In today’s episode, Tom and Tracy Hazzard talk about free CAD software, and how most of them are not really free. These software usually come at the price of privacy, of dealing with ads, of having your profile up there on the internet, etc. They discuss some possible ways to change things for the better.
Free CAD Software Is Not Always Free
Today, we want to talk about that free CAD software, “free”, and how it’s really not always free. We had a unique experience lately with our daughter and her school. That’s really brought this up. I think it’s a subject that a lot of people will be able to relate to or a lot of you may not realize what you’re doing when you’re using some of these free CAD software.
They actually said it’s a Google account and she’ll have a Google Drive that is intended for an elementary school student, but it’s going to follow her, this account will follow her through her entire education within the school district here where we live in California. If she goes all the way through high school, she’ll have this same Google Drive for all those years. It’s going to follow her and it’s also going to profile her, which is a problem that I have with it. As we were looking this over and reading all of this, I think that a lot of parents just sign the thing and probably don’t really realize the implication of what it is. They’re encouraging you, and this is where it got to me, was it’s encouraging you to sign it because this allows them to get the software access and the software stuff for free. The school’s not paying for it and that’s the benefit to our students is what they’re claiming.
I sat back and said, “No.” As I’m looking through this list of software and we’re exploring this, Tinkercad was one of the ones on the list. That’s why this came up and is relevant to WTFFF. As we’re looking through all of this list and realizing all of that, it really hits me that CAD software, free CAD software, free Google Drives are not really free, that they’re coming at a cost of both privacy, profiling and thinking about the future for our children, of ad pushing. That’s really what goes on with Google specifically. If you’re setting up a profile and you understand everything that drives our child, everything that is about her or what she likes, what she’s interested in, you can imagine how much harder as she grows up that those ads will be to resist.
They claim that they’re not specifically profiling them, that it’s not specific, they’re not allowed to target ads at our child, but they are allowed to build a profile on them, which means that when they are of age, they will be allowed to target them and they will be targeting them with very, very specific knowledge about them. Even if they’re not storing personal information to be used in a particular way, still they are data mining and building a profile on our child, on third graders in general, third grade girls.
I’m just going to say from my perspective, I don’t believe Google has the students’ best interest at heart, they have what’s Google’s best interest, but they’re sugarcoating it in this, “You get the use of software for free,” but for that, you’re allowing them to profile your students. The reality is they are going to be targeted, they are going to know exactly the type of things they’re more likely to respond to and target ads and other offers to them.
That’s one of the things that also bothered me about the way that they talk about it. All of those software that qualified, like there was a couple of criteria that were main criteria for qualification, they were not allowed to target ads, they were not allowed to put targeted ads within any of the softwares that they were allowing to be on the approved list of software. But it didn’t say there would be no ads. There still are ads being served. As an advertiser, I’d be a little pissed if I found out. This is what happened to YouTube with the YouTube slap. Some of the advertisers found out that their ads are being served on unsavory YouTube videos and got upset about it. If I found out that I was paying for the ads, the views of my ad, I was paying for it on a bunch of students who aren’t allowed to do anything with that, I’d be a little annoyed as an advertiser.
There’s really some serious issues with allowing ads at all within the software in general. It’s not just from the user side, but it’s also from the advertiser side. There’s a problem right there, but they also specifically say that the only thing that they’re not allowed to do is collect user information. They’re not allowed to require them to fill out a profile and put all their personal information in there and all of that. Those are the only blocks that they require in order to qualify as a software. I thought that doesn’t really go far enough to me and I think that it should go farther.
Let’s come back to Tinkercad on this. I know with Tinkercad, you have to sign up for an account with Autodesk in order to use it. It’s an online software, all your stuff is stored online. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but then here’s what bothered me about, it is now our daughter has already a Tinkercad account but the school won’t let her use that account. She has to have an account that is from within this whole Google system and the software is available there. She’s going to have another account with her school ID. Now, we got two accounts out there. That’s the other thing that bothered me a little bit about this.
The other reality of it is I don’t necessarily think that for someone learning at home, if you’re concerned about having a profile out there and your child having an identity on the internet at too young an age, there are alternative free CAD software that you can use. We reviewed one of them called Morphi App. I was pretty impressed with that because I could just download that to my iPad and then let my daughter use that. First of all, she had a much easier time using it because it’s tablet based and not computer and mouse based, which took a little relearning for her. You could actually stay offline working with this thing and not have a profile out there. There are other free CAD software to consider.
