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You are here: Home Bulletins 2019 Fall The Respects Your Freedom (RYF) certification process

The Respects Your Freedom (RYF) certification process

by Donald Robertson Contributions Published on Nov 27, 2019 04:17 PM

Respects Your Freedom (RYF) is our certification program for retailers selling devices that users can trust. Gaining certification is not an easy process, and so we appreciate every retailer who values freedom enough to work through the application with us. Users value the certification because finding hardware that respects their rights can be extremely challenging. We take our responsibility for verifying things for users very seriously, and so we wanted to share more about the process.

If the online presence for the product is live, then we begin our review with checking out the Web site. We want to ensure that users can review and buy the device without having to rely on any proprietary software, such as nonfree JavaScript. We also want to find out how documentation is presented online, and make sure that the retailer is not directing users to any nonfree items. RYF is about more than just a device, so we are also checking to see that the retailer is supportive of the free software movement. RYF certification is about respecting the user in all aspects of their interaction with the retailer, and that interaction begins with the Web site.

As we work through issues with the site, we also begin our review of the source code associated with the device. We want to know how this source code is provided to the user, and whether it is included with the device when shipped, or via a written offer. We also want to know what lies hidden within the source code. Sometimes nominally free software packages can include binaries for which no source is available. They can also sometimes include source code under a nonfree license. We work with the retailers to sort out these issues, and submit bug reports upstream where applicable.

After that, we review the materials that are included with the device, such as packaging and documentation, making sure everything meets our criteria. Once the application level review is complete, we can move on to the second phase of actually reviewing the device as delivered to the user.

For this phase of the process, we require retailers to send us a sample device, delivered to us in the same form as a user would receive it. At this point, we are looking to ensure that what the user receives matches up with what we reviewed during the application phase. We review the actual packaging and included materials, and the source code as delivered to the user. We also build and install the software on the device, to ensure that users actually have the ability to get modified versions of their software up and running.

Once the review of the device is complete, we do a final last minute check to make sure we haven't missed anything. Throughout this process, we've been providing feedback about potential freedom issues, and while we want to see those particular issues resolved, we're also testing the retailer's ability to address any issues that users report to them. These systems are very complex, and something may fall through the cracks. Being an RYF retailer means that you have the commitment and capability to respond quickly to reports of freedom issues after being granted certification. So the entire process acts as a test run on those capabilities. Once we are satisfied, the retailer gains certification, and the ability to use the RYF mark when selling the device.

With nearly fifty currently available certified devices, and another fifty devices working through the above application process, our current simple Web site can't quite keep up with the program's rapid growth. Thus, we're launching a redesigned RYF Web site that will allow users to more easily search by retailer or device category. Check it out at

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