Richard Stallman, father of free software. Image by HumanIPO.
Software freedom founder and activist Richard Stallman has encouraged South Africans to take a stand against e-tolling, as it posed a threat to people’s privacy.
Speaking at the University of Cape Town (UCT), Stallman encouraged South Africans to campaign against e-tolling for the same reasons as they should campaign for software freedom.
“E-tolling is a similar threat – please join campaigns working against it,” Stallman said.
He believes the system is too surveillance-orientated, as it could be designed to be anonymous and still serve its purpose.
“E-tolling is not just an inconvenience, it is a threat to democracy,” Stallman said.
Standing firmly against all forms of censorship, Stallman discussed the subtle systems of surveillance, malicious spyware and other vices of taking control from the public users.
He explained most software, even Microsoft Windows, has built-in malware to track user data.
‘Open source’ software is often misunderstood “because the people wanted to ignore free software”, believing the banning of proprietary software was too radical.
Linux/Gnu was developed in 1963 by Stallman to modify software without the malware, putting the power back into users’ hands.
Stallman believes educational institutions should take the lead in not accepting gratis proprietary software, comparing them to free drug needles.
“With free software, the developers don’t face the same temptation. They know that they are going to have power and that power corrupts… to gain additional power,” he said.
Refusing to supply any identification details on web-based platform is one way the man himself refrains from allowing his personal movements to be tracked.
“If we don’t want to be mistreated, we have got to stop them from getting the data,” Stallman said.
He mentioned Apple as one of the top mobile spying companies, describing “i-things” as “monsters” with continual built-in surveillance tools, which continues spying even if powered-off since its batteries are removed.
“I can see that mobile phones are very convenient but they are Stalin’s dream,” Stallman said.
E-voting is also another myth of ‘privacy’, as the users are monitored up until the moment they vote online.
Platforms selling books online, such as Amazon, are also perpetrators as they delete material bought by the user and keep track of users’ activity.
Stallman believes it is every citizen’s duty to “stick a finger in the eye of big brother” to remain free.
He is currently travelling worldwide to spread awareness of his cause and also work further on modifying software for free use.
“Censorship is more disgusting than any cause,” he said