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Theme fund: NGI0 PET
Start: 2020-10
End: 2020-10
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Services + Applications


Open source form server

Cloud services that offer handling of online forms are widely used, for questionnaires but also for gathering data within schools, associations, volunteer organisations, civil society and even families. While these cloud services (such as Google Forms and Microsoft Forms) can be quite convenient to create forms with, for the constituency which has to fill out these forms such practices can actually be very invasive to their privacy - as many forms not only include personal details such as their name, address, gender or age, but also a lot more intimate questions - up to medical details, political information and life style background. In many situations there is a power asymmetry between the people creating the form and the users that have to supply the data through that form. Often there is significant time pressure. No wonder that users feel socially coerced to comply and hand over their data, even though they might be perfectly aware that their own data might be used against them.

This project will produce a free and libre software solution to create online forms, and to manage the outcomes. The goal is to make something for regular humans: user-friendly, non-intrusive and light-weight. The project aims to make self-hosted form management easy even for novice users, so data can be kept safely on-premise or with a hosting company you can trust. Something that can be used by our neighbours, friends, colleagues and anyone else who respects privacy and understands the moral obligation of the creator of a form to protect the privacy of the people that are supposed to share data with them.

Why does this actually matter to end users?

Technology can make things easier. Instead of having to travel and meet somewhere, you arrange a phone or video call. Instead of sending documents around, you collaborate with your colleagues in an online document. The same thing can be said for online forms, which saves us the hassle of ticking boxes on a page (and prevent a tree getting cut down as well).

Technological solutions, however, can also introduce new problems. In the case of online forms, you can imagine the privacy and security issues when you fill out information about your personal health in a Google- or Microsoft-form, which stores this sensitive data on an unnamed server somewhere you can only hope is managed and updated properly. Unfortunately this is what happens a lot, even for forms you need to fill out to access public services or contact organizations providing vital utilities. This is a quite peculiar blind spot for organizations and businesses that are required to keep your private information safe, but nevertheless use third party technology that handles very sensitive data outside of either your or the organization's control.

This project will offer a transparent alternative for online forms you can create and host on your own, where only you (or a host you trust) manages the information filled in. Because not everyone knows how to host your own technology, Liberaforms aims to make self-hosting forms accessible even to first-timers, so everyone from a major organization to your local sports club can send out a form and be assured that no data will get lost or forgotten somewhere, but remain completely under your control.

Logo NLnet: abstract logo of four people seen from above Logo NGI Zero: letterlogo shaped like a tag

This project was funded through the NGI0 PET Fund, a fund established by NLnet with financial support from the European Commission's Next Generation Internet programme, under the aegis of DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology under grant agreement No 825310.