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A discussion about freedom, data protection and cryptocurrencies

August 12, 2020

Dr. Richard Stallman is known for his dedication to the free software movement. His speeches and work revolve around one concept: freedom. And it was precisely this word that prompted Stallman to start the GNU project, to found the Free Software Foundation and, among other things, to release the GNU General Public License to promote the concept of free software.

RMS, like Dr. Stallman also has some opinions on the concept of cryptocurrencies that have been widely debated in the crypto community.

Three freedoms

In order to understand the concept of freedom that Stallman often mentions in his speeches, he explains the difference between “free software” and “open source” as the latter term is often wrongly ascribed to his work:

“The idea of ​​free software is a matter of what is right and what is wrong. Of justice and injustice. The idea is that users deserve control over the software they use. You, the software user, deserve control over the software you are using, and you deserve to be able to partner with other users to exercise that control jointly no matter which groups you choose to be in. Specifically, there are four key freedoms that users must have in full control of a specific program. ‘Freedom 0’ is the freedom to run the program the way you want, for whatever purpose. ‘Freedom 1’ is the freedom to study the program’s source code and modify it as you wish So the program does what you really want. You can use these two freedoms yourself. “

A discussion about freedom, data protection and cryptocurrenciesA discussion about freedom, data protection and cryptocurrencies

According to Stallman, the other two freedoms have to do with working with others, since Freedom 2 is that the freedom to “make exact copies and give them to others whenever you want”::

“‘Freedom 3’ is to make copies of your modified versions and distribute them when you have made them, using Freedom 1. With Freedom 2, we make and distribute these copies whenever you want. When users do these four you have substantial freedom, then you control the program individually as well as together. “

Stallman makes it clear that when the free software movement began in 1983, there were people who liked free programs that “nOur community had evolved, but they found his philosophy too radical for speaking of good and bad, not just ease, success, etc.“.

CBDCs and the concept of privacy

People from the crypto and general tech communities have spoken about the Chinese government’s goal of launching its own central bank digital currency (CBDC), as well as the Bank of Thailand’s plans to start a pilot of yours Payment system at CBDC with the largest supplier of building materials in the country. However, Others believe that CBDCs could be a surveillance method for governments to monitor the financial activities of their citizens. Stallman blames the Chinese government’s “totalitarian surveillance” for this mistrust:

“Digital payment systems are inherently dangerous if they are not used to ensure privacy. China is the enemy of privacy. China shows what totalitarian surveillance is. I think it’s hell on earth. This is part of the reason I do.” I didn’t use the community issued cryptocurrencies. When the cryptocurrency is issued by a government, people are monitored in the same way as credit cards and PayPal and all of these other systems are totally unacceptable.

However, he sees no contradiction when talking about the emergence of the cryptocurrency concept and the fact that it could be issued by a government:

“The contradiction is a very specific concept. What is a cryptocurrency? It’s the use of a certain technological method. When a government implements that method, I don’t see it as a contradiction. But when the government uses it as a surveillance device, I find it malicious . “

The founder of the Free Software Movement explains the concept of “privacy” when he talks about the privacy of cryptocurrencies:

“What is privacy? Privacy is being able to say and do things without knowing that some powerful entity can use it to attack you. In general, the things you do shouldn’t be put into a database. The things.” Some people you say they shouldn’t get into a database. Now the exceptions are sometimes justified. We want the government to investigate. This needs to be changed a little. We want the government to investigate crimes and catch criminals And for this, private information may have to be obtained from and about people. “

Stallman also calls for laws restricting the use of face-recognition cameras on the street or license plate recognition cameras, and makes the United States an argument in favor of implementing surveillance methods:

“We need laws that restrict the use of such cameras to ensure that databases that track people in the city during the move cannot be compiled. Any systematic attempt to identify people other than those subject to certain court orders, Perhaps a limited exception because its borders are safe for society. They will not lead to general oppression. This is the approach that must replace privacy. “

This question and answer has been edited slightly for context.

Cointelegraph: What’s your personal experience with cryptocurrencies? Have you ever made a transaction with something like bitcoin?

Richard Stallman: The answer is no. I don’t make digital payments, and the reason for that is because the systems in place don’t respect users’ privacy and that includes bitcoin. Every bitcoin transaction is published. Now people may not know my wallet is mine, but if I had used it more than a few times it would be possible to find out that it is me. People with enough information could do it. I prefer to use cash. And that’s how I buy things.

I write checks in the mail for a number of things that companies know who I am. When I pay the electricity and gas bills, I have an account with these companies and I have to pay for it. They send me bills on my behalf so I won’t lose anything by also sending them checks on my behalf. But when I go into a store and buy something, the store has no right to know who I am. And I’m not going to let you know who I am, so I don’t use existing digital payment systems.

There is one other thing that I don’t like about Bitcoin and that is that it’s easy for tax evasion. Well, I don’t, but there are companies that do large amounts of tax evasion and that is a big problem. It impoverishes most of us. This means the government doesn’t have enough money to do the things the government should be doing. There are many things that the government must do to have a society that is good for everyone.

Cointelegraph: What About The Different Bitcoin Mods Designed For Privacy?

Richard Stallman: I am not convinced of them. In any case, the GNU Project has developed something much better, namely GNU Taler. GNU Taler is not a cryptocurrency. It’s not a coin at all. It is a payment system used to make anonymous payments to businesses to buy something. It is anonymous by a blind signature for the payer. However, the beneficiary must identify themselves with every purchase in order to withdraw funds from the system. So the idea is that you can use your bank account to receive Taler tokens and you can spend them and the beneficiary cannot tell who you are.

It cannot be determined that you received the token from any particular bank account at any given time, even if you did. In order to convert your payment into cash in their own bank, the business (the beneficiary) must identify themselves. This provides privacy in a much more reliable way than cryptocurrencies and blocks the idea of ​​using this system to allow tax evasion.

GNU Taler recently had an exciting milestone. A few months ago, the Eurozone banking system was interested in supporting payments with Taler, and recently, through a test setup, they managed to get Taler tokens with a bank account and transfer them to another bank account via the Taler system. Now it’s not something that everyone can use, but it will be, and it’s going to be very exciting.

Shops can accept payments in thalers. This is helpful initially with digital purchases, as the website can send you the data you have requested over the same connection when you pay with a thaler. You don’t have to know who you are just that you paid. Using thaler payments for deliveries is a little more difficult. This requires a basically anonymous mail system. If there are collection boxes and different places, post offices, convenience stores that are not part of a monopoly like Amazon – by the way, I absolutely boycott Amazon, I never bought anything through Amazon and I tell people not to buy people with me via Amazon – but if the delivery boxes were independent of a company so everyone could deliver to them, you could use a suitable delivery box and include that along with your payment and the product would be delivered there. You would have a code to prove you were the buyer of this.

Cointelegraph: What do you think of Facebook’s Libra project?

Richard Stallman: I have not tried to study anything about the details of the Facebook money project because the most important part of it is already known. It is connected to Facebook and Facebook stands for surveillance. I urge people to join me and refuse to use Facebook, or rather be used by Facebook. Because Facebook has no users. Facebook used. So don’t be a fool, don’t let Facebook use you.

Cointelegraph: Have you seen anything lately that could change your mind about cryptocurrencies?

Richard Stallman: My criticism of cryptocurrencies is nothing new. I’ve felt this way since I first saw her. Now I’m not against them. I don’t campaign to remove them, I just don’t want to use them. I am sure that studying the source code of Bitcoin is an extremely interesting program, but out of curiosity I do not have time to study the source code of the program. I’m so overworked that if I wasn’t working, I wouldn’t choose it.

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