Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Facebook is a surveillance engine, not friend: Richard Stallman, Free Software Foundation

The Economic Times

"You know about the two rules right for interviewing Richard?" a volunteer asks before leading us to meet Richard Stallman, the man who fights for free software day in and out. One, don't use the term Open Source to mean free software.

Two, don't say Linux but say GNU/Linux. Dr Stallman, who started the Free Software Foundation in 1985 to promote freedom to create, share and modify software, is extremely sensitive to whether the goals of his initiative are rightly communicated.

A computer engineer and self-proclaimed hacker, the 58-year-old Dr Stallman lives the life of an activist. He lives frugally, like a student, he has said once. The philosophy behind the support for free software reflects in other things too.

During this interview, he gave back a Kinley water bottle, because he doesn't consume Coca-Cola bottles for the way it handles labour. Ditto is his feeling about Walmart. He uses the low-profile Lemote Yeeloong computer, browses the Net only once or twice daily and doesn't own a cell phone, because he believes it creates privacy issues.

He's a Green Party supporter. And can cut down to size all the new age iconic business corporations, which he has done in this interview. In fact, in what raised a storm, he re-quoted the famous lines 'I'm not glad he's dead, but I'm glad he's gone,' after the death of Steve Jobs. Excerpts:

How do you see the recent move by Facebook to go for listing?

I don't care about that. Facebook mistreats its users. Facebook is not your friend, it is a surveillance engine. For instance, if you browse the Web and you see a 'like' button in some page or some other site that has been displayed from Facebook.

Therefore, Facebook knows that your machine visited that page. So, Facebook carries out surveillance over visitors to thousands of different Websites, even for people who are not Facebook users. I hope we will have something for free browsers to block Facebook 'like' buttons so that people won't be under surveillance.

In any case, this is why I ask people not to put photographs of me on Facebook, because Facebook collects data about the names of people in photos. It might as well be working directly for Big Brother.

Mark Zuckerberg says the likes of Google and Microsoft are collecting information behind your back.

They all do it in a secret way. Facebook collects a lot of data from people and admits it. And it also collects data which isn't admitted. And Google does too. As for Microsoft, I don't know. But I do know that Windows has features that send data about the user.

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