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Reasons not to use Facebook (stallman.org)
605 points by jestinjoy1 on March 14, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 362 comments

I honestly don't understand why people value Stallman's opinions on these matters so highly. I completely disagree with him on essentially everything he writes about these topics.

Granted, he's an incredible programmer who contributed immensely to the development of our modern operating systems and the tools we use, and people here love to bring that up ("what - you DON'T KNOW WHO STALLMAN IS? SHAME? HOW DARE YOU CRITICISE HIM?")

Does this make his opinion on Facebook or privacy or freedom any more correct or valid? No.

Just like I wouldn't listen to Usain Bolt if he were trying to teach me the biological mechanisms behind doping, I can't see why Stallman's opinion is considered so correct in these matters.

IMO his ramblings about personal liberties and freedom being infringed by everything under the sun from Amazon to Google to Facebook are oversimplified and childish. The world isn't black and white and he obviously fails to understand the entire point behind many of these companies. When Facebook makes you use a real name it's not because theres some "Mr. Evil" at the top level plotting to steal your freedom, it's because it leads to a better working social network.

Just his description of AirBnB is ridiculous: "Airbnb requires you to run nonfree software (an app, or Javascript). It puts you in a data base easily available to Big Brother (just like a hotel)."

That's an immensely stupid argument, because any _viable_ company that wants to provide a service that a consumer other than Stallman himself will use will "infringe" on those two idiotic requirements.

TL;DR. Just because he did something amazing in one field/area, doesn't mean he is not spewing complete BS. For a similar example, see: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/dec/01/dna-jam...

People value Stallman’s opinions on these matters so highly because he has a remarkable history of being right about them ten or fifteen years before it becomes clear to everyone else that he was right, and he takes the risk of saying what he sees even when it will offend people. In fact, that’s why he’s famous; he’s certainly a good hacker, but the world has quite a number of good hackers who aren’t famous because they didn’t notice the political and social aspects of what they were doing the way Stallman did.

I am not going to bother to rebut your examples in detail, but I will say that I seriously doubt that you were present when Facebook decided on its names policy or that you have much access to information about what effects it has had, and you seem to think companies didn’t exist before 1995.

Can you give an example?

For instance, I was aware of Stallman in the 1980s, read his writings back then, didn't think they were correct, and the future he predicted has not come to be. Yes there are some of us who are that old. Specifically, he said that without the virility of his license, there would be no free/open source software and that all software would be locked down and proprietary.

The entire open source movement is a disproof of stallman's position from that period.

He has repeatedly claimed that companies won't contribute to open source, and so you have to force them to with the GNU license, and yet history has disproven this one.

Given that this is pretty much the central tenant of his ideology, and it has been markedly disproven over the past 30 years, I too wonder why people listen to him.

Here's a funny one: Stallman came to my uni to give a speech to CompSci alumni 10 years ago, and he told the audience that he didn't own a cellphone, cos phones were being used to track people. He also talked about the backdoors in several OS's. Everybody was laughing at his words. We're talking 10 years ago.

Few months ago remembering this speech with old uni mates we talked about how damn right that excentric man was. He saw it coming, and tried to warn everybody... Maybe he's a bit of an "extremist", but he certainly has a point.

This, exactly.

Stallman is taking a stand here. We might think that he is a dangerous extremist for his actions and stances (Not using proprietary software, mobile phones, javascript-enabled websites). But what he is actually doing is sacrificing his life to make his points (which are for the most part completely valid). I would guess, even he knows that most of his ideals are impractical in today's world, but he is walking the walk and planting the flag firmly, saying this is "How thing should be".

The difference between a crackpot and a visionary is that what the visionary says make more sense as time passes. IMO, Stallman's track record is infallible in this regard.

As someone who interacted closely with RMS for several days recently, I think I should set the record straight on one important fact. RMS absolutely uses cellphones. He just doesn't own one himself. Instead, he borrows the phones of the people around him, and his assistant collects those people's phone numbers in order to call him.

What this says about his philosophy probably depends significantly on how irritating you find it.

That said, it's worth noting that it's certainly not that he doesn't care about the privacy of others. I had to pull him away from lecturing innocent bystanders about paying at the grocery store with CCs.

This reminds me of that article that made the rounds a little while back about the Amish. How they absolutely use technology, they just have a different perspective on it than we do. It strikes me that Stallman does the same for principles. What we think his principles are is not the same way he considers them.

I have his book, and his practicality has always struck me, juxtaposed against his idealism, it just looks really strange. You don't expect to see him doing certain things. But then you ask him about it and he's got a perfectly reasonable explanation. I've read so many stories about people that have interacted with him in precisely that way.

Both Stallman and the Amish take a very long view. Every decision they make carries the entire weight of the future and must be considered in that light. They both fight against the constant march of modernity. They are institution builders.

As a person who is only one person, society only changes when one person can reveal or demonstrate to others the concepts that form the ground of the argument.

Otherwise it's just crap stuffed up in your own head.

For him, it is more irritating to live in a world that thinks it is okay to regularly violate people through crossing boundaries of what they consider personal information. For you, it is more irritating to go into a public space and have to deal with other people's opinions.

Everyone is fine with things as long as things are perfect for them. But you can't just wear blinders over your eyes when other people are obviously suffering, and just because you can't empathize with why those people are suffering doesn't make their suffering any less deserving or worthy of understanding, lest you expect the world to treat your suffering in the same cold, disconnected, blinded manner.

I'm sorry he embarrassed you, he would probably embarrass me too in the day to day minutia. But I absolutely stand by him mentally, because I believe and value the world he believes in and values. In theory everything is honky-dory. In practice, society and the individual actually has to deal with problems as they exist. Otherwise they fester and turn into more difficult problems that take a long, long time to understand - some of which are very very difficult to understand after enough time has passed and enough damage has been done.

I can't tell you how much I as a programmer and computer scientist, how much I have benefited from the movement that came from Richard Stallman. I can't tell you how much my mind has benefited from it. I don't care that his actions contradict his core philosophy. They are attempts at connecting a gap between theory and real life.

If the source of code was as privatized and closed as some kinds of knowledge can be, I'd be nothing. I consider it a privilege to share an existence with a person who has helped shaped the world in that way, no matter how annoying or crotchety or irritating he may become. There is always a difference between the ideal a person represents and the person they are. It comes at a high cost to be a public figure, but some people see the value of the world they want to create for everyone to be worth more than that - and maybe that's what the people around him who allow him to use their cellphones see too.

I don't really see where you're getting your opinion on me here.

The thing I found irritating was RMS constantly borrowing my phone (and having to help him use it each time...). He can have whatever opinions he wants.

I guess the question is, what would happen if everybody actually listened to RMS and stopped using cell phones?

This is not a valid way of judging RMS or his claims. He isn't complaining about the concept of a technology that allows people to talk while on the go. Rather, he is complaining about the specific implementation of mobile tech with which we're currently saddled.

To answer seriously, however, the largest effect of reduced cell phone use would be that automobiles would be much safer, for their passengers and for everyone else.

More to the point, if people - en masse - refused to use cellphones that tracked you, someone would be selling cellphones that don't. And then RMS would presumably carry a cellphone.

Someone did(http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2013/09/30...). He ended up in jail on trumped up charges.

Then again, in the case that an auto accident does occur, there might not be someone with a cell phone to immediately call emergency services.

Just to point out a bit of an overly binary comparison: There is a middle ground here — consider a powered-off, pre-paid phone. No constant texting and so on, but also there for emergencies (in which instance, you turn it on exactly when you actually want to be tracked — by emergency personnel).

"911, 911, we had an accident because everybody in the car kept texting and facebooking during the whole ride. 911, 911, it's a good thing we have cellphones and tablets with us!"

as jessaustin remarked, "[RMS] is complaining about the specific implementation of mobile tech with which we're currently saddled."

Listening to RMS would mean that if you do carry a mobile device, that it would use entirely free software including all drivers and bootloaders, that it only communicates with other hardware running entirely free software (i.e. only basetowers or wifi routers running free software), and that all the internet services accessed ran entirely free software (e.g. private email servers instead of gmail, pump.io & GNU social instead of twitter & facebook, mediagoblin instead of youtube, wikipedia, yacy or some other free software for search, etc.

yes, though the specific softwares are unimportant. anyway, what is your point?

It'd probably inconvenience him because he wouldn't be able to borrow one from people next to him.

Of course phones were used to track people 10 years ago. And it wasn't even a secret. Location-based services were the hot shit back then for mobile carriers (at least in Europe).

Making that to be a big conspiracy to infringe upon everybody's freedom and privacy is what makes Stallman's position so ridiculous. It always sounds like the rambling of a technophobic. No, that's not entirely true. Like the rambling of an old man who wants computing and technology in general to be exactly like it was in the 70's when he was sharing a mainframe with his pals at uni, and who can't think of anything more innovative than that.

> Of course phones were used to track people 10 years ago. And it wasn't even a secret. Location-based services were the hot shit back then for mobile carriers (at least in Europe).

Bullshit; I remember trying to instill the same point to techies 7 years ago and a majority of technically competent people would say that, while possible, is not certain.

Hindsight is 20-20.

Even today, very few people accept to believe that the NSA actually leverages their technology to do mass tracking. Few people have an idea of the scale of their operations actually. Most of them now think they have the gear, but that they only leverage it in state investigations.

> Of course phones were used to track people 10 years ago\

"In 1996, a detailed description of ECHELON was provided by New Zealand journalist Nicky Hager in his 1996 book "Secret Power – New Zealand's Role in the International Spy Network""*

This was common knowledge in the 90's ~ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ECHELON

It wasn't common knowledge at all. When I tried telling people about ECHELON I was told it was a crack-pot conspiracy theory, despite the evidence being available.

There were a few people who actually extrapolated the technical abilities to their possible extents and realized what was possible, indeed probable, but they were not the majority.

Despite Nicky Hager's testimony before the European Parliament in 2001, here in Australia, many people didn't even realise the DSD existed (Now ASD) until about 2011, and a lot of their abilities weren't known until 2013. The collusion between the ASD and other foreign departments was ignored, or even seen as positive, by any main-stream press coverage at the time.

Saying this was common knowledge in 1996 is attributing your specialist knowledge to the entire population, who couldn't, and still can't, really be bothered by said knowledge. You may have known about it, but the vast majority of the world didn't. And now that they do, they sadly still don't really care.

As an example, there's now an Academy Award winning documentary relating to mass government surveillance available online, legally, for free. Do you think I can get any of my non-tech friends to watch it?

"Saying this was common knowledge in 1996 is attributing your specialist knowledge to the entire population, who couldn't, and still can't, really be bothered by said knowledge."

Bad effects from smoking were know for years, same with the effects of asbestos, DDT. These days, it's fracking, global warming, junk-food and lack of exercise.

These ideas were all and are currently in the media. People being the irrational beings they are pick and choose what they want to believe. Belief doesn't change the truth.

The effects of smoking, Fracking, DDT, asbestos, global warming and junk-food have all had industry campaigns defending them. The only one in your list that hasn't is lack of exercise. This isn't to say that everything is a conspiracy driven by industry, but to illustrate that popular belief is often driven by popularist campaigns.

I would say that truth doesn't change belief, and unfortunately, it's belief that people act on.

Sometime around 1996 or so I went to the National Cryptologic Museum, which is adjacent to NSA headquarters. There was a guy with a little folding table outside the museum selling cellphones for some reason. At the time I joked that you'd think that would have to be the absolute worst place to sell cell phones since anyone leaving what is essentially the NSA museum would know better than to buy a cell phone there. They could eavesdrop and track everything!

It was a joke, of course, but it anchors in my head that I was certainly aware of the vulnerabilities of the technology at the time.

Off topic digression - I was there with a couple friends, we were all scruffy looking 20 somethings. In the parking lot, a middle aged man approached us and if we were being recruited by the NSA. A reasonable guess, I suppose, given how we looked and where we were. Anyway, he then proceeded to go on a rant about how we should never work for them or it would destroy our lives and we'd regret it. It's strange this guy went to Ft Meade to hang out in a parking lot and tell people not to work for the NSA.

The museum itself is definitely worth a visit if you're in DC. It's a short drive outside the city.


