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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.

Figs on Ycombinator adds, "Wouldn't you also need 'free hardware' to avoid the risk of your device being used against you? If you're not willing to trust the software on your phone, why would you trust that there isn't a tracking device built directly into the chips on the phone?"

Another Ycombinator reader puts partial trust in open source, however, saying "Without a completely open stack, you cannot really know what airplane mode does."

On Fark, reader Dangl1ng writes, "Sure, you can have a PC running 100% not-just-open-source-but-GPL'd software and it can surf the web, send e-mail, store your images, maybe even print to certain brands of printers or halfway kinda-sorta utilize your NVIDIA GPU. That's great. But it doesn't achieve anything politically. It doesn't change any landscape."

Stallman "talks about how free software in the phone could protect you from eavesdropping (not surveillance)," Streptomycin on Ycombinator says. "He is correct. If everything was encrypted, eavesdropping would be impossible. But they could still track your position."

Stallman is right, but impractical:

"He makes perfectly valid and compelling points but then shoots himself in both feet by using the word 'Stalin,'" Angdis on Ycombinator writes. "Language like that just alienates people. The dude needs a filter."

Terevos2 on Reddit says, "I'm glad that we have Stallman to defend freedoms and whatnot. I'm also glad that he hasn't completely won, because in his world, proprietary software wouldn't exist - thus limiting my freedom. My problem is that he essentially calls proprietary software evil. It's not. It's good. Open source software is good, too. They both have their place."

A Slashdot reader points out that GNU and Hurd, the kernel Stallman never finished building, is not yet on cell phones so there's no practical alternative.

"Trying to get everyone to stop using mobile phones is a little bit far fetched," Billy the Boy on Slashdot writes. "It's also not like you can make the cell phone technology in any other way. Location tracking will always be possible. That's why there are laws that restrict access to such records. AND if you really want to blow up a pizza place, leave your phone home that one time. And the social problem of non-free software? People do not care. They never have, they never will. I doubt Stallman cares about every little detail about things he uses but isn't that interested in. When he is cooking his tv dinner, he just wants a microwave that works."


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