IIT, IISc professors call Facebook’s Free Basics a ‘lethal combination


Facebook has sneakily–without any announcement– launched its Internet.Org service across India, asking people to send an automated email to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), letting them know that you support ‘Free basics’.

And, a lot of people, are actually signing it up reading the word ‘free’.


So, if you sign up for it, this is the message that you are sending to TRAI:

“Free Basics provides free access to essential internet services like communication, education, healthcare, employment, farming and more. It helps those who can’t afford to pay for data, or who need a little help getting started online. And it’s open to all people, developers and mobile operators. With one billion Indian people not yet connected, shutting down Free Basics would hurt our country’s most vulnerable people. I support Free Basics – and digital equality for India. Thank you.”

wiki-listAs you can see above “India has more people using the Internet than the entire population of the United States.” Yes this is why all the big multinational/corporation are trying to take control upon Indian Digital Network. After China’s slow financial growth compare to  India ,we can be the next technological economy of the world.Difference is they already knew it,but we don’t.

While Facebook has been getting more than its fair share of criticism from the online media for its Free Basics program, the company has been trying its level best, spending more money to promote and gain acceptance from users. On the other hand we have those who are a part of the industry dissing the whole program and today there’s some more news on that front.

And now its the IIT and IISc professors who have taken a stand against Facebook’s Free Basics.  More than 75 professors have signed up in a joint statement to TRAI calling Free Basics “misleading and flawed”.

And it gets worse. The statement goes to various lengths to explain how Free Basics is a “lethal combination which will lead to total lack of freedom on how Indians can use their own public utility”.

The statement points out to three critical flaws. The first revolves around how Facebook defines what the basic services are while the second clarifies how Facebook is utilizing data obtained from its Free Basics app. Lastly, the third flaw explains how the term ‘free’ in Free Basics is marketing gimmick.

In case you are unaware you can look at our article that covers the myths and facts about Facebook’s Free Basics.

The joint statement issued by the IIT and IISc members is as reproduced below:

“Allowing a private entity
to define for Indian Internet users what is ‘basic’,
to control what content costs how much, and
to have access to the personal content created and used by millions of Indians

is a lethal combination which will lead to total lack of freedom on how Indians can use their own public utility, the Internet. Facebook’s ‘free basics’ proposal is such a lethal combination, having several deep flaws, beneath the veil of altruism wrapped around it in TV and other media advertisements, as detailed below.

Flaw 1: Facebook defines what is ‘basic’.

The first obvious flaw in the proposal is that Facebook assumes control of defining what a ‘basic’ service is. They have in fact set up an interface for services to ‘submit’ themselves to Facebook for approval to be a ‘basic’ service. This means: what are the ‘basic’ digital services Indians will access using their own air waves will be decided by a private corporation, and that too one based on foreign soil. The sheer absurdity of this is too obvious to point out.

To draw an analogy, suppose a chocolate company wishes to provide ‘free basic food’ for all Indians, but retains control of what constitutes ‘basic’ food — this would clearly be absurd. Further, if the same company defines its own brand of ‘toffee’ as a ‘basic’ food, it would be doubly absurd and its motives highly questionable. While the Internet is not as essential as food, that the Internet is a public utility touching the lives of rich and poor alike cannot be denied. What Facebook is proposing to do with this public utility is no different from the hypothetical chocolate company. In fact, it has defined itself to be the first ‘basic’ service, as evident from Reliance’s ads on Free Facebook. Now, it will require quite a stretch of imagination to classify Facebook as ‘basic’. This is why Facebook’s own ad script writers have prompted Mr. Zuckerberg to instead make emotional appeals of education and healthcare for the poor Indian masses; these appeals are misleading, to say the least.

Flaw 2: Facebook will have access to all your apps’ contents.