If your mobile carrier offered a product to find the nearest gas station/hospital/supermarket 10 years ago (at least mine in Austria did), then of course it worked like that. At least in Austria and Germany, media regularly mentions police being able to locate people's phones by sending "silent text messages". That also uses the same principle. How else? People that knew about such tools and features, but did not realize that this obviously can be abused, how ignorant must they have been?

There's quite a difference between "we can know where you are if needed" and "we track where everyone is at all times, and provide this information to the authorities."

We're at the point now where we pretty much assume that the former implies the latter. It was not always thus.

The "we track where everyone is at all times" is a fundamental principle of mobile telephony. Your carrier always knows in which base station you're logged in, otherwise you wouldn't be able to send or receive anything.

It is a radio that ids itself with local towers. How would you build a cellphone that you could not track easily?

It could use an ephemeral device ID and make its paging-channel connection back to its home network via a Tor-like mix network. I know that sounds like goofy sci-fi talk, but you can actually do this today with free software on Wi-Fi: run TCP-only Mumble over Tor to connect to your Mumble server, and periodically generate a new random MAC address (like Apple’s new phones do) and set up a new Tor circuit.

What’s left is how to pay for the Wi-Fi access anonymously, if people aren’t willing to share it with you for free. If your wireless network access is all done through a centralized company, like a cellphone carrier, you could easily use one of the Chaumian centralized-issuer digital cash schemes from the 1990s: the “bank” is your cellphone company, and they sign a “blinded” form of a bunch of “coins”, which you later sign over to wireless base stations in exchange for bandwidth. The protocol assures that the base station can confirm that the coin hasn’t been double-spent and that it’s properly signed by the bank, but the base station and bank together cannot figure out which coin it was.

Yeah, in 2000, after a car accident, I was surprised that the 911 dispatcher couldn't locate me using my cell phone.

I guess people are talking about 2 different things though, one discussion is about the implications of a radio (you and others are talking about this) and the other is about government capacity to gather the information revealed by using a cell phone.

Everything about mass survaillance shifted from "stuff of crackpot conspiracy theories" to "retroactivelly obvious all along".

It's as if the useful idiots haven't even noticed that their rhetoric today contradicts entirely their rhetoric from five years ago.

I get annoyed by this because Stallman wasn't exactly predicting a hurricane, here. It's like making a conclusion about Ukraine. Nobody can prove it, but most people infer. Certainly since 641A and other even older signals those who pay attention received, the possibility of total surveillance was plainly apparent. The people who laughed it off were merely banking on the morality of government, but it was not a surprise at all that such things were technically possible. Those who paid attention already knew. Just no proof.

He was not some oracle of technical insight that nobody else had or shared. Many people made such claims long before he did. His free software ideals put him in a very good position to be retroactively proven right about surveillance, because the people who are super into free software and the people who practice real opsec end up looking fairly similar.

I'm not minimizing that he was right, just countering that we all were. And we failed to deliver the message and/or trusted in our government a bit too much. 641A should have been the catalyst. The EFF continues on it to this day. It took Snowden and the proof to get there, and we are still not there. I don't think we even know where the hell "there" is.

Another important thing to remember is had we listened, nothing would have changed. Us heeding Stallman and others wasn't the problem, it was a state actor perpetrating while making it nearly impossible to know about it. It makes us kumbaya a bit, maybe democracy could have fixed it, but all of us were (and are) almost entirely powerless in representative government. Even Joe Biden said as much on VICE the other night, just about a different topic.

Surveillance was going to happen. It was a done deal. The terrorists beat us the second those aircraft hit, because terror has driven us every minute since.

> It's like making a conclusion about Ukraine

I totally don't agree. Every Ukrainian can tell you what actually is happening. Media on the other hand are different story. They pretend some things aren't real and other are real ( depending on the country's origin opinion ).

I'm not gonna pretend I know exactly what is happening there, but I know a lot, a lot of Ukrainians ( here in Berlin ) that most certainly can tell you the story in a sustainable way that matches all the dots.

I don't want to sacrifice those hundreds of people on that Malaysian airplane that vanished, because "nobody knows what is happening". Sorry.

For the other part of your comment I mostly agree.

P.S. I don't want to do politics in HN, that's why I didn't write my opinion.

Right. You actually supported my point. The Ukraine thing was an aside and I don't want to open it up (much like you), but as you say, most Ukrainians can say what is happening. But can they prove it? The media aspect corresponds to the proof of the thing. I think short of a signature on an order to shoot down the airliner, there will always be just enough doubt to keep the nearly obvious conclusion at arm's length.

We said the same thing in different ways, because surveillance was almost identical. We all knew. We could explain it, probably even whiteboard it. But we had no way to show the world in 30 seconds without any ambiguity. Snowden gave us that. The government records your phone calls. Here's the unequivocal proof. Bam. Now you have peoples' attention, and it's turning out not even that is enough.

Neither of us are sacrificing anyone, rest assured.

"Many people made such claims long before he did." Could you give an example?

I also think it's dangerous to say that we shouldn't act because we are almost entirely powerless in representative government. Same argument could have been made against civil rights and suffrage movements throughout history.

Interestingly, though, those movements very much relied on their cohesiveness around a single, fundamental grievance.

Eventually they reached a 'cultural' tipping point and that brought about cascades of change.

Currently the field looks a bit different, as there's been an exponential growth in both the quantity of information, and the effectiveness of its delivery (via the media, technology) at lower costs.

This is, of course, not an argument in favor of inaction... I just think we should be wary of the fact that it's now a lot easier for capital to change culture (by way of advertising and private-interest media) than it is for culture to rally around a sustained idea long enough to produce legislative change.

(And remember a lot of these forces work in both directions, however I do believe the biggest benefits of technologies' reach will always be concentrated among those with capital)

I think it requires a bare minimum of effort to enumerate the scores of commentators who predicted the surveillance state and the need for opsec, because it's in the bedrock of the computer security community itself. One needed only attend DEFCON, especially after 641A, to hear enough about surveillance and countersurveillance to last a lifetime.

Hippies, free software, counterculture, copyleft, cypherpunks. All of that shares the same DNA. Stallman represents that culture sharpened to a point, and it's been the basic tenet of all of it that government does not have our best interest at heart. Cypherpunks exist, arguably, because of it. That'd be the example I'd offer, perhaps even that consumer cryptography itself exists.

I also didn't say that. You added a bit. I disagree with the addition.

I'm really confused here... you said "Many people made such claims long before he did." and I asked for an example. I didn't ask what movements he's a representative of and I don't know whether anyone who attended DEFCON heard about it. All I wonder is if their is one clear example of someone who made such claims long before he did?

What did I attribute that you didn't say? I assume you refer to "to say that we shouldn't act because we are almost entirely powerless in representative government" and I can see what you mean but what point was you making when stating that we're almost entirely powerless in representative government if not argue against taking action?

That's just it, though, the movement is the example. If you can't get there abstractly, John Gilmore comes to mind.

I also very clearly said nothing about action. You added that and I happen to disagree that we shouldn't act. Powerless in government is an orthogonal concept and you conflated them and disagreed with something I didn't say.

Ah I see, I suppose we interpret what I asked for differently. I had hoped for en example of some specific statement (perhaps from John Gilmore) that can be dated to more than 10 years ago, thus proving that "Many people made such claims long before he did."

It's not even that I doubt you, just that nagging feeling in the back of my head that say "He haven't given an example of a person making such a claim dated earlier than 10 years ago." I have to apologize because I feel that this has more to do with some mild form of OCD on my part.

Yes, you clearly said nothing about action (I don't see why you're adding "also" because that was exactly what I was addressing in my last comment?). I'm not sure what you mean by "Powerless in government is an orthogonal concept" and thus I wouldn't know how I conflated them (not even sure what "them" refers to, action and governemnt, powerless and government?)? I do agree that I made a strawman and for that I apologize, to clear this up could you answer the question in my last comment: "what point were you making when stating that we're almost entirely powerless in representative government if not to argue against taking action?"

Every one in tech thought 10years ago there are backdoors everywhere - well there were backdoors everywhere 20 years ago. And everyone thought government agencies use phones for tracking. The public opinion might have been different, but in tech circles this was and is mainstream.

"...in tech circles this was and is mainstream."

Things are different now. Take online tracking and privacy for example; many people in the tech community are perfectly fine with the online tracking carried out by Google and Facebook. They consider it relatively benign and useful. Some people (many?) are even happy to defend these companies over their tracking practices, are after all they are private companies, not government agencies.

The degree of tracking by these companies is unprecendented and often it's not even anonymous. Google, for example, has an entire OS that tracks you by default. It's tied to your identity, so it's not anonymous. If you have a Google or Facebook account, these companies probably already know more about your online behaviour than you know yourself.

At some point in the future, Google and Facebook may well be able to track you from cradle to grave. Does that sound far-fetched? Perhaps. Even now, Google's push into education means they hoard vast quatities of data about the online behaviour of students.

Even if you trust these companies, why is it considered perfectly acceptable for them to track you to such a relentless degree?

I can understand how the general public may be unaware of the privacy implications of such pervasive online tracking, but what excuse does the tech community have for not highlighting these issues and their privacy implications? Most of the reaction from the tech community over online tracking is equivalent to a "yeah, so what?" shrug of the shoulders.

I thought so too, but the outrage on HN over Snowden's revelations showed otherwise. Many people here were baffled.

Except that we knew all this 20 years ago. He's not really extremist at all. I guess he is just good at finding audiences that aren't up to speed.

Sounds like Nostradamus.

He said few things and based on his reputation people since hundreds of years take anything important that happens and bend it to fit his prophecies. 10 years ago me and my friends were well aware that police etc can listen to your mobile phones - I don't see big deal here. And none of my friends were that much in to computers or security.

Richard Stallman does have a lot of good ideas. But he also seems distrustful of anything that isn't entirely built on free software, and of anything at all to do with governments or corporations, and I think he gets praised for some keen insight when, really, anyone paranoid about the modern world and the government would have been just as insightful, although maybe not as literate. You shouldn't get credit for hitting a bullseye if you spray the target with an uzi.


Indeed. If only we had had Stallman right before Pearl Harbor, I'm sure he could have published a manifesto, saving everyone from the obviously impending doom and most importantly maintaining their FREEDOM!

> Specifically, he said that without the virility of his license, there would be no free/open source software and that all software would be locked down and proprietary.

If I were to guess, without GPL the Open Source movement may have looked very different. It might seem that GPL isn't essential today, but it may have been when the FOSS was learning to walk. Again, I don't see GPL as diminishing in importance, we'll probably see a resurgence in GPL as we start caring more about freedom.

> If I were to guess, without GPL the Open Source movement may have looked very different.

One could argue the other way, that the GPL seriously hindered the movement until more permissive licenses started becoming favored (like the Apache license).

Stallman predicted the total surveillance state, and warned of the very dire circumstances it put us all in.

I think the total surveillance state was a prediction made decades before Stallman. Or are we just ignoring acience fiction authors and philosophers?

They certainly warned us, and Stallman has picked up the light to be shone on these dark territories from others before him, but who in the contemporary era has done as much as Stallman to educate the public as to the dangers of the usurpation of technology by nefarious agencies?

I don't understand the need to denigrate Stallman for these deeds - what purpose does it serve to extinguish this light?

Basically, everyone working on it has done more than Stallman. All stallman does is post rants and demand adoration. He hasn't actually done anything. Well, he has opposed a lot of tools that would help protect against the surveillance state because they didn't fit his ideology.

I believe your point of view is highly naive, and very seriously deficient in intelligence. Stallman has worked tireless to enlighten younger generations of technologists on the issues of privacy and security in the dawning intelligence age. He is no cult figure - but who can you name who has done as much as he has to bring these issues to the table when, instead, quite viciously, the powers-at-large would rather it all be swept aside? Be careful that you are not becoming the very thing you are resisting, in this argument. Stallman is not the only figure out there working on this - thank the stars - but he has definitely been a leader of opinion on the issue of free speech, free technology, and just use of technology to allow peace - where many, many more would rather be using it all for war and oppression.