The reality is we would let our daughter use a Tinkercad profile that we created. In a sense, it’s an adult profile, we created it, it’s ours and we’re letting her use it. I think that’s a much more safer and monitored way of going about using these programs. That’s not going to occur in this situation, not only do you have two accounts, but it’s not occurring in that, I’m not overseeing it, I can’t login and find out what she did. That’s also another problem in the scope of things.
I also just think the in general, we’re not really being very vigilant about requiring from them what they are using it for. I think this is a really great opportunity for someone to do something really good just for the schools and for the students. I really think this is an opportunity for a CAD software company, for a 3D print manufacturer, for someone to go in there and really having programs. My point is that if this isn’t really free, if this is at the cost of future ad dollars or current ad dollars or all of those things, then you ought to do more to the school, you ought to do more for my child than just give it to them for free. Maybe there should be a scholarship program, maybe there should be dollars, for every amount of use or things that are happening on the ads that are served up there, a percentage of that is going directly to that school for their STEM program.
There’s a lot of things that you could really do that make a difference and make it okay for me to say, I’m happy to have my child opt in because it’s going to have a direct result for her and her school. At least somehow the organization that is using this would get more benefit than just using software for free, which a lot of the programs they’re using honestly are for free for people to use anyway. I think it’s a fantastic idea. I just keep thinking maybe Google ought to be paying for my child’s higher education at some point. A kickback into some kind of scholarship program for the amount of time she’s spending online with them, for the amount of time she’s using Google and all of that, there ought to be a percentage kickback for her.
But really, is there a way for us to protest that or to say, “We think these don’t qualify and here’s why”? There wasn’t any kind of process for that either. I think that that’s also something that if you’re running a makerspace or you’re running a club or school program, you ought to have a way for parents to not only see that transparency in what they’re getting and what’s happening with those programs, but also a way for them to say, “I don’t agree with that.”
We have a good friend here whose daughter is in the same class as Lannea. He’s an IT professional. He never signs the form. That’s what happened last year. I don’t know if he’s going to sign it this year. We haven’t talked to him about it, but I’d be very curious to hear what he thinks about it because I know he wasn’t happy with it before because he’s a professional in this and knows that some of the things that they’re agreeing to are not necessarily in our child’s best interest. In the past, he hasn’t done it. That always was very concerning to me because if an IT guy is not allowing his own kid to use the tech, that tells me that we should be concerned.
Here’s the thing, was she using the tech? Are they even managing that? To me, they should have a class login and you would have a guest login. Are the kids being able to still use that, but only under a guest login? That’s the way it should always be. To me, it shouldn’t be any kind of individual login. I wish they had a better way to do it. Anyway, we’re stuck. We did sign it. Although I did write a note on the bottom saying, “I’m signing it under duress. Here’s my reasoning for it.” I just feel like you should say something. I wasn’t mean about it, I just said, “I don’t think this is a really great program. I invite someone to call us to talk about it further.” We’ll see if that happens.
Anyway, just consider this. There’s a lot of wonderful free CAD software out there and that’s a great thing, but just remember, free is not always free, it comes at some kind of cost. Maybe it may not be financial monetary cost, but you’re probably giving up something for it in order to use it for free. Could be limited features, people do that. It could be, you’re interrupted by ads. There’s always something in there, but free is not free. Maybe it’s perfectly acceptable to you, and that’s certainly fine, there’s nothing wrong with that. All we’re saying is user, beware.
Investigate, read the policy, check it out. Also, I think it’s really an opportunity for a makerspace, a school, for them to do something different and really be truly demonstrate that you have an understanding and capability of the tech you’re managing. There are lots of opportunities and lots of things to consider. Hopefully, we’ll see things change and more options out there. This is a side of free CAD software that we really haven’t talked about before. We’ve reviewed half a dozen of these free CAD softwares at least on WTFFF and on 3DStartPoint.com. They’re great programs in many, many ways, but this is one aspect that causes us a little concern. We should really all be vigilant for our purposes, our own privacy, not just our kids’, but for ourselves as well.
Let us know what you think of this. As always, be respectful with us, we’ll be respectful with you. We don’t want to have an argument, but we can have a constructive debate. Let us know what you think, leave a comment or reach out to us anywhere on social media @3DStartPoint. Thanks again for listening. This has been Tracy and Tom on the WTFFF 3D Printing Podcast.
Listen | Download | View
Hear the episode of the WTFFF?! Podcast by using the player above OR click to download any episode.
Help Us Help You!
Have some feedback? Leave a comment below. We will read and respond
Please also review us on iTunes and share via the social media of your choice.