Open Source Pundits Sound Off on Surveillance

by Ostatic Staff - Oct. 18, 2013

This week, some very high-profile voices from the open source community have been sounding off about surveillance and privacy invasion. Free software and open source guru Richard Stallman has an op-ed piece on the Wired site where he discusses the "social pollution" of surveillance. And, Rafael Laguna, who co-founded the open source cloud firm Open-Xchange is cautioning users against using public cloud services such as iCloud. He even goes so far as to advise users to use Firefox OS phones instead of iPhones.

Stallman, of course, is loudly vocal about pervasive surveillance. I've reported before on his refusal to even carry a cell phone.  A few months back, he told Network World:

"I don't have a cell phone. I won't carry a cell phone. It's Stalin's dream. Cell phones are tools of Big Brother. I'm not going to carry a tracking device that records where I go all the time, and I'm not going to carry a surveillance device that can be turned on to eavesdrop."

Rafael Laguna, quoted in a Guardian piece, echoes this thinking:

“I feel much better if I can think that some people check whether the stuff that’s being done with my data is decent. What do I know? I mean, do you know what your iPhone does? You don’t, right, because it’s a closed stack. And it’s doing crazy stuff, you know it’s doing crazy stuff, but you’re still not worried enough to not use it anymore."

Laguna cites Apple and Google as sitting on top of scary amounts of personal data, and cites new Firefox OS phones as being much more transparent and trustworthy than "closed stack" phones.

Stallman, in his Wired piece, which is a good read, staunchly defends open source:

"Using free/libre software, as I’ve advocated for 30 years, is the first step in taking control of our digital lives. We can’t trust non-free software; the NSA uses and even creates security weaknesses in non-free software so as to invade our own computers and routers. Free software gives us control of our own computers, but that won’t protect our privacy once we set foot on the Internet."

"The Electronic Frontier Foundation and other organizations propose a set of legal principles designed to prevent the abuses of massive surveillance. These principles include, crucially, explicit legal protection for whistleblowers; as a consequence, they would be adequate for protecting democratic freedoms — if adopted completely and enforced without exception forever."

 Meanwhile, Google's earnings, reported yesterday, were up nearly 40 percent. You can count on them to gathering up ever more of your personal information.