Perhaps you don't actually know enough about Stallman to be forming an intelligent opinion, yet. Here, educate yourself on his works: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Stallman

He's done a few GNU things you might not be familiar with. Things which have had a massive impact on the way technology has been made available to the masses. Without Stallman, there would be even more walled gardens by now, and fewer generations of new technologists, aware of their technological freedom to contribute to society in an open and free manner, out there in the world at large.

Please, reconsider your naive and ill-formed opinion. It does you no good.

Have you ever heard of George Orwell?

It's like you guys go to some sort of indoctrination camp and become members of a cult.

What an offensive thing to say. Of course I've heard of Orwell.


What is it about you which predisposes you to reject someone just because "they weren't the first"? It is you exhibiting cult-like behaviour in this case, if all you can do to denigrate and negate Stallman is say "but, but .. he wasn't the first" and assault his character as if he is some sort of ripoff artist.

So what? Orwell is dead, and rapidly becoming irrelevant in the younger generations. Whereas the still-alive and relevant Stallman has tirelessly fought to educate people on the misuse of technology by nefarious, anonymous actors, in a grand and increasingly dangerous fiasco. Your desire to negate Stallman as a personality would have only one effect: to remove a significant barrier for the rising super-surveillance state.

What are your intentions in doing so, precisely? You wish to see what Stallman fears, and which is enslaving us all, come to pass?

The entire open source movement is a disproof of stallman's position from that period.

Open Source movement did not happen in vacuum. It was a direct followup to 'Free Software' movement.

He has repeatedly claimed that companies won't contribute to open source, and so you have to force them to with the GNU license, and yet history has disproven this one.

You do know that the Linux Kernel, among the most important software projects in the world (if not the most important one) uses GPL and the Linus himself knows that as a direct result of using GPL, right?

Of course, the bazaar model makes Open Source very attractive to companies and many do open source their work. However, the bazaar model happened and the companies where enlightened about it because Free Software Movement happened. Bazaar model was a consequence to that.

> Open Source movement did not happen in vacuum. It was a direct followup to 'Free Software' movement.

I was there, buddy.

The Open Source movement existed before GNU. The homebrew computer club and magazines and BBSes of the day all involved people sharing their source code with each other without a license in most cases, or explicitly in the public domain. The FSF GNU license was a reaction to this, to try and shut it down.

How old were you in the 1976-1986 period? Were you there?

The whole "FSF created open source!" is post-hoc ergo propter-hoc rationalization to grandstand and justify his campaign.

> You do know that the Linux Kernel, among the most important software projects in the world

Oh, no, I've never heard of Linux. Do tell!

Seriously, I was there. I was doing open source between GNU even existed. It was how things started out-- with hobbyists sharing code.

I was there too, and what you're saying is false almost from beginning to end, with only a few tidbits of truth mixed in to make it plausible.

Yes, of course lots of people were sharing their code before GNU. I mean, that's why SHARE was founded, and why it was called SHARE, back in 1955. The novelty was the proprietary software movement, with moves like IBM ceasing to ship source code, Micro-Soft claiming a copyright on their BASIC implementation, and James Gosling implicitly threatening to sue Stallman for using code from Gosmacs ("the great Emacs copyright debate"), which he'd previously shared without any explicit license.

That's what the FSF was a reaction to and an attempt to shut down — not people sharing software without a license, but the attempts of pirates like Gosling and Gates to privatize it. Richard totally deserves credit for starting a movement to preserve what had previously just been the normal way that people did things, once it came under attack.

But none of this was "Open Source", which is a marketing term for free software that Chris Peterson suggested at a meeting on February 3, 1998. (I wasn't there, but I know a bunch of people who were.) In a non-public but widely Cced email within the next few days, Eric Raymond tried to recruit all the prominent free software developers to the new campaign; Stallman and Deutsch, as I recall, refused in fairly strong terms.

BSD doesn't owe any of its origination to GNU, and it is impossible to say what it would look like if GNU never happened.

(The point being, capital letter Open Source as a movement owes something to Free Software, the notion of sharing liberally licensed source code does not)

Actually, Keith Bostic has gone on record saying that the reason he started trying to strip out the AT&T bits from the BSD kernel was because he was inspired by GNU, and wanted to see if the BSD kernel could work as a kernel for GNU. Maybe in Open Sources, I don't remember.

I wrote the comment thinking that the BSD releases in the early 1980s had been released under the 'BSD License', I even did some amount of checking (I can't remember what evidence in particular made me decide to post). I see from looking more carefully this time around that the ~1980 license from Berkeley was not the same thing as the later one.

Well, it's also true that the liberalization of the later versions of the BSD license (removing the advertising clause) was at least in part a result of FSF pressure. But that wasn’t what I meant. I had thought that the early BSD releases were under the four-clause BSD license — but you needed the AT&T Unix source code to compile them.

However, this turns out not to be the whole story at all. I tried rooting around in http://minnie.tuhs.org/cgi-bin/utree.pl?file=4BSD without any success at finding a 4BSD license. http://www.oreilly.com/openbook/opensources/book/kirkmck.htm... has Kirk McKusick’s recollection of the history of the licensing; up to at least 4.3BSD-Tahoe in 1988 it’s talking about “site licenses” rather than free-software licenses, and all the recipients needed AT&T licenses as well. It wasn't until the NET-1 release ("the networking tape") in 1989 that what we know as the BSD license existed, and it wasn’t until the NET-2 tapes in 1991 — largely impelled by Bostic — that there was anything like a complete free BSD OS.

http://www.oreilly.com/openbook/freedom/ch09.html talks about how Bostic credits Stallman with inspiring him to care about software freedom.

I opened the .tap here in a text editor yesterday, it mentions executing a license and returning it to Berkeley:


(I wasn't super careful to determine that the language there applied to the whole distribution, but it seems fairly likely)

The argument I was trying to make would have survived a 4 clause BSD license in 1980; I wasn't saying that BSD and derivatives as they exist owe nothing to GNU, I (thought I) was pointing out that people were sharing a sophisticated base system under a liberal license prior to GNU. Starting from there and proceeding without GNU it's of course hard to say where things would have ended up, would they have further liberalized the license, would they have filled in the rest of the system, who knows? They certainly might have.

I do think there are economic forces that encourage some sort of open model for software that is necessary and reasonable well understood/explored, but it's hard to examine a notion like that without a history machine.

Right, and it turns out that they were sharing a sophisticated base system; it was just that the licensing, once people started applying copyright to software at all, didn't protect the users very well.

And, yes, clearly information sharing is very good for software — as I pointed out elsewhere in this thread, that’s what SHARE was founded for in 1955 — but it’s also good for chemistry, and yet it took many centuries before we got Priestley and the Invisible College instead of alchemists writing notes in code so their apprentices couldn’t steal them.

Stallman predicted the rise of e-readers and the problems that would arise from DRM protected e-books.

What exactly is a "problem"?

I don't live in US. Ordering books online and shipping them to my house used to be slow and expensive process. Now I can buy books from Amazon, for a half the price than printed books (3x the price if I account the shipping). Yeah, I can't read that book on anything except Kindle (device or Kindle app). But I know what I'm buying, and I'm ok with that. I enjoy the option to have my books synchronized over my Kindle, iPhone and iPad. It's fantastic when I'm on vacation, in some other country, and I can buy the e-book immediately, instead of dragging around lots of paper books (as I used to do).

And I pay for all of that with DRM. I'm ok with that. If the book is such important to me I'll buy the paper version.

That's the problem with Stallman, and all radicals. Everything is black and white for them. Without DRM e-readers e-books would never exists. Stallman thinks that it's ok, it's better to not have e-books if there's DRM. I don't think so. I like to have an option. I don't have any "problems" Stallman predicted.

> Without DRM e-readers e-books would never exists

That is a strawman. Three are certsinly booksellers who never went near DRM and argue strongly against DRM.

Exempel: http://www.baenebooks.com

No, singling out one sentence from my answer and attacking it is a strawman.

But ok, to correct myself: without DRM ebooks would never exists at this scale and people would never buy ebooks readers at this scale and read ebooks at this scale.

Ten years ago ebook reader was a niche, used only by geeks. Today, thanks to aggressive Amazon pricing and (DRM-ed) ebooks, it's a common item. And popularity of ebook readers (namely - Kindle) started some new things: I love SF, and last year I bought a lot $1.99 books from self-publishing authors who would probably never find a place to publish their books without widely available ebook readers (read: Kindle). So, to return to original question - what are such a burning "problems" that Stallman predicted?

Agree, that is a better argument. But I think devices such as the iPad would have been released regardless of whether it contained iBooks with DRM or not. Answering your question, I think that Stallman is partially right, but not always, but then who is?

And such sellers and their customers can leverage the well designed e-readers that exist because Kobu and Amazon have business models supported mostly by the sales of DRM'd books.

This. Exactly.

I'm sure Stallman absolutely HATES services such as Spotify. However the as I mentioned in the parent comment, the world is not black and white, and thus viable solutions will always be in a middle-ground.

Nothing he could ever say would bring me from playing music with ridiculous ease in Spotify to downloading "free" ogg files and playing them in GNU Mediagoblin, or something similar.

As a side note: the FSF complains liberally about different "evil" products using javascript on their "giving guide". Stallman himself asks us not to "mistreat" family by giving them non-free gifts. Yet they themselves use javascript for analytics. Proving how ridiculous some of these practices are.


They complain there about proprietary javascript. The FSF has no beef with JS - it's just another kind of software. The FSF has a beef with proprietary software, which shouldn't be surprising. For analytics they use non-proprietary javascript (piwik). They elsewhere recommend precisely that, if you're going to be gathering analytics - they talk about their use of it here: https://www.fsf.org/about/free-software-foundation-privacy-p...

Instead of Spotify, I just listen to http://www.gnu.org/music/free-software-song.ogg on repeat

>But I know what I'm buying, and I'm ok with that.

Apparently you don't, because you aren't really buying anything. You're licensing it. You don't own a thing in your Amazon library. They can, and have, taken books "back" based on user-agreement violations.

Yes, it's convenient for you to have all your books, synced, in one place. But there are negative implications of having all that information controlled.

Ok, I know what I'm renting and I'm ok with that. I pay less money to have quick access to books I like. If in some time in future Amazon suddenly became evil and deletes all my books from my library (let's for the sake of the argument forget that I actually have a backup for all these books), I'll... I actually will not give a fuck. I'll just stop using Amazon for anything. And buy (or rent) these books I want to read again on some other place.


Yeah, I understand that Stallman and his flock is greatly concerned with possible "negative implications" of DRM-ed ebooks, mobile phones, non-GPL software and whatnot. But I'm 44 years old, I don't need help to decide what is good for me and what is not, and I actually enjoy living in the future, with mobile phones, ebooks and everything else. I enjoy having (and making) a choice instead of avoiding everything that can have "negative implications" or isn't "free" (by Stallman's standards).

Thank you for the presenting your opinion in details. I see your point. What I do not like in this approach is that I find it to be similar with "I have nothing to hide" argument (see also the comments below).

You personally may not have any (unexpected) bad consequences because of such choice. But please look at the analogy. Giving to a three-letter agency a possibility to collect and store all private information about you, gives them an incredible power over the population as a whole, taking away the democracy from all the people. Looks like a tragedy of commons, by the way.

Giving to a commercial company a possibility to own all your books, gives them a power to do whatever they want including censorship and maybe manipulating people.

tl;dr: you personally may not have any side effects, but the community as a whole will.

Well, no, I'm not in "I have nothing to hide" bandwagon. But I'm trying to have some balance in my life. I'm not using Facebook, I don't use Google+, but I'm using gmail. From the desktop client, not from browser, so I'm not always logged in in Google services, for example.

I'm also trying to have some balance in ebook story. Is DRM bad? Yes. But for me it's necessary evil. My understanding is that between having vibrant ebooks/ereaders ecosystem with DRM and not having ebooks at all (or having it in some geek niche), Stallman and co would choose the niche part. I strongly disagree with that.

