You can get arrested without a reason - Richard Stallman | SophieCo. Visionaries

You can get arrested without a reason - Richard Stallman | SophieCo. Visionaries

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00:11
[Music] and welcome to you selfie code visionaries me sophie shepard nazi the last few months have put data protection back in the spotlight during a crisis of this kind do we have to choose between safety and privacy well i talk about this with richard stallman digital privacy activist and the founder of the free software movement richard stallman digital privacy activist the founder and leader of the free software movement it's such
00:45
a pleasure to have you on our program once again wow richard times have really changed since the last time me and you spoke and i have so many questions especially now that we're in the middle of one of the biggest crisis our generations have faced in the past hundred years so the coronavirus epidemic has shown that giant tech companies can use their resources to help out in a crisis situation and that's undeniable i haven't seen that well i mean i
01:17
haven't seen them help us the main thing that they're doing right now is helping people spread insane lunatic rumors that are starting from the president of the u.s who is basically uh the saboteur in chief acting just like a lot of rebellious chieftains that told their followers uh my magic will make you invulnerable to bullets well trump is telling his followers
01:49
uh you're invulnerable to coronavirus and they expose themselves and some get sick and they die and he says it didn't happen no you got a point there but can i just give you a few examples of what i meant when i said that yeah they helped for instance when people were in lockdowns and still like a lot of countries are getting second waves right now and people feel more comfortable staying home if they can work on distance so you have amazon for instance delivering goods food utilities things that you need
02:22
uh but you don't need to thought it's horrible because they track you you know if i were concerned only with my physical safety i might use those services too but i define safety in a broader way it includes my health it also includes my freedom and my privacy and therefore i never use those disservices that require people to identify themselves and they do
02:52
to get food delivered that way you have to give you have to identify yourself in order to pay you can't pay cash and then you have to give your address to and that's more information that i than i want the supermarket to have about me so i go to a supermarket wearing a mask of course and keeping my distance from people and i pay cash and then i carry my groceries back
03:22
in this way i am not having data about me put in a database because the only data the only personal data that isn't about you that isn't a threat to you is the data that hasn't been collected it's a distraction to talk about protection of data in the databases because the real way to protect your privacy is make sure that data isn't collected about what you do or where you go or who you talk with
03:54
or what you say to them um so we're going to be talking all um the program about whether people should be choosing between safety and uh privacy but let me just go with no no it's not a choice privacy is part of safety remember that one of the biggest dangers these days is political safety safety for instance from governments that are repressive or authoritarian and cruel and if the more they know
04:27
about what people are doing the more dangerous they are collecting data is part of their technique for repression and then there are the movements you know anti-truth movements such as you could find many governments supporting and they benefit from digital systems too targeting ads to people is dangerous and it's based on knowing a lot of things about people well facebook doesn't know very much about me
04:59
because i've never been a zucker okay no i i see your point about facebook but i still want to hear your opinion for instance about something like zoom or facetime a lot of people around the globe were able to keep their jobs by communicating and doing meetings and brainstorming and just working via all those apps it's unfortunate that they didn't use free software you know there is free software freedom respecting software is what that means i don't mean its gratis that's not the issue that's a
05:31
side issue uh but the point is zoom is not a freedom respecting program it does what the company decides and the users can take it or leave it but unfortunately especially since march many users have been put in a position where the option of leaving it means giving up their jobs well i would you know i've never used zoom i don't use non-free software i don't allow it onto my computer
06:02
if someone says to me i'd like you i'd like to speak with you but it has to be with zoom i say that is out of the question i suggest the following other program we could use a freedom respecting program that's controlled by the users not by some one powerful entity and if they'll accept that then i can talk with them but those that don't accept that i can't talk with and i decline because i'm protecting my freedom and my
06:34
freedom is part of my safety with what the wrecker is turning the united states into i don't think people here will be very safe okay here's another question that concerns the bigger picture coming out of pandemic so the partnership between tech corporations and the governments has grown even closer as a result of the common effort to keep things functional in abnormal times so when governments develop an even closer partnership with let's say google right
07:06
and will use google's resources for public services will you stop using public services as well because i mean they'd be contaminated by the data no although it does cause me concern you know there are some reasons why governments need to know some things about people the government needs to know my income and your income in order to tax us properly now the u.s government doesn't try to operate fair taxation it taxes most people too much and rich
07:38
people far too little but even if that were fixed the government would still need to know how much money each one is making and how much money each company is making if if the government were to try to tax these companies properly it would need to know data so it's not always wrong that the government gets data about people but each thing that it gets has to be justified in fact governments especially for their repression agencies are collecting a lot
08:10