The second major flaw in the model, is that Facebook would be able to decrypt the contents of the ‘basic’ apps on its servers. This flaw is not visible to the lay person as it’s a technical detail, but it has deep and disturbing implications. Since Facebook can access un-encrypted contents of users’ ‘basic’ services, either we get to consider health apps to be not basic, or risk revealing health records of all Indians to Facebook. Either we get to consider our banking apps to be not ‘basic’, or risk exposing the financial information of all Indians to Facebook. And so on. This is mind boggling even under normal circumstances, and even more so considering the recent internal and international snooping activities by the NSA in the US.

Flaw 3: It’s not free.

The third flaw is that the term ‘free’ in ‘free basics’ is a marketing gimmick. If you see an ad which says ‘buy a bottle of hair oil, get a comb free’, you know that the cost of the comb is added somewhere. If something comes for free, its cost has to appear somewhere else. Telecom operators will have to recover the cost of ‘free basic’ apps from the non-free services (otherwise, why not make everything free?). So effectively, whatever Facebook does not consider ‘basic’ will cost more.

If Facebook gets to decide what costs how much, in effect Indians will be surrendering their digital freedom, and freedom in the digital economy, to Facebook. So this is not an issue of elite Indians able to pay for the Internet versus poor Indians, as Facebook is trying to portray. It is an issue of whether all Indians want to surrender their digital freedom to Facebook.

That the ‘Free Basics’ proposal is flawed as above is alarming but not surprising, for it violates one of the core architectural principles of Internet design: net neutrality. Compromising net neutrality, an important design principle of the Internet, would invariably lead to deep consequences on people’s freedom to access and use information. We therefore urge that the TRAI should support net neutrality in its strongest form, and thoroughly reject Facebook’s ‘free basics’ proposal.