The whole discussion started with a comment about Stallman "being right about ebooks and DRM". I still can't see where Stallman is actually right and where is the problems. Even you talk about some possible power to enforce censorship and manipulate people. Yeah, it's possible. But there's also a possibility where that scenario doesn't happen (because Amazon have very strong financial incentive to prevent that scenario)

And about some three letter agency... You don't fight three letter agency by not buying DRM-ed books. You fight these agencies by changing the system. There's very little difference between having some ebook in the cloud and buying plain old non-DRMed dead tree book online (or even in the book store) with your credit card. You have and use credit cards, right? Or you use only paper money, in brick and mortar stores, to avoid any chance of collecting and storing private information about you?

"Predict"? There were patents that describe e-readers and DRM before Stallman wrote "Right to read", and we all know how innovative patents really are, right? Here's an example: https://www.google.com/patents/US5715403

> virility of his license

Ah, that was a typo for "virality". I was scratching me head there for a minute.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virility http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viral_phenomenon

Superfish, of recent times. Google it (Superfish Lenovo since you seem to have missed it).

i suggest that anyone who is malinformed enough to believe MCRed's perversions of RMS's positions goes and reads the stuff themselves. i'll just say that the world is full of people who are "that old" and full of it.

Not always true, especially back in the early days.

Stallman's work has enabled a vision almost exactly the opposite of what he wanted - the gratis nature of free software has been a far greater impact than the libre. It's enabled cloud computing by making OS and software licenses scale out affordably, letting everyone leverage low-cost commodity hardware in the place of big iron. In terms of libre, though, the closed-source PCs that ran Windows that Stallman still wars so vigorously against are far more free-as-in-freedom than the cloud computers running mostly "free software." Same with all the Android phones that run a GPL'd kernel but are far more locked down than Windows. The Affero license and the anti-Tivoization clauses have been shutting the barn door after the horses have left. The free-software movement has been pivotal in providing lots of free software in the gratis sense, and that free software has enabled a far less libre computing paradigm than what came before. So you'll excuse me if I am unsure what his remarkable history of being right has been.

That's a very interesting point that you're making. Especially when you look at recent events with critical infrastructure software, and the numerous people who were surprised to see how underfunded those developers were. After the paltry sums donated to some of these small projects from companies that make billions thanks in part to their software, one has to wonder how much they value open source software's intrinsic libre value, or just the pure monetary value.

Predicting trends and successfully influencing trends are two different things. However, the free software movement has been one of the most successful experiments in mass communism in history.

> I am not going to bother to rebut your examples

Well, this kind of attitude tells more about your argument than the rest of the comment.

>Just like I wouldn't listen to Usain Bolt if he were trying to teach me the biological mechanisms behind doping, I can't see why Stallman's opinion is considered so correct in these matters.

That's a false analogy. Stallman has been fighting for our digital rights for ages and has actually been right most of the time. That doesn't make him right all the time, but it does make me more inclined to believe he isn't just spewing nonsense.

>IMO his ramblings about personal liberties and freedom being infringed by everything under the sun from Amazon to Google to Facebook are oversimplified and childish. The world isn't black and white and he obviously fails to understand the entire point behind many of these companies.

He has to be that way, because otherwise he would be seen as a hypocrite. It is interesting you think his arguments are "childish" when it seems every day more and more of his arguments are proven true when we find out how another company is using our data for malicious purposes.

>When Facebook makes you use a real name it's not because theres some "Mr. Evil" at the top level plotting to steal your freedom, it's because it leads to a better working social network.

You are correct in assuming that there is most likely no "Mr. Evil" at the top, however that assumes that ordinary good people aren't capable of collectively and unknowingly becoming "Mr. Evil" through their actions, which our knowledge of psychology would point out is more than likely.

> has actually been right most of the time

That is a matter of opinion, and I think that is where most disagreement stems from. In the HN echo chamber it may seem like everyone agrees he was right, but the rest of the world is not nearly as much in agreement.

> Does this make his opinion on Facebook or privacy or freedom any more correct or valid? No.

And whose opinions are correct on the topic? Who should we listen to then?

Opinions are opionions and we can all evaluate them. Hopefully we can evaluate them objectively regardless who came up with them.

> he obviously fails to understand the entire point behind many of these companies.

He doesn't huh. Ok, if it is so obvious, can you list the things he doesn't understand.

> it's because it leads to a better working social network.

Granted, pretty much every single loss of privacy rule (or law) has been under the guise of "oh but this is good for you actually".

> _viable_ company that wants to provide a service that a consumer other than Stallman himself will use will "infringe" on those two idiotic requirements.

Really? Ok let's see, I launch my editor, I type in some code, then save it and compile. I just got a service provided to me by the authors of those programs and it might seem idiotic, but I value that service and value that I ran free software and didn't have to send my name to anyone to register that I did that.

You said that your editor is free software, meaning that no one made money on you using it. I'm not sure how this refutes the point about a "_viable_ company." (Given that viable necessarily includes making money.)

I suspect rdtsc meant free as in freedom. There are several companies successfully founded and running on free software. An example I saw recently is the French telecommunications provider Free. Much of the software running on their set-top-boxes is licensed under GPL and they provide the source code as required by the licence. They have dealt serious damage to more traditionally minded companies.

Invasion of privacy is not a requisite for company viability.

RedHat is a very _viable_ company that uses and writes free software for example.

I wasn't claiming that viable companies can't use or produce free software. I was just claiming that the fact that one can use a free editor to write some code has nothing to do with whether the company producing the editor is viable.

There is literally 100 different links on that page, and you disagree with all of them? Stallman is an ideologue 100%, but if I had to choose Facebook or Stallman, I know which side I am on. (and I dont produce OSS or follow their belief system)

Facebook wants a real name because it makes them money more readily when they can identify you more easily and determine your value, not whatever "a better social network" means.

Just because Usain Bolt may not have a degree in biology, if he is also saying factual things, that does not make him wrong.

Real names help Facebook to combine offline purchase activity (Axciom) with online activity.

Actually, there's literally 78 different links on that page ;)

> people here love to bring that up ("what - you DON'T KNOW WHO STALLMAN IS? SHAME? HOW DARE YOU CRITICISE HIM?")

I have never seen anyone on HN say that or anything similar. Maybe you were thinking of some other place?

For myself, I've been giving Stallman's opinions a lot more weight since the Snowden revelations, since at that point a great many of his ideas instantly switched from "over-idealistic / ridiculous / almost paranoid" to "well what do you know, he actually was right all along!".

I am myself quite idealistic and concerned about privacy, free and/or open source software, personal liberties, etc. I just used to think Stallman was taking it a bit too far to the crazy side. Then Snowden happened and it turns out he was right about a lot of the things that I really thought went a bit too far "out there". Not all of the things, mind you, but enough of them to make me pause and give thought to his opinions, and try to take them seriously.

And it's probably my own bias, but on HN as well, it seems to me that his name and ideas have been discussed quite a bit more often after Snowden, than before.

Does this make his opinion on Facebook or privacy or freedom any more correct or valid? No.

Respect for Stallman's opinions derives not from his code, but from his consistency in adhering to his (extreme) principles and correctly seeing how those principles are affected by new developments in technology.

He's right about DRM because DRM, not because Emacs. Time will show what else he's right about. Living like Stallman does may not be practical, but that doesn't make him wrong.

>I honestly don't understand why people value Stallman's opinions on these matters so highly.

I consider the Snowden revelations a cast iron validation of his so-called paranoia. He was in a small minority back then, and the revelations proved him right. That counts for a lot.

>Just like I wouldn't listen to Usain Bolt

Who should we listen to then? You?

His opinions(!) provide an useful reference point, especially since I can trust that they are on one extreme end of the spectrum. I certainly don't agree with all of them, but they make me think about where I make concessions and where I maybe missed that. I rather read an opinion and decide "no, I won't go that far/that is ok for me" instead of being told "all is fine".

Some of RMS opinions are extreme, because they take to an unbearable point some consequence of some ideology. For example refusing to have kids is extreme, most people cannot afford psychologically to not have kids.

But RMS opinions about Facebook are not extreme, he doesn't propose to refuse to have friends who are using Facebook, for example. He says just don't use it, it's common sense, just like don't eat fast food is common sense. Common sense is sometimes very uncommon, kudos to those who keep their mind clear in our messy times.

> most people cannot afford psychologically to not have kids.

Wait, really?

Yes. Having kids is the simplest and most natural way to get this sentiment of usefulness and achievement that is much harder to get from a daily job. RMS and other creators get this from their creations, but it is not given to everyone to have enough talent and dedication to make something useful to the others. So when they die they leave something behind. Another option is to believe in God and afterlife, which is just denying that we are mortals, but it requires a very strong self-persuasion skill, which is also not given to everyone. For me, I will just leave my kids behind, and it is enough.

(By the way, leaving a new new Javascript framework does not count, sadly.)

Huge numbers of couples in Europe, Japan, Korea, etc have decided to not have kids, so clearly they can "afford" to not have them. Unless you can show a link between not having kids and having psychological problems (and I don't mind just a simple correlation on the whole society, I mean per couple), I'd say that's just like, your opinion, man.

> Huge numbers of couples in Europe, Japan, Korea, etc have decided to not have kids, so clearly they can "afford" to not have them.

Do you have any proof of this? IMO, the declining birth rate is more of a consequence of a huge number of couples deciding to only have one child (so one child per 2 people -> eventual extinction).

Among women born in 1960, 17% in the U.S. were childless at approximately age 40, compared with 22% in the United Kingdom, 19% in Finland and the Netherlands, and 17% in Italy and Ireland. Rates ranged from 12% to 14% for Spain, Norway, Denmark, Belgium and Sweden, and from 7% to 11% for several Eastern European countries and Iceland.


The population of childless aged couples, especially women, is expected to grow rapidly. In Italy and the US, for example, the population of childless women aged 65 or older is expected to nearly quadruple over the next four decades.


Statistics in the UK for women by age (e.g. 20% for age 50):


"Don't use Facebook" is currently not common sense. Many people are on Facebook and have thought about all these arguments and decided it is worth it to them.

(In the meantime, fewer people seem to consider it common sense to be on Facebook, at least it seems to me less and less people are surprised if someone doesn't use it)

Well, I'm reading the Histoire de la Revolution Francaise (Michelet) right now, and something very stunning is that everyone, even the most faithful revolutionnaries, was still "royalist" in 1790. They all had "thought about all these arguments and decided it is worth it to them", because of perceived "common sense". Being a republican was considered extreme even in the left wing of the nascent Assemblee Nationale. And a few month later, it became obvious that monarchy needed to be definitely removed from the Nation, and "common sense" changed to the opposite. So the real common sense (i.e. the "right way to think about it") was to be republican.

Another example is abolition of death penalty in France by Mitterand: right now we French/Europeans believe it is very barbarian to still have Justice use this gothic expedient, and rightly so if you ask me. But just before its abolition polls showed most people opposed the abolition. A new, better "common sense" replaced an old habit falsy believed to follow "common sense".

So back to Facebook: right now most people do not know it, but it is not unlikely that the retrospective "common sense" of the future will be to avoid Facebook today. And I think a much saner regulation on what can be advertised and sold as food to human being in the US will also be retrospective common sense. And not driving cars is also common sense. The list is quite long...

[edited typos and grammar]

Ok, yes, I agree in so far that what counts as common sense is temporary. Added a "current" to my post above.

> "... and have thought about all these arguments and decided it is worth it to them."

I suspect 'most people' aren't even remotely aware of such arguments. Nor of the effects that choices now will have on their future selves.

I disagree with Stallman on many things but I cannot see anything wrong with that collection of real issues about Facebook, and also with the general message that most people should avoid using Facebook completely or use it exclusively with fake identities and several other provisions.

This. For instance the "Psychological Harm" chapter. That is not even an opinion, rather a fact, so I feel the OP's 'disagree with essentially everything he writes about it' is too strong - you cannot disagree with facts. Actually a lot of what Stallman writes on that page are just facts, and a lot of them also apply to tons of other services on the web. Maybe not all at once though which why he picked FB I guess.. Still in debate with myself though on whether I agree with his strong opinion on it or whether it's even worth having such a strong opinion on it. There are way worse things in the world than FB.

and still you talk about him like a pariah. I really don't get the resentiment here about RS. What has he done to you americans? Bursting the bubble of harmless tech? I say americans cause I am sure, if we would make a poll, those who disregard RS points, without even try to proof the opposite, seem to be US.

