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Are cell phones 'Stalin's dream'? Readers weigh in

Jon Brodkin | March 16, 2011
Stallman is right. Stallman is a crackpot. Reactions to Richard Stallman's warnings on cell phone surveillance.

Stallman has no "shades of gray," says Slashdot commenter DrgnDancer, who objected to Stallman's opinion that proprietary software is "a social problem" and "an evil."

"Fanatics make terrible representatives for a cause, because in a world with billions of people, the chance to get even part of what you want, without some sorts of compromise, is non-existent," the commenter writes.

"Cell phones have been critical tools in every recent freedom movement," writes Reddit commenter LegionSB. "Surveillance is a concern, but the rapid communication power is incredibly valuable. The idea that they are Stalin's ideal is ludicrous. Stalin would most certainly not have enjoyed dealing with a young populace carrying smartphones with cameras and Twitter."

"I respect the concept, but I am pretty sure Stallman is crazy and has been for some years," Fark commenter Tziva writes. "I don't mean like 'wild and revolutionary in his viewpoints,' I mean like crazy. Every time I read an interview with the guy, I cringe. This is actually one of the better ones."

One Reddit commenter accused Stallman of hypocrisy, saying "I spent a couple days with rms... a couple years back" and "he definitely has an (old school) cell phone, and uses it." For the record, Stallman was using a cell phone when I interviewed him, but it was one that he borrowed from a friend.

Sure, cell phones can be used to track me. But who would want to?

My favorite comment came from a Redditor named Frukt: "Let them track me. Must be the most boring job on Earth."

"There is no reason for the FBI to have any interest in me," a reader on Slashdot wrote. In response, a commenter named Hazel Bergeron writes, "You are probably less relevant than RMS. But there are many powerful interests which would have interest in tracking and eavesdropping on him, so his argument is sound."

Free software can't save us:

"The Chinese government runs the Great Firewall using primarily open source technologies," writes Samatman on Ycombinator, but it's not clear which open source technology he's referring to. "Free software on phones? If anyone can sideload whatever they want onto any platform they want, it's the Chinese. How does this help you, when the cellphone towers are tracking your phone's every movement, and when attempts to evade that tracking are sufficient to get you arrested or worse? The nature of the license for the software running on a radio has nothing to do with the ability to triangulate that radio, sadly."

 

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