Signed by:
Krithi Ramamritham, Professor, CSE, IIT Bombay
Bhaskaran Raman, Professor, CSE, IIT Bombay
Siddhartha Chaudhuri, Assistant Professor, CSE, IIT Bombay
Ashwin Gumaste, Associate Professor, CSE, IIT Bombay
Kameswari Chebrolu, Associate Professor, CSE, IIT Bombay
Uday Khedker, Professor, CSE, IIT Bombay
Madhu N. Belur, Professor, EE, IIT Bombay
Mukul Chandorkar, Professor, EE, IIT Bombay
Amitabha Bagchi, Associate Professor, CS&E, IIT Delhi
Vinay Ribeiro, Associate Professor, CS&E, IIT Delhi
Niloy Ganguly, Professor, CS&E, IIT Kharagpur
Animesh Kumar, Assistant Professor, EE, IIT Bombay
Animesh Mukherjee, Assistant Professor, CSE, IIT Kharagpur
Subhashis Banerjee, Professor, CSE, IIT Delhi
Shivaram Kalyanakrishnan, Assistant Professor, CSE, IIT Bombay
Saswat Chakrabarti, Professor, GSSST, IIT Kharagpur
H.Narayanan, Professor, EE, I.I.T Bombay
Vinayak Naik, Associate Professor, CSE, IIIT-Delhi
Aurobinda Routray, Professor, EE, IIT Kharagpur
Naveen Garg, Professor, CSE, IIT Delhi
Amarjeet Singh, Assistant Professor, CSE, IIIT-Delhi
Purushottam Kulkarni, Associate Professor, CSE, IIT Bombay
Supratik Chakraborty, Professor, CSE, IIT Bombay
Kavi Arya, Associate Professor, CSE, IIT Bombay
S. Akshay, Assistant Professor, CSE, IIT Bombay
Jyoti Sinha, Visiting Faculty, Robotics, IIIT Delhi
Joydeep Chandra, Assistant Professor, CSE, IIT Patna
Parag Chaudhuri, Associate Professor, CSE, IIT Bombay
Rajiv Raman, Assistant Professor, CSE, IIIT-Delhi
Mayank Vatsa, Associate Professor, CSE, IIIT-Delhi
Anirban Mukherjee, Associate Professor, EE, IIT Kharagpur
Pushpendra Singh, Associate Professor, CSE, IIIT-Delhi
Partha Pratim Das, Professor, CSE, IIT Kharagpur
Dheeraj Sanghi, Professor, CSE, IIIT Delhi
Karabi Biswas, Associate Professor, EE, IIT Kharagpur
Bikash Kumar Dey, Professor, EE, IIT Bombay
Mohammad Hashmi, Assistant Professor, ECE, IIIT Delhi
Venu Madhav Govindu, Assistant Professor, EE, IISc Bengaluru
Murali Krishna Ramanathan, Assistant Professor, CSA, IISc Bangalore
Sridhar Iyer, Professor, CSE, IIT Bombay
Sujay Deb, Assistant Professor, ECE, IIIT Delhi
Virendra Sule, Professor, EE, IIT Bombay
Om Damani, Associate Professor, CSE, IIT Bombay
V Rajbabu, Assistant Professor, EE, IIT Bombay
Hema Murthy, Professor, CSE, IIT Madras
Anupam Basu, Professor, CSE, IIT Kharagpur
Sriram Srinivasan, Adjunct Professor, CSE, IIT Bombay
K.V.S. Hari, Professor, ECE, IISc, Bengaluru
Shalabh Gupta, Associate Professor, EE, IIT Bombay
Suman Kumar Maji, Assistant Professor, CSE, IIT Patna
Udayan Ganguly, Associate Professor, EE, IIT Bombay
Rahul Banerjee, Professor, CSE, BITS Pilani
R K. Shevgaonkar, Professor, EE, IIT Bombay
S.C. Gupta, Visiting Faculty, CSE, IIT Delhi
Ashutosh Gupta, Reader, STCS, TIFR
V Krishna Nandivada, Associate Professor, CSE, IIT Madras
Ashutosh Trivedi, Assistant Professor, CSE, IIT Bombay
Ganesh Ramakrishnan, Associate Professor, CSE, IIT Bombay
Amit Patra, Professor, EE, IIT Kharagpur
Jayalal Sarma, Assistant Professor, CSE, IIT Madras
Rajesh Sundaresan, Associate Professor, ECE, IISc Bangalore
Deepak Khemani, Professor, CSE, IIT Madras
Vinod Prabhakaran, Reader, TCS, TIFR
Saroj Kaushik, Professor, CSE, IIT Delhi
Kumar Appaiah, Assistant Professor, EE, IIT Bombay
Bijendra N Jain, Professor, CSE, IIT Delhi
Aaditeshwar Seth, Assistant Professor, CSE, IIT Delhi
Nupur Dasgupta, Jadavpur University
C.Chandra Sekhar, Professor, CSE, IIT Madras
Pralay Mitra, Assistant Professor, CSE, IIT Kharagpur
Krishna Jagannathan, Assistant Professor, EE, IIT Madras
Venkatesh Tamarapalli, Assistant Professor, CSE, IIT Guwahati
Ajit Rajwade, Assistant Professor, CSE, IIT Bombay
D. Manjunath, Professor, EE, IIT Bombay
Subhasis Chaudhuri, EE, IIT Bombay
S. Arun-Kumar, Professor, CS&E, IIT Delhi
Alka Hingorani, Associate Professor, IIT Bombay
Swaroop Ganguly, Associate Professor, EE, IIT Bombay
Shishir K. Jha, Associate Professor, SJMSOM, IIT Bombay
Sabyasachi SenGupta, Professor, EE, IIT Kharagpur
Mythili Vutukuru, Assistant Professor, CSE, IIT Bombay
Harish Karnick, Professor, CSE, IIT Kanpur.
Piyush Rai, Assistant Professor, CSE, IIT Kanpur
Jayakrishnan Nair, Assistant Professor, EE, IIT Bombay
T.V.Prabhakar, Professor, CSE, IIT Kanpur
Nitin Saxena, Associate Professor, CSE, IIT Kanpur.
Sundar Viswanathan, Professor, CSE, IIT Bombay
Sushobhan Avasthi, Assistant Professor, CeNSE, IISc Bangalore
Sumit Darak, Assistant Professor, IIIT Delhi”

Source :- FirstPost

Please follow and like us:

You may also like...

Enjoy our website? Please spread the word :)