What if Peter Thiel or Paul Graham would have compiled such a list. Cheering waves of agreement I figure.

You've got it wrong. Not sure why you think I'm talking about him like a pariah but that is certainly not my intent. I don't treat him, or anybody else I barely know, in a special way; especially not like a pariah. I don't understand how you think based just on what I wrote that I have any special feelings in any directions about Stallman? In fact I barely read any articles from Stallman nor know much about him. Let alone I'd let some general opinion about him color my opinion on this article. I can assure you what I wrote above was based solely on this article and as objectively as possible. And basically all I said was "true facts, but not sure I agree everybody should just ditch FB based on this".

Oh yeah, I'm not even American but European. Although again: I do not think that matters much? Why do you think it does (honest question - you seem to have a strong idea that somehow the US is against him and others aren't. May I ask why?)

@US to me the entire thread seems like a reflex of denial. How else would this list enounter so much ignorance? The lack of substance in the arguments reminds me of reddit rather than the typical HN, which makes this topic special and american-centered, where patriotic feelings seems to be involved. We are the good guys, so to speak: Our tech wouldn't spy, censor and snitch on you.

@pariah It was my reading/interpretation that you seemed surprised about RS actually having valid points. You state that the OP-troll disagreement "is too strong". Well, the OP didn't disagree, OP just made wild comparisons without commenting the issues, babbling something about Husain Bolt and becoming the top comment. There we are back at my @US claim. This reads like a denial.

Indeed, you don't know who Stallman is.

His most important work isn't the software but the Free Software movement, the GPL license and the Free Software Foundation.

Sure, we all like emacs and gcc but these were just Stallman putting his money where his mouth is. Stallman made the first commits to these and many more programs but it was the thousands of programmers who accepted his ideas and made them what they are today.

Of course you are free to criticize him, but portraying him like Usain Bolt trying to teach the biological mechanisms behind doping shows a certain degree of ignorance.

We begin therefore where they are determined not to end, with the question whether any form of democratic self-government, anywhere, is consistent with the kind of massive, pervasive, surveillance into which the Unites States government has led not only us but the world.

This should not actually be a complicated inquiry.


I honestly don't understand why people value Stallman's opinions on these matters so highly.



Surveillance is not an end toward totalitarianism, it is totalitarianism itself.


Richard Stallman does have a cult of personality around him who seem willing to defend his prescience and infallibility to the detriment of critical thinking and common sense.

However, while I think he is off base on a couple of points here (the "Psychological Harm" argument, in particular, seems like a cricitism of the vanity of youth and gamification, the latter of which is worth criticizing,) one doesn't need to be paranoid to see that much of what he mentions is at least worth considering.

And he doesn't mention much, it's basically a list of links about Facebook's business practices, and many of the issues he presents apply to social media in general since so many sites want desperately to be as Facebook-ish as possible (see: G+ and anyone who found their real name, profile and G+ comments forced on to Youtube.)

Not taking as gospel because he's RMS, but at least considering. Most of what he points out are true, and not that controversial.

I'm with you. Seems like FUD here with this post, there are a few decent ideas about privacy but its a social network and used for connecting to people. Maybe they can relax the real name policy some more but I have plenty of friends that don't use their actual real/legal name and never had a problem.

There are effective privacy controls in place now and things like being served ads is such a silly issue to complain about... it's a business that needs to make money, how else is that supposed to happen?

What is the overall point at the end of this? Basically we should all just be anonymous forever? Facebook is just a decade old, society/culture is still catching up and we really don't need all this doom/gloom every time. And yea, I didn't know who this guy was until this post.

I have plenty of friends that don't use their actual real/legal name and never had a problem.


things like being served ads is such a silly issue to complain about... it's a business that needs to make money, how else is that supposed to happen?

Hum, charge people?

What is the overall point at the end of this?

"Don't use Facebook." I thought that was clear.

Fine, the real name policy is a fuzzy issue and not really fit for discussion here.

Charging people doesn't work since most people want the convenience and ability to communicate with friends but don't want to pay for it. Not a viable model for Facebook. I'm sure you don't just browse the web and offer to pay every site you visit do you?

"Don't use Facebook" is not the point, this is all about fear of privacy in general and just targeted at Facebook but much of it is FUD.

> "... it's a business that needs to make money, how else is that supposed to happen?"

This attitude is what's wrong. Exxon also needs to make money so maybe we should cut them some slack around oil spills. So does Foxconn, so let's not badger them about employment practices. Etc.

To your point about how they are supposed to make money. I dunno, innovate on business models, maybe? Advertising has been a driving force for mass-consumer web services and it would be healthy to have alternatives.

We have regulations in place, outside of that telling businesses to just "be nice" is naive. It's not like these corporations are filled with evil people, all of this tracking is to deliver better products and increase bottomline. In this case, Facebook sells advertising and the effectiveness of that advertising increases with tracking.

It's always easy to just say "innovate" as if the entire industry is just sitting around for some enlightenment... there are other ways to make money but this is the model that works best for them. Advertising is a fine business model, I've yet to really see an actual objection to this.

If a business model is not viable without mass surveillance and unprecedented amount of privacy invasion, maybe one should try to come up with better alternatives. Luckily Facebook is already being unbundled and I'm sure with changing technology the need for a centralized hub for social interaction over the internet will fade away. One way could be via the development of new protocols, like an improvement of Email, that could be implemented by many different servers and clients. Another the advent of IPv6 and the fact that it makes p2p protocols more viable.

99.9% of people dont care about all that. They want an easy way to connect with friends/family and even strangers. They dont want to pay for it though so they're willing to be served ads. The model works just fine.

And I keep hearing this all the time, if there are better alternatives than what are they? Facebook has thousands of employees, most just like you and me. They are not an army of evil people planning destruction, they're just optimizing their platform to better serve ads for both their advertisers AND the users. That's it. Where is this "privacy invasion"? What are they taking from you without your consent?

I don't use facebook and I block their social media buttons. I have less control over friends of mine posting pictures of me on facebook or the fact that facebook is able to read SMS send to peoples phones that have their App installed.

I'm fully aware that people don't care about privacy and abusive corporate practices, which is why it falls on the shoulders of the few that do care to come up with compelling alternatives, that respect users privacy. As you mention those alternatives would probably not be profitable (because you can't rely on ads). If they came in the form of new protocols (just like Email or SMS) and free software to implement those protocols it wouldn't matter as much.

> "What are they taking from you without your consent?"

Most people don't understand the privacy settings nor do they comprehend the ToS (because the reading-skill level required is too high). So what does 'consent' actually mean in this context?

I feel you're being completely disingenuous in your comments here, so I guess you'd probably just blame the user for not educating themselves.

Consent = posting something publicly means it's public. It's the same as if you spoke aloud in a room, the people around you can hear it. Facebook is just a bigger room, but comes with privacy controls if you're interested. Nobody is stealing your thoughts and filling out your profile, it's all done willingly.

> it's a business that needs to make money, how else is that supposed to happen?

That's their problem, not ours. We're not the ones in charge of deciding how exactly they're supposed to make money. If they can't, so be it.

Advertising is one of the most scalable models and it's what works for them.

Who is "we"? Why not (as this article complains) just stop using it then? That's your problem isn't it?

> Maybe they can relax the real name policy some more but I have plenty of friends that don't use their actual real/legal name and never had a problem.

The problems come when the policy is weaponized by people looking to harm people who have a good reason to use a certain name.

Isn't the piece mostly a series of correct observations (if they are not, no doubt someone will point this out) about Facebook from which one can come to one's own conclusions?

I'm not interested in your views on Stallman himself. BTW Usain Bolt and anyone else is welcome to present a cogent argued position on the biology of drug doping if that's what he can do. I fail to see where 'teaching' comes into this discussion.

I don't understand why your comment is voted up so much because you only seem to provide an opinion ("I don't understand...") and take 10 paragraphs for it.

Flawed ranking algorithm. It's the replies that vote him up.

Oh, didn't know that replies also count as votes - are you sure?

Nope! But I suspect reply owners, even if in disagreement, hit the upvote button to buy more eyeballs.

I may or may have not upvoted your comment.

> because any _viable_ company that wants to provide a service that a consumer other than Stallman himself will use will "infringe" on those two idiotic requirements.

I work for a data center operator and ISP and our customer database is air gapped. We're in the business for 18 years now.

> The world isn't black and white and he obviously fails to understand the entire point behind many of these companies.

Yeah, the world is all grey. We all know that. What you should keep in mind however, is that there are shades of grey.

And those companies are darker than they need to be.

To understand why people value Stallman's views so much, it is helpful to have a deeper and more thoughtful understanding about the man's work. See, it isn't about 'the code' nearly as much as it is about the political and ethical values he's spent decades imbuing into code and its licensing. Stallman is fundamentally about upholding freedom for users (basically, citizens in general) in the computer age. As far as I can gather, everything the man does and says in service of this central ideal. His consistency, persistence, and adherence to these principles, coupled with the great technical and advocacy work he's done is valuable and respected by many, even if they disagree or don't fully support his worldview. Since Facebook is simply a multiuser application run on over a network, accessed by computing devices running software, I think he's entirely qualified to talk about it, and when you couple the social and societal implications of Facebook, it's absolutely within his bailiwick as someone who advocates around the political and social implications of software.

>The world isn't black and white and he obviously fails to understand the entire point behind many of these companies

No, no. He absolutely understands. He disagrees with it. You do not and find his principles silly. That's fine, but TL;DR just because you think it's complete BS doesn't mean it is.

> When Facebook makes you use a real name it's not because theres some "Mr. Evil" at the top level plotting to steal your freedom, it's because it leads to a better working social network.

You clearly have not thought of the situations where using your real name can be dangerous (see for example activists) or just plain misleading for the purpose of the page (see for example, famous authors etc.). The factors of real life and people needing to hide behind a pseudonym should not be disregarded so absolutely by Facebook. I can see where your comment is coming from, but as you say about Stallman, the world is not all black and white and people should have a right to this grey area even on a social network.

Read this: https://paulbernal.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/10-reasons-to-le... Also, The Circle by Dave Eggers is a bit of a frightening example.

Most people don't view Stallman's words as gospel, he's actually kind of a running joke nowadays - a sort of the caricature of the software profession, all neckbeard, tin-foil, and wizard powers. And it is true a lot of Stallman's ideas are sadly unrealistic for a large corporation operating in many highly complex environments.

And although nearly every single point on his rant regarding facebook's policies is ridiculous as an argument against using facebook (except the psychology study one), I do absolutely agree with him that folks should, with enough time and introspection, grow out of using facebook personally (professional use is fine). The fact of the matter is facebook gives you the illusion of personal connection and being "always in the know" so you short-circuit that reward-loop in your brain and wind up with an addiction. It's just like drugs, alcohol, video games, or any host of other addictive activities out there for us to waste our lives on.

Granted it's fun at first, but after a while, one needs to realize one has become a slave to a rather meaningless habit (checking your feed, updating your status, "liking" shit) that doesn't make you better, richer, or any more intimate with another. Instead, you've sat at your computer for another evening, poor-ifying the circulation in your legs, watching the highlights of other people living their lives, and feeling mildly displeased with yourself yet not enough to ever look away. Instead of facebook, you could've did leg day at the gym and gotten better glutes, hiked to the beach and communed with nature, joined a crossfit class and paid to irreparably hurt yourself, or even got some work done on your hobby project.

Facebook is literally wasting you away for the promise of social fulfillment that it can't fulfill. After all when it comes to social connection, facebook is far inferior to actually meeting up for a date, direct call/skype, text/im/email... hell, in a lot of ways Facebook is worse than video games because, when you're playing a video game with friends, at least you're all working together on a common platform (especially if it's one of those Kinect dancing games, nothing brings people closer than watching each other dance awkwardly). Instead, you're on facebook, ruminating over ghosts of people and events that have already passed by you, thinking you're together and connected with all your friends, yet still miserably yourself in front of your computer with nothing to show for it. Also, one can stand to look at only so many pics of receipts from super expensive restaurants by friends who have just recently gone and are gushing over the food like some 12 year old fangirl over a boyish pop idol.

