Richard Stallman on Snowden, NSA, etc.

Techbytes 2013

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Summary: The first part of a series about privacy

TODAY we officially begin a series of interviews with Dr. Richard Stallman, as [cref 69689 promised last week]. Stallman was proven to be right on the issues of privacy and freedom as more information was being shown for everyone to see how surveillance is used to control users’ behaviour and distort/impede communications in some cases. As more evidence came to light, showing in concrete form what a lot of people already knew but could not always prove, there was a lot to be discussed not hypothetically but realistically.

This is the first part of many and the transcript follows (some parts were too incomprehensible due to low recording quality, so we duly apologise for inaccuracies).

Dr. Roy S. Schestowitz: As I said before, I think the plan was mostly to focus on things that we hadn’t touched before and primarily things to do with privacy. I think we were — and many people were — advocating for freedom in technology were proven to be correct in the sense that on the issue of privacy and freedom everything seems to be very symbiotic and I think in recent weeks we found that more and more people have woken up to the fact that they need to assure they can control their software.

Richard StallmanDr. Richard M. Stallman: It’s not just about what happens in your computer. With Free software you control what happens in your computer, but of course there are other systems of snooping. The NSA is setting up snooping that we have been reading about recently. They don’t work through software in your computer. So, what this shows is, a) they have {users must have} control over the software in your computer; b) we need to work politically to make sure that the software that’s not in our computer — the systems that are not ours — are nonetheless not being used to snoop on us.

RSS: I think information is increasingly being used to change behaviour in people and also to distort the ways of communication between entities and I think that routers, for example, play a role in the way in which we interact with computers, so I wonder what your take is on the [snooping] in routers, many of them [are] Cisco ones.

RMS: Ed Snowden, I think, said that the NSA takes control of routers in order to monitor Internet traffic in other countries.

RSS: It is actually proven to be the case and any interested person who researched this subject before would know that Cisco was working with the Chinese government to enable things like sending E-mail port back to communication and such things, so we do know that there is a degree of collusion between them. I think we’ll touch on this later when we’re just thinking the possibility of back doors. But I think it’s more evident now that it comes to light, showing in concrete terms what we already know was probably happening all these years.

RMS: There are many routers you can get that you can then install free software into. So if we are talking about your router, then yeah, you should put Free software into it. But when you talk to other [incomprehensible] it’s critical to ask first if they are not yours. And some of them will belong to companies that might very well be collaborating with surveillance. And Free software is not going to fix that problem, because if that company which [incomprehensible] for its switch/routers was to collaborate with the NSA, it is going to collaborate with the NSA or the Chinese government or whatever. So, Free software means you can control over the software or what your computer is doing or your computers are doing, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the other organisations you deal with are going to respect your privacy.

RSS: Unless of course we use encryption, for example.

RMS: Yes. Of course encryption in itself doesn’t disguise who we are talking to and it’s been played out that if the government knows who knows who, then it is a tremendous start on breaking any dissident movement.

The next part will be published in a few days.

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