal server running a free operating system and applications designed to create and preserve personal freedoms.
The FreedomBox Foundation was set up by one of the doyens of the free software movement, Eben Moglen, and Garbee is on the board.
Garbee chairs the five-member technical advisory committee; the others on the panel are Jacob Applebaum, a privacy expert, Sam Hartman, a Debian developer, Sascha Meinrath, a mesh networking researcher, Rob Savoye, a GNU toolchain and embedded systems developer, and Matt Zimmerman, the former chief technical officer of Canonical.
The project aims to try and allow people to communicate with the confidence that they are not being snooped on. The project aims to either give away the servers free or else sell them at retail for an affordable price.