This doesn't match up with my experience at all.

I have easy access to photos people share with others now, so I can see pictures of their kids and the like (and see that they went to Hawaii or something). I've been able to get back into contact with people I met at an event long ago and chat with them. I hear about my friend's projects, which lets me message them.

My friends and I organise events through facebook. We can keep track of location and post pictures of the event afterwards.

The end result is I am in contact with way more people than I could manage with the friction of calling/keeping tabs on everyone all the time. It also results in a lot of real-world interaction. There are people I meet twice, three times a year and _that's totally fine_ because without a tool like fb I would never meet them. My circle of friends would be way smaller without fb.

Of course I keep contact with very close people through other mechanisms as well. But claiming that facebook results in less social interaction doesn't match up with my experiences too well

The problem I have with these rants is I just don't recognise this characterisation of a facebook user at all. I have an account. I check it on my phone a couple of times a day, never post anything apart from the occasional baby photo to a family group, comment on a post maybe once a month, never 'like' anything other than birthdays or weddings. I've been doing that for about 4 years now and never felt any urge to expand my use. My wife is the same. So too my younger sister. I don't know anyone who spends so much time on it that it affects their life, and whatever mundane information facebook has on me isn't going to give me sleepless nights.

What purpose does it serve to denigrate Stallman for his efforts?

sorry, but your comment is trolling! You just claim RS isn't "right" and name others who aren't "right" either - in your unfounded oppionion.

RS lists examples of FB malpractice, abuse of power and in contrast to your trash talk he is linking proof to each claim.

I think, that if you look a bit closer, you'll be able to discern exactly why Stallman's 'BS' is deemed more acceptable than Watson's 'BS'.

Makes me sad reading comments like these.. You fail to understand so many things. People like Richard provide a much needed balance, and honestly I applaud his efforts.

For a similar example, see: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/dec/01/dna-jam....

Watson claiming he can't get work in biology because of his racist views is nothing like Stallman, whose primary job is the speaking circuit talking about his views. You're saying that the thing that people voluntarily pay Stallman to do is the thing that he knows nothing about and should be shunned for.

Oh well, just what I was fearing here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9201896

In 2 mins, you're the top comment How about actually disproving his arguments one by one. The world is not black and white is a bad statement to make. How about your pull up your panties and try to make it better, rather than giving useless arguments.

This thread shows the big thing that is wrong with today's HN.

There is a guy presenting a list of 49 arguments against using a service that is used by one billion people globally. Some of them are pretty good, some more sucky than the others. Yet, the discussion focuses only on the person. It's like the people here could not process the raw facts and derive their own conclusions, and had to fall back to their emotional brains. Certainly not a thing I would expect from HN community.

There is a really long way from this attitude to the PG's essay. http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html

Well, I've been around for almost four years now, and I'm not sure HN has ever been different since then.

That said, I agree with you, but rms as a way of increasing that response. I think that if he wrote that the Earth orbits the Sun, someone would make a passionate argument for geocentrism.

Of course this would be the most upvoted comment on HN

Sounds like you could be a poster child for 1984. In your keenness to try discredit what Stallman is saying you cherry pick a few examples and completely avoid most of the far more serious issues raised here. I can only hope that if the day comes when the authorities come lock up 1 of your family members because of something they did not even post, but started writing then changed their minds and deleted it, you remember your blind support and lack of critical thinking on this occasion.

My problem with essays like this is that they don't address the more critical underlying point: most people don't recognize privacy as a human right, and most people don't realize why privacy is important and worth protecting.

To most people, "if you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide" sounds reasonable.

That's the deeper problem at work here. With more people on board to why privacy matters, articles like this will be more of an "oh, yeah!" instead of a "so what?" kind of thing.

I suspect one of the reasons this "done nothing wrong" fallacy persists so well these days is how "privacy" has come to replace the word "freedom".

Using "privacy" tends to imply some amount of shame, as if the you didn't (or shouldn't) have the freedom to do that act in the first place. The reason why people see that they have "nothing to hid", is that they have already self-censored themselves away from doing any supposedly-shameful activity.

I've always liked a line from KMFDM's song "terror"[2]

    "They can't use our shame against us"
Until people learn this lesson, shame will continue to be used as a threat, and people will continue to see the "logic" in the "nothing to hide" argument.

[1] http://www.kmfdm.net/lyrics/terror.htm ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVhu3pn1Ou0 )

Privacy and freedom are different concepts, though. A world in which the government can monitor all of your phone calls, but it not allowed by law to stop them or prosecute you over their contents still preserves freedom very strongly, without any privacy (assuming the law constraining the government is enforceable, and extra judicial or spurious prosecutions are not a tool commonly available to the state). A world in which technology (or lack thereof) makes wiretapping impossible, gives a lot of privacy to people, but if you can still be arrested because of distributing a leaflet, it provides little freedom.

Thing is, even in a world where freedom of expression were inviolable (and it isn't quite this world, so in reality, privacy helps support freedom of expression), we'd still want privacy to be a human right. Animals don't behave the same when they know they are always being watched. Pervasive surveillance inhibits thought, breeds abuse and unnecessarily limits human behavior.

Also, in the end, we have the right to have things to hide. We have the right to say and do things we are ashamed of, or aren't sure are right, or we are not ready to defend under scrutiny of society at large. We have the right to share thoughts with others that we are not ready to defend from strangers, even if the law prevents such strangers from hurting us because our thoughts. Society needs to be able to discuss heresy, and revolution, and treason, because what for one generation is treason and heresy, for the next might be justice and freedom. But it also needs to be able to have some of those discussions in dark, private places, because a lot of great thoughts will only ever bloom in the dark. Even if mass surveillance worked (it doesn't), even if abuse could be curtailed (it can't), even if it gave us a world without crime (it won't), the price to pay would be a world where our thoughts are constrained by the fear of other's seeing them in their underdeveloped raw form.

http://kazerad.tumblr.com/post/99022123468/shepherd-of-the-m... This post goes further into the shame idea and explores how communities use shame to self-censor and censor others from doing any supposedly-shameful activities, and on top of that explains some of the importances of anonymity in a way that I think most people on HN haven't considered before.

The corollary to this ridiculous argument: "if you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide" .. is this:

  If you've done something *right*, you will be the target of those you offend.
When "right" can be defined variously as any one of: a) done something to reduce the effect of the criminal military-industrial complex on society, b) exposed corruption in the ruling elite, c) fought stringently for the rights of minorities who have been oppressed, d) fought valiantly to expose ecological and economic criminality on the part of the industrial elite, &etc.

Just because they say its for fighting criminals doesn't mean that it won't be used to fight revolutionaries and upstarts who mean to bring justice to a destitute world. Every single technology under the sun can be used for good, or evil purposes - the only thing that makes the difference is the intention behind those who wield the technology.

And as of right now, there is no way to monitor/control/adjust the intentions of the super-surveillance state: they, real people behind the masks, simply have too many secret powers.

> To most people, "if you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide" sounds reasonable.

I know it's impossible, but I really recommend people who have that opinion to watch the TED talk by journalist Glenn Greenwald.


I'd like to add to this by saying that Ed Snowden's documentary, Citizen Four, is a great and informative film.

~400 million people in EU disagree with you; that's one jurisdiction where privacy is a human right, and this is not just some abstract concept but the basis of legislation you can invoke to force companies to cough up the data they have on you and/or demand it be scrubbed from their databases, even if you originally shared it voluntarily.

No we don't. I personally think that EU's approach to privacy, especially when it comes to the internet (e.g. "right to be forgotten", "cookie law"), is completely fucked up. While EU's dysfunctional governing game (i.e. multiple countries with immensely different cultures, goals, histories and levels of development trying to act in unison) explains such things as the tax loopholes, no freedom of speech and the Euro, even this can't explain the mistakes in internet laws.

Furthermore, history will not be on EU's side in this regard. Right to be forgotten and restrictive data storing laws will have to be revoked eventually (when we have robots - "Remind me what I was talking about on that dinner during Mauritius vacations!" "I'm sorry Jessica, that was more than 3 years ago, I don't remember."). Euro won't survive without a fiscal union / federation (like the US).

Even the restrictions of data export don't help us much - sure, the companies legally can't export data to the US, but don't worry, GCHQ will!

Well a lot of people in the eu, maybe even most, still buy into the "if you have nothing to hide" argument. That's at least my personal experience in Scandinavia and the UK, might be different in other countries.

I disagree, I think a great many people are willing to trade some privacy for convenience and contact.

Even if we take privacy as great thing, isn't staying in touch and making connections with some people who would otherwise slip away also a great thing?

For example, a childhood friend messaged me recently on Facebook informing me of his upcoming wedding. Getting his message and engaging an old friend in a conversation is a compelling (at least to me) trade for some privacy.

Why would you have to choose between privacy and convenience? You can have both. The idea that they contradict each other is just spin from companies like Facebook.

If I were to follow you with a bullhorn shouting messages at you, it probably wouldn't be considered illegal, but It would be extremely rude. And the same thing with these internet companies. Just because they can track and follow you, pushing messages down your troth, does not mean they have to, because it may be legal, but it's simply rude.

As a society we've lost the moral compass on the web, or rather we've never had one. Internet is like a third world corrupt country where you either take advantage of others your self or you are being abused. Now we have to start building a climate were you don't feel like you're missing out by treating your customers fair and with respect.

I don't think we actually disagree.

Valuing and protecting one's right to privacy, while still being visible to the public, are compatible issues; a person can disclose some information (I'm Frondo, I live at the North Pole, Santa is my friend) while retaining other information for friends/loved ones/no one else/not online.

In my other online life, I do put myself out there quite a bit, but the information I put out is of my choosing. I have been contacted by old friends from time to time, and it delights me.

But I'm also not on any of the social networks that do image tagging, so e.g. there's no automated system linking my image to a profile among them. (As far as I know, facebook won't go so far as to tag non-users with non-facebook urls...)

Privacy ought to work like other rights that we don't necessarily exercise at every opportunity; sometimes I bite my tongue even though I could speak freely, sometimes I stay home even though I could associate freely, sometimes I post information about myself even though I could keep it hidden away.

You've built a strawman. You can have both privacy and keep contact with lost friends and loved ones.

> To most people, "if you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide" sounds reasonable.

So what's the correct position, and why?

There will always be times when the moral and just thing to do is to break the law. Without privacy, you are not free to break those laws.

If you're happy living under a police state in meek compliance then you have nothing to hide. If you'd turn over Anne Frank to the authorities in a heartbeat then you have nothing to hide.

If you ever plan on doing the right thing by disobeying the authorities, at any point in the future, then you need privacy now. Later might be too late.

"Whether you've done anything wrong, what you disclose is up to you."

It is the correct position because privacy is a human right, just like the right to free speech or the right to a fair trial.

There are many source online that refute the "nothing to hide" argument, and they can go into quite some details. Suffice it to say, you have a right to privacy. If you wish for something to stay private (for example, to protect yourself from harm) you have that right. Whilst in most free societies it's seldom required, there may come a time when tyranny takes over. If you've already given up your right to privacy, you'll find few protections left. History has many example of tyrants that, given the data mining capabilities of today, would have probably caused even more harm and suffering.

For me the correct position is to recognise that the law isn't fixed and absolute, but dynamic (as interpreted through the courts) and evolving.

Without privacy (or with pervasive surveillance), we might never have achieved the critical mass required to overturn historical legislation regarding blasphemy, homosexuality, drug use, etc.

In other words, privacy provides the necessary sand-box for the evolution of law.

Right and wrong are subjective terms, plus perceptions of those terms will change.

"You do not get to decide what is wrong now, nor what may become wrong in the future. Unless you have a valid reason to invade my life, stay out."

In particular, please note: the concept of right or wrong is orthogonal to what may be legal or illegal. Both lines are constantly changing and re-evaluated by the society around us.

Maybe I toughed of a simple reply for this phrase ? "And who is to say what is wrong ? And will it stay that way ?" Opinions ?

