[NetBehaviour] How Much Surveillance Can Democracy Withstand?

marc garrett marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Tue Oct 15 11:10:12 CEST 2013

How Much Surveillance Can Democracy Withstand?

Richard Stallman | Wired.com.

Editor’s Note: Given Richard Stallman’s longtime role in promoting 
software that respects user freedom (including GNU, which just turned 
30), his suggested “remedies” for all the ways technology can be 
re-designed to provide benefits while avoiding surveillance — like the 
smart meters example he shares below — seem particularly relevant.

The current level of general surveillance in society is incompatible 
with human rights. To recover our freedom and restore democracy, we must 
reduce surveillance to the point where it is possible for whistleblowers 
of all kinds to talk with journalists without being spotted. To do this 
reliably, we must reduce the surveillance capacity of the systems we use.

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.

Bipartisan legislation to “curtail the domestic surveillance powers” in 
the U.S. is being drawn up, but it relies on limiting the government’s 
use of our virtual dossiers. That won’t suffice to protect 
whistleblowers if “catching the whistleblower” is grounds for access 
sufficient to identify him or her. We need to go further.


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