more data about people over and over we've seen the united states government and i presume the russian government collect data systematically on dissidents protesters and so on and it's this has been happening for decades so the most sensitive data about you are where you go who you meet and what you and the other people say to each
08:42
other these are the things that must not be spied on and any systematic attempts to spy on them must be stopped so consider for instance clearview ai which has a face matching service it has collected photos of hundreds of millions of americans i think and then it will match photos you take a photo on the street uh it'll match it another next second
09:13
you take another photo because suppose it's a video camera it's taking photos all the time and so you could match every photo that shows up and the government could be doing this i'm sure some agencies are agencies that don't hold our freedom in very high esteem so this should be absolutely illegal people must be allowed of course to take photos from time to time you know suppose you watch uh agents of the state arresting somebody and cracking sticks
09:45
over his head well you should be able to make a video of that but uh to do this systematically in lots of places all the time that has to be illegal because it will lead to a society where no one can meet anybody else in private and we see what that's like we see it in xinjiang where the uyghurs are being repressed in this complete fashion
10:15
so fundamental freedoms are at stake when we limit the collection of data by digital systems and so no i don't think that those systems are helping people and a non-free program since the users don't control what it does you've got to assume it's designed to do nasty things and in so many cases we have evidence specific evidence that a non-free program
10:46
is designed to do specific nasty things if you want to see hundreds of cases look at gnu.org malware richard we're going to take a short break right now when we're back we'll continue talking with richard stallman digital privacy activist and the founder of the free software movement talking about whether we should be choosing between safety and privacy stay tuned [Music] and we're back with richard stallman digital privacy activist and the founder of the free software movement talking about the fact whether we should
11:30
be choosing between privacy and safety so richard there are calls for trust busting in washington aimed against the big tech in the most radical scenario do you think the tech giants should be broken up i mean how can this be done and when it damaged the digital ecosystem we already got in place well i don't see anything you know most of that digital ecosystem is unjust and i'd like to get rid of it and i don't use it so uh
12:02
i have i don't think it's doing any good i won't use it because the impositions are unacceptable the terms of service are often unjust and controlling and i say no to them i never agree to such a thing without reading it you know and uh often it requires you to run a non-free program and i won't ever run a non-free program on my computer so there are websites i can't talk to
12:32
and we need to do more than just break up those companies i'm not convinced that you know breaking up the largest companies would reduce their power to that extent it would be a good thing and we need to do that in all fields in the past 20 years or so we have seen enormous consolidation of businesses in the u.s often there are just two main businesses in a field and those are your choices
13:05
and uh i think we should amp up antitrust to the point where we've got 20 or 30 substantial businesses in each field if that's if they're not that many it's starting to be in oligopoly and that's too much domination by business if we want companies like google and amazon and so on to stop collecting data about what people are doing just breaking them up is not
13:38
enough you know if we had a hundred smaller companies in place of google and each one collected data and each one contributed to the misuse of that data by several competing ad tech companies it would still be unjust and it would and the government could still collect all that data silently at any time with national security letters so we wouldn't be safe either from targeted ads or from government
14:07
tracking of dissidents so what we need is to prohibit designing systems so that they identify people and record what people do in the new project the operating system project i started in 1983 we have developed a program for anonymous payments called gnutollar now the payer is anonymous but the store that you're paying that's identified so
14:38
dollar can't be used for tax evasion that was one of its goals but you can pay for something and the store you're paying can't tell who you were so as long as the rest of the system also doesn't identify you and we need lost and new protocols to make sure it can't you'll be able to buy something digitally anonymously and if you buy something else tomorrow it'll be impossible to tell
15:09
that you were the one who bought both but here's the funny thing um it really seems like it's only now during the corona times that people have become seriously aware and concerned about their digital privacy i mean it's been there forever right you could have thought about before and there are people who thought about but but not in masses and i wonder why i mean haven't we traded our personal data for comfort a long time ago and and more importantly now that our digital presence has increased times fold because of the
15:42
pandemic isn't it too late to worry what you mean we white woman i never treated people privacy for conveniences i have been rebuking people for this terribly foolish practice for decades but i couldn't get people to listen to me i went around saying this is an abomination you must stop and
16:15
people mostly ignored me and some people understood my arguments you know i'm not asking people to take this on faith you can check the points and recognize the validity of what i'm saying but the companies have engineered situations where the inconvenience of saying no for one person is so high that most people won't say no and it's the fact that
16:46
others are not saying no that keeps almost everybody in line you have to be willing to go against that pressure as i do and then you can say no so when they claim they're not actually forcing you well literally speaking that's true you're not being forced to have a facebook account you're not being forced to have a google account you're not being forced to have a microsoft account although if you want to buy a new windows machine and and log in on it you're almost forced to
17:19