In the U.S., we aren’t even granted an explicit right to privacy. The closest we’ve gotten to a ruling on the matter is that time William O. Douglas wrote “…specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance. […] Various guarantees create zones of privacy.”

There seems to have been a sea change in opinion of many HN posters here, especially among the more recent visitors to HN. A couple of years ago Facebook was considered by many here to be an invasion of privacy and just not worth the effort. That general opinion seems to have changed for some. A lot of newer posters seem to be of the opinion that lack of privacy is a cost worth paying for convenience and will apologize for, defend and even support companies like FB that blatantly invade privacy.

Facebook doesn't invade anyone's privacy. They aren't going into your house and rifling through your things. People post things on facebook because they want other people to see them. If you don't want to do that, then don't use facebook.

You can't stop other people from talking about you, or from taking pictures of you or relating stories that involve you. That's always been a part of social life. If you consider that to be an invasion of your privacy, then leave society and live as a hermit. It probably won't be fun, but it will be very private.

I know several people who don't use facebook, myself included, because they just aren't interested in the service that it provides. Philosophical concerns about the nature of privacy don't really factor into it. The social fashions about what's cool and what isn't cool will change with the winds. It isn't worth paying attention to. If facebook or any other social software is valuable to you, then good, use it. If not, no sense complaining about what other people decide to do with their time.

You don't use Facebook, yet lead with claim that it doesn't invade anyone's privacy...

Regrettably there are numerous, well documented cases of Facebook doing exactly this. They've literally been taken to court over it several times (look into "Sponsored Stories," "Beacon," etc).

Even if you don't use it, they have a shadow profile of you over there waiting, with relationships pre-graphed, simply by virtue of being in friends' contact lists who do.

The site "Likes" things on peoples behalf just because they talk about it (even negatively!) with others. It occasionally automatically "friends" people because you looked at their profile and mutual friends in common. It constantly takes liberties with people's relationships, friends, and preferences, without asking. The mobile app turns on the damn mic to listen to ambient noise in the background so it can try learn what you're listening to or watching on TV!

None of this is to try to convince you to care or take up the pitchfork against Facebook, but they're not like other sites. Harvesting your contact info from your friends phone to add you to their graph is an invasion, in my view (glib app permissions dialog, notwithstanding).

> The site "Likes" things on peoples behalf just because they talk about it (even negatively!) with others. It occasionally automatically "friends" people because you looked at their profile and mutual friends in common. It constantly takes liberties with people's relationships, friends, and preferences, without asking. The mobile app turns on the damn mic to listen to ambient noise in the background so it can try learn what you're listening to or watching on TV!

If you don't mind, do you have any sources for this? (Not talking about the mic thing, but the automatic liking and befriending)

Here's a link about harvesting likes from private messages: http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2012/10/03/how-private-are-your-...

and subsequently a class action suit was brought against them over it: https://gigaom.com/2014/01/02/facebook-reads-private-message...

another suit brought over false likes: https://gigaom.com/2014/01/10/facebook-hit-with-lawsuit-over...

facebook recycling "likes" under guise of promoting "related stories" users didn't endorse: http://www.forbes.com/sites/anthonykosner/2013/01/21/faceboo...

The autofriending thing is less publicized and I don't think they've ever been sued over it, so it probably hasn't been in the headlines. If you search Facebook's /help/community/ pages, you'll find a lot of users reporting it. It's happened to me. It's happened to my wife. I've had friends tell me similar stories. In every case, it seems like something algorithmic, like Facebook thinks the person is someone you should be friends with because of mutual connections or something like that. It isn't a spammy thing as much as it is...creepy, like you, as a user, don't have your own agency. It's weird and off putting to see an accepted friend request you didn't make, from someone you expressly don't want to have any contact whatsoever with, let alone be "friends."

Yeah, I know of Beacon etc. but I've never heard of automatic likes or friendships.

The mobile app turns on the damn mic

I checked my iphone privacy settings because this sounded preposterous, and the Facebook app is not listed as having requested microphone permissions. Is it able to turn on the microphone without requesting permission?

I don't know the details, because I don't use the Facebook mobile app or an iPhone, but the feature is advertised as "opt-in." In my wife's case (who uses an Android) she just noticed it start working one day and was surprised by it.

This is the official announcement of the feature. They emphasize it being "optional" and "opt-in" so, it appears it is off by default, and/or at least toggling that control is more clearly delineated in iOS, etc.


Are you talking about the regular facebook app or the messenger app.

Neither one has requested permission to use the microphone.

Even your mentions of when they violated people's privacy, those instances were still 100% based on what the user decided to share with Facebook - which I believe was the parent's point.

I'm comfortable sharing my phone number with friends and acquaintances because they're inside my network of trust. Maybe one of them is writing my number on the walls of bathroom stalls or selling it to spammers, who knows, but I guess you take that risk implicitly whenever you give someone your number. I trust my friends though.

I would say most of my friends have no idea that when they install the facebook app they are giving all of their contact info away to facebook. Sure, they click the button to give facebook permissions to "access their contact list", but I don't think most people assume the worst. That just what it takes to participate in the modern culture.

So when facebook is making a shadow account using my number and connections with friends, my privacy certainly feels violated. I did not choose to share anything with facebook. I chose to share things with my friends, and they unwittingly shared it with facebook. Giving your phone number to a friend is a reasonable thing to do. Someone wanting to install facebook on their phone is a reasonable thing to do. Facebook tracking connections of people who choose not to use (or participate in any way with) their service by essentially exploiting peoples naivete about its intentions, is not reasonable to me.

I can educate the people I know about it, but I doubt I will change anyones minds. Facebook has become a part of our culture, I certainly can't blame anyone for wanting to take part in it. I just wish facebook would leave me out of it and it doesn't.

Not the shadow profile. Not at all.

There is no way to not use Facebook.


Everyone's photos: Mine, yours, Stallmans, get posted to Facebook, annotated with our names (which is increasingly becoming easy enough to do with ML -- the human component will increasingly decline). If at least one of your friends uses Facebook, Facebook has profile information on you.

Stallman doesn't have a Facebook account, but things posted to Facebook identify where Stallman is, who his friends and peers are, who he interacts with, etc.

Signing up for a Facebook/Google Scholar/Researchgate/etc. simply gives you some level of control over the visibility of the information collected about you. If you care about your personal brand, there is strong reason to do it. It's almost blackmail. But if you don't do it, you're still on Facebook; simply without the EULA, and without any control.

I agree with you but I think that you used the wrong term... "use" should probably be replaced with "be cataloged by"... for example they do face recognition on all pictures, they harvest contact information from other people installing the FB app, they collect non-facebook browsing information using the "share to facebook" code that might get linked to your real identity somehow (third party sharing of information between companies?) even if you aren't "using" Facebook.

what are you talking about? - i have a lot of friends and do not use facebook - i have an account but dont really log in - a lot of my friends dont use it. the less you use facebook, the more you realize how useless it really is - you want to keep in touch with people, use email - it has worked for a long time, and will continue to work for a long time.

photos - use google photos or dropbox

messages - who care about facebook posts anyways - they are useless

facebook groups - their are competitors in this space now


> what are you talking about?

Read about 3 more lines of the post, and you'll see.

Your reading comprehension skills are lower than my toddler's. Fortunately, you're in good company, from the number of similar posts.

thank you!


Why are you shouting? We know this. People aren't up in arms over this. Not because they don't understand what you're saying, but because they don't care and no amount of shouting will make them care.

Uh...Yes there is. I don't have a facebook account. I did for 8 years. Its possible my life would be different if I used it, but I suspect not.

There is no way to not use life.

Let me repeat that: THERE IS NO WAY TO NOT USE LIFE.

Simply substituting one word for another shows you how you just can't hold Facebook responsible for this. People are and have been able to share information in myriads of ways. Facebook is just one of them. They could be telling information person to person, via a phone call, via e-mail or simply standing in the street and shouting it out. I can be in the next room and a friend of mine could show photos of me to a stranger. I could be thousands of miles away and a friend of mine could reveal my private information to someone else.

What's stopping me to simply create a personal website where I post information about me and my friends? Who's responsible then? The server host? Or is it the me, the one who put all the information on the site, visible for everyone?

People complain about censorship, but basically what they're saying is that they want all information except the one kind where something is revealed about them. If you don't want this information to be shared, then ask your friends to stop posting your name, photos, e-mail, whatever.

Please note that I'm simply responding to the argument that Facebook mines all the data your friends put up. In my wildest dream I wouldn't call FB one of the good guys, nor would I condone most of their practices (e.g. their "Like" buttons on external sites). All I'm saying is that people seem very eager to hand off responsibility to software, machines, corporations. And in some cases that simply doesn't work.

> Simply substituting one word for another shows you how you just can't hold Facebook responsible for this.

Single word substitutions of words that have no relationship with each other do not prove anything. Facebook and life are from entirely different categories in the taxonomy of useful (and not so useful) terms.

The use of certain digital services should be voluntary, not implicit because your associates use it.

While I agree that substituting a single word is a very easy target and easily manipulated, so that I shouldn't have gone for it, I think "life" is very relevant in this case, as for many people it is either part of their life or their social life exclusively evolves around FB.

All I'm saying is that when a friend of yours decides to share information about you in public, you should hold them responsible and not the channel he is sharing this information. That's it.

hint: when I listen to your phone calls and use to to make money, that's illegal

I'll quote what I said in the post you're responding to: "Please note that I'm simply responding to the argument that Facebook mines all the data your friends put up." That's the only point I made.

Facebook absolutely violates people's privacy. But you're conflating Facebook's privacy violations with people's "over-sharing" on Facebook. But those two are actually not the same.

Let me give you an example:

1) Friend shares when he went to the toilet. Is that a privacy violation by Facebook? If it's public, then it's not. If it was private, and then Facebook makes it public by changing the default settings, as it's done many times before, then that would be a privacy violation. But forget about pooping. What if you get drunk and post your drunk pictures to your friends and then Facebook makes them public so your boss (or future boss) can see them?

2) Here's a much worse example than that. Facebook is tracking people through the Like button without them even clicking on it. They never gave Facebook the permission to do that (and I mean in a very "opt-in" way, not just by automatically agreeing with Facebook's ToS). Even worse than that, Facebook has been caught tracking people who don't even have a Facebook account and building "shadow profiles" of them. How is THAT not a privacy violation?

So I think people who say "Facebook doesn't violate people's privacy - they just choose to overshare", are either oversimplifying all the issues and conflating them into a convenient one, or are not too educated about the topic.

Oh and if you want even more real examples, Facebook has just been found to infringe people's privacy in Europe, where the privacy right actually exists, unlike in US, where "digital privacy" seems to be treated as an abstract almost non-existent thing, and the laws protecting it are orders of magnitude weaker than the laws protecting "physical world" privacy - even though there shouldn't be any difference between say law enforcement getting your printed pictures and getting your digital pictures:


I'm surprised that more people don't agree with this.

When the first articles came out that said facebook saves everything you type in messages and status' even if you don't press save, I stopped using facebook for anything other than nondescript one line responses to groups I'm in. It's just so easy to realize that if you don't want incredibly personal things to be saved online for eternity, don't write those things online.

I can't control what others write about me.

You also can't control what others say about you. Or post on any other website about you. Or someone showing a friend of his a picture of you.

(excluding malicious intent of course)

You can't control what others say about you, but you can control who your friends are.

I don't tolerate friends who do not respect my privacy.

I'm not saying I disagree with you here, because what you said is entirely correct, however there have been various instances in the past of social network companies tracking people with the usage of cookies (those "share on X" buttons every website has) even outside their own domain.

And on top of that, you have companies like Facebook doing data analysis on your personal aggregate data and then feeding it to advertisement companies even without your direct consent (although it is implied, either by the user's ignorance or negligence). This is obviously true for other companies as well, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc etc.

Obviously, the main problem here is not the company, it's the people using the company and the peer pressure on everybody else to join in. But that's another story.

> Facebook doesn't invade anyone's privacy.

What do you consider the Like, Connect, etc. buttons that are tracking virtually every page you visit, Facebook user or not?

