Public not Facebook users but ‘Facebook used’ - Stallman
Founder of Free Software Foundation injects skepticism into Web Summit
“We’re not Facebook users, we’re the Facebook used,” he said, claiming that the social networking giant was morally unacceptable due to the amount of data gathered on users and they way in which it is used.
What on the surface seems anathema to the Web Summit ethos, Stallman in actuality appeared to inject a healthy dose of skepticism into the proceedings by addressing privacy concerns of the modern, digitally connected citizen.
“We know now that the internet has been converted into a massive surveillance engine,” Stallman said, adding that all digital technologies enable this abuse of surveillance.
He wears a badge declaring: “Don’t be tracked. Pay cash”. This is in reference to the fact that Stallman not only avoids credit cards but also doesn’t browse the web on his laptop and aims to withhold as much personally identifiable information as possible.
“I don’t want a database to know what I bought or where I was.”
He doesn’t own a mobile phone either. He never has. “Once I found out how they can track users and be remotely configured into listening devices through back doors I thought ‘this is Stalin’s dream’. Some things are too important to give up in exchange for convenience.”
A few years ago there may have been raised eyebrows at Stallman’s words but in a post-Prism world following countless phone tapping incidents and where the NSA is alleged to have accessed Google and Yahoo’s oversees servers, it doesn’t seem so unrealistic.
Stallman is known best for founding the Free Software Foundation and is a pioneer of “copyleft”, a way of ensuring that software can be distributed freely while preserving those freedoms for all.
“If all the software we use is free then we have control over the computing we do on our own computers. You should reject any programme that isn’t free because if the user isn’t controlling the programme, then the programme is controlling the user,” he said.