have to make a microsoft account but you can say no to all of these things but we need to make it easy for people to say no that's the reason why i developed the new operating system because it you know to say no to non-free software in 1983 you had to have no computer well in 1983 most people had no computer but of course computers became more and more
17:48
common and normal to own and it but by then we had the new plus linux operating system which made it not too hard to run a computer and say no to all that non-free software that's the point make it easier to say no less of an inconvenience to say no so more people will say no but since two since 2000 or so mobile computing has developed and it's
18:19
unjust from the very roots you can't install any free operating system on an eye monster or on most android devices it's just impossible the hardware is designed so that you can't so once you accept those devices there are a few android devices that are possible to liberate i should point out but then you can't run the non-free apps that people use to do most things with
18:51
them so uh it's going to be hard to reclaim freedom and we're going to have to work at it but as people recognize from examples like xinjiang uh what repression digital systems lead to i hope people will start fighting and saying we won't tolerate systems in our streets in our homes
19:21
that can possibly track what we're doing who we talk with who we go see we have to have laws against those systems here's another question you know of course when i start to think about my personal data being collected yes i don't like the fact and i understand that it can be used to manipulate my behavior and influence my opinions i know that and it can be used to arrest you yes absolutely and some thinkers that i spoke to during these
19:53
uneasy times told me that they may be okay with their data being collected as long as they know for what do you think transparency could work here i mean would you be okay with giving your personal data if you knew exactly how it is going to be used well how could i know such a thing i could hear what somebody tells me it's going to be used for how do i know that it won't in fact be used for other things that's a much harder problem in many
20:25
cases i would accept the collection of certain data for certain purposes but i would always ask the question why should we trust you there are not very many governments i would trust to know things about me and trust them to use that data only for the good purpose that they've stated because i know that so many governments are tracking people and trying to pretend
20:56
they're not and repressing some people you know this kovic pandemic is actually only spitting up what we already have and that is digitalization of everything and in many for instance gas stations you can't even fill up a tank without a credit card anymore it's hard to be in touch with people if you're not on facebook and what's worse if you don't have an email so here's the question are we heading into a reality where using digital technology would be
21:26
sort of mandatory not by law but by spirit of time there is a danger of that of course i think it's an exaggeration to call that digitalization of quote everything unquote but certainly many things and enough to make it dangerous and i call for laws against that i don't think it should be lawful for a gas station not to accept cash i don't think it should be lawful for a
21:58
food store or restaurant not to accept cash so you you what you're talking about basically is the reversal of the trend absolutely if the trend is dangerous we must reverse it but how can it be done on practice now that everyone sort of jumped on that engine and it's going and we don't really know how to stop it you know it's so easy to look at how hard this task is and give up but i've succeeded at
22:30
supposedly impossible tasks before when i started developing the new operating system some of my friends said oh yes this is what we need but it's hopeless it's too late the job's too big i give up they didn't even try to help because they gave up fortunately some of my other friends and some strangers said yeah i want to help and we got it done thousands of us and it is possible therefore to reverse dangerous trends there are a lot of
23:05
dangerous trends in the world one of them is a greenhouse gas emission you know if we don't reverse that trend that pretty damn fast then civilization may collapse under all the fires droughts crop failures floods diseases civil wars you know globalized manufacturing may not work anymore because a civil war
23:37
over there in one place you don't normally think about prevents the production of food widgets and there's no way to make any anymore for two years but and meanwhile during that time five other things can't be made and suppose no computers can be made and nobody knows how to live without computers so it could all crash but even bigger than that there's an even bigger trend that we also must defeat and that is plutocracy
24:09
the tendency for the rich to control governments such that democracy is a sham now this is the situation in the united states a study determined that since the late 90s public opinion no longer correlates with federal government policies they seem to be determined entirely by two things what rich people want and what the special interests in any particular issue want well that's
24:41
not democracy and that's why we've been unable to get things like a national medical system a green new deal and various other things that people almost all want but the politicians keep opposing and one other one aspect of plutocracy is of course the influence of money in politics the ease of uh destroying a candidate with false rumors distraction campaigns they're all tools
25:12
of plutocracy you know some people worry that russia will manipulate the u.s election through facebook and twitter well i'm sure it's trying to but i'm even more scared of the rich americans who are doing even more of that so uh you know we have these horrible trends and we have to reverse them somehow and the paradox is the only reason it's hard is
25:44
because each of us thinks i'm alone what could i possibly do or even i and my ten friends what could we possibly but if you try sometimes your effort grows and grows so you must try richard on that optimistic note i want to thank you for this wonderful chat that we had me and you you gave me a lot to ponder about and i hope that our viewers will
26:14
also have something to think about and decisions to make after this reviewing this talk of ours thank you so much and good luck with everything thank you very much [Music] you

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