There are a lot of things about which I'll get up over, and there are plenty of companies feted around here that I think are moral crimes in progress, but this isn't one and I think you've got the arrow of responsibility backwards. You're using websites and applications that have opted into using Facebook's infrastructure for the ends that benefit them, and as a side effect they are sharing the details of their traffic and users with Facebook. If that worries you--and I'm not saying you're wrong to be worried, though I personally don't care--you should not be using those websites. There are people who don't. I think their online lives must suck, but it's their prerogative.

I'm sure it's hard. But doing the right thing often is.

Your last point is exactly right: You can't choose not to use the vast majority of sites on the Internet.

Facebook isn't the only company doing stuff like this by any stretch of the imagination, but claiming that you can just "not use Facebook" if you want to avoid them is complete nonsense, hence my original comment.

How do you know, and thus conciously choose, if a site has a facebook widget without visiting it ?

You could use adblock or something similar on the desktop or android, but then you need to know about it first, and it opens another can of worm regarding site revenues etc.

Also if you're an iOS user you'll just have to live with it or abandon Safari for more limited browsers, and avoid opening any webview from any app ever.

Avoiding sites that use facebook widget is just not realistic. You're fine with it, and that's ok, but that's not really the point.

> How do you know, and thus conciously choose, if a site has a facebook widget without visiting it ?

Black-hole everything coming from a Facebook domain?

> Also if you're an iOS user you'll just have to live with it or abandon Safari for more limited browsers, and avoid opening any webview from any app ever.

Convenient, then, that I don't use iOS. (I use Android, and I do have an /etc/hosts file to kill some things I don't want to see.)

There are the people who grew up watching the privacy invasion happen, and there are the people who grew up with it. I felt often like I was in the middle, but bad experience made me realize that privacy is something worth fighting for.

We've picked the low hanging fruit of clever applications of the data analysis of 'the general population' to recommend us better movies, better things to purchase, search engines adapted to our tastes, and so on.

The absence of privacy is an absence of a safe mind. I grew up enjoying privacy on the internet (or the illusion of) because I was able to learn who I was, and I was able to have my own voice and my own opinions. When my mind became convinced that that was only an illusion, it mentally crippled me. I wasn't able to follow thought paths I deemed unsafe. The definition of unsafe comes from a collection of reasoning (or rationalization) that is mostly irrational - being that it is contextually formed without careful analysis and methodical direction. When one feels like every machine is stalking them, and can eventually be connected back to a person who can make a judgement on that individual's life path without the awareness and consent of the individual, I think we've made a big mistake as an intelligent species.

Facebook allowed a research project to experiment on people's emotions by modifying the content displayed on their news feed. Human experimentation in doing things like this is against all ethical principles important in science. If they are willing to commit such a blatant violation of ethics what makes you think they aren't participating in something far worse? I commend Stallman for sharing his opinions on facebook, a modern day societal cancer.

Universities have a lot of "ethical" requirements for experiments, that are, in a large part, over the top. We should get rid of most of those ethical requirements at universities, rather than expand them to Facebook.

When you're highly invested in the tech scene and are depending on its continuing profitability, then it's only natural that you denounce people who attack it.

What we're seeing here is a conflict of opinion between the so called hackers and the people who think they're working on something that will be acquired by one of the tech giants.

You've got a point there.

However, not every modern tech-buzzed startup wins the market by rejecting privacy and playing the next Facebook. Consider Xiaomi, Uber or SpaceX good examples.

Or in other words: social media is not everything there is in the tech scene. The landscape is not simply a battle of bearded-hardcore-hackers vs brogrammers. Seriously, there's plenty for everyone.

I dislike Facebook because social networking is a natural monopoly and they have managed to grab ahold of it.. they have replaced some of the open and decentralized nature of the internet with the centralized and closed service they control. Competing with or replacing facebook will be very difficult because everyone's friends are already on facebook.

Wouldn't it be great if someone at harvard had come up with an open social networking protocol instead?

I think that a higher percentage of people that post on HN work for facebook or companies with even more invasive business models than once did. The privacy questions hasn't changed, it's just that most of the adults have left.

> defend and even support companies like FB that blatantly invade privacy

People post things to Facebook with the intent of sharing that information with others. I'll admit there may have been some valid criticisms that their privacy settings are/were difficult for some people to fully understand but that's certainly not a blatant invasion of privacy.

As for taking information and using it for targeted advertising that's no different than what companies like Google or Amazon do (which have historically had a higher "reputation" on HN). If you want to consider such practices blatant invasions of privacy that's fine, but there are certainly far bigger offenders out there.

Astroturf of course, notice the conversations around the FCC ruling. How to deal with it is an interesting and I'd say very important problem to community viability.

On the upside it's certainly complimentary to the perceived influence of HN.

A friend of mine was turned off of a potentially new employee the other day because the candidate exclaimed that they recognized a customer from their instagram profile and that they followed it, loved it, etc.

The customer was obviously embarrased, exclaimed that he had not used instagram in over a year, and promptly left the store.

This left an uneasy feeling in my friend (the store owner). Which confused me to be honest. What did that customer expect when they placed their picture and basically entire lives on a public website with geotagged images? The new employee was told to be talkative with all clients as they worked in customer service, and so they attempted to strike up a conversation or at least a similar interest in the customer's publicly viewable leisure activities.

That was how the candidate discovered him on instagram in the first place by the way. It was because he only posted pictures of the local area.

Yeah, kind of a dubious move on your friend's part - how was the potential employee supposed to guess that the customer would feel embarrassed, in a bad way (as opposed to 'oh that picture was so embarrassing, haha')? Seems to me as it does you that it's the customer's reponsibility to own whatever s/he posts publicly.

I guess some people think that their followers on social media must all be personal acquaintances/relatives and are then weirded out to discover that some complete strangers may take an interest in them, but that's their problem Obviously there are exceptions to this, it wouldn't be cool to start an argument with someone over old Twitter comments or to say 'oh hey, I say you on the revenge porn subreddit.' It's sad that I even need to delineate such boundaries, but there you go.

I believe a lot of people think Internet is an entirely different dimension. "What happens on the Internet stays on the Internet" or something.

"The customer was obviously embarrased, exclaimed that he had not used instagram in over a year, and promptly left the store."

Was there a significant age difference between the luckless candidate and the customer? Just guessing.

Maybe 10 years, not much of an age difference as far as I know. They were all under 40 I imagine.

Oh men. Working with people is extremely complicated, yet very educative if have the right mindset.

That was an accident IMHO, better not judge by one case scenario. I know a lots of guys and girls, especially youngsters who would love to hear about their facebook/twitter/instagram profiles.

His opinion may seem ridiculous to many here, but the following has happened quite a few times before:

1. Stallman shares radical opinion

2. He's ridiculed for his outlandish claims

3. Some news breaks or things happen gradually

4. Now people say 'Stallman called it' or realize he was right all along

Some examples, please

He has refused to own a cell phone since inception because he doesn't like the idea of having his movements tracked.

It's now well-known that most of the crypto we depend upon for cellular calls and messaging is broken and can be tapped easily. Seemless, real-time, local area SMS and call interception has been publicly demonstrated, and these demonstrations were not from nefarious or particularly well resourced groups, just keen nerds.

It's also been publicly demonstrated that someone can track your location down to cell tower granularity, from anywhere in the world, without permission, using just your cell phone #, without prior access to your phone, and with only commercially available network access.

And none of this even touches on the ticking timebomb of proprietary firmware in phones that is basically unsupported and untouched by manufacturers and networks from the moment you walk out of the shop. The opportunity to exploit vulnerabilities alone is mind-boggling.

Oh and the fact that most people are replacing all this with centralised messaging platforms like Snapchat, Facebook chat, and Whatsapp.

You're completely naive right now if you think every SMS you've ever sent, every call you ever made, and every location query you've ever put through Googles Location Service hasn't been logged or acquired by NSA.

And frankly, the idea that NSA or GCHQ can silently ring your phone and turn it in to a listening device doesn't sound so James Bond these days.

Sorry I'm on mobile so I can give one:


We are still far away from this short story reflecting reality. Do you have a better example?

Another great example would be the example of stallman "In the future, debuggers will be illegal to use" and a recent court case where a person was sent to jail for accessing a website with a spoofed user agent using wget.

If you're talking about weev, I can not think of a more disingenuous way of describing what he was sent to jail for. Otherwise, I can't find what you're talking about with a simple search.

I am completely unsure how you went from a prediction that hasn't come true to an unrelated computer crime.

There was a court case, where the argument was that "as spoofing a useragent is not a common use case that a normal computer user could do, it has to be considered criminal activity in itself". This is what I was referring to.


Another good article by Richard Stallman - his ideas keep gaining even more relevance for me.

I do use Facebook to plug my books and to hopefully drive traffic to my blog articles, but I have been considering cancelling my account.

I have similar issues with Google, but with Google I get much more value: using G+ to promote my own web properties, and generally really useful services.

That said, I have switched to using my GMail address as a secondary email that I don't often check, and having the people most important to me use my own email address. Also, I give this advice all the time: choose one web browser like Chrome for use just with social media (Google, Facebook, and Twitter web properties) and another web browser for everything else.

> I do use Facebook to plug my books and to hopefully drive traffic to my blog articles

The trick is configuring your blog to autopost to facebook, for which I use https://wordpress.org/plugins/add-link-to-facebook/ which also automatically grabs likes and comments from the facebook post and adds them to the wordpress comments database. Maybe this is acknowledging facebook's value, but at least I don't have to personally interact with facebook, nor are visitors to my blog tracked by facebook's javascript.

I view my decision to use Facebook as a transaction. Sure, I lose some "privacy", but I also get a lot of value in return.

I use quotes around "privacy" because I'm not sure I understand it the same way that Facebook critics do. When I'm using a changeroom, I expect privacy. When I take on a pseudonym and don't identify myself by name, I expect privacy. When I'm knowingly uploading photos that I am happy for the world to see, I don't have much of an expectation of privacy, and without an expectation of privacy I'm not sure I have any privacy to lose. That said, I don't think about this too much, so would love to hear well-reasoned arguments against my point of view on that.

I think a main point is about indirect effects of privacy loss that are hard to see and reason about directly.

Example #1: You visit a website completely unrelated to facebook. The site has a "like" button on the page enabling them to access Facebook's data about you (depending on cookies etc). You observe advertisements or content tailored based on your personal information or things you like. Maybe you are offered different prices for the same product depending on your age, gender, location, etc.

Example #2: A potential employer accesses, perhaps indirectly, information about you that would be illegal to ask you directly (marital status, etc).

Example #3: One of your facebook "friends" signs up for some arbitrary service enabling that service to access your contact and personal information and connect it with e.g. the photos you mentioned. Arbitrary things happen, e.g. your photos are used to advertise some product you find distasteful, your contact and personal information is sold to telemarketers or spammers, and so on.

1) This is more of how Facebook makes money with ads and providing "personalized experience" just as Google does. Fundamentally not a flaw in Facebook, but a debatable practice. And do you have source Facebook would share my age and my gender to third-party even if I list them to be private? The only thing that might be possible is Facebook internally does the calculation. Giving away to third-party vs FB doing the computation aren't exactly the same.

2) If you join an online community, you have to pay a price. You might tagged your friend or your friend tagged you and the setting is not strict enough, then how is that Facebook's fault?

3) Again, that's the price a social network has to pay.

Back in the days people take film-based pictures and there is no way to massively store and distribute to the world. Now the digital age has changed the way we distribute information about one another.

Doesn't matter if Facebook is 100% free software and decentralized. One person leaks everything leaks. There is no real 100% anonymity. You have to make contact with another human being.

There is not only the privacy inside Facebook but also outside facebook. People are generally aware of what they give inside Facebook but I'm not sure most people expect Facebook to store their entire web history with dodgy techniques.

True. Through the "Like" buttons on pages and such, I presume? Do we know for sure that they are keeping that full log?

Yes exactly, the like "button" is in reality an IFrame. And there is also Facebook Comments and Facebook Connect. There is no proof that they are keeping the full log as far as I know but since their advertising business is eager to get more information about their users, there is a strong incentive to do it. In any case, they are probably logging every request to Facebook so they could use that in the future if they wanted to.

I agree. I don't understand what the issue is. I know that anything I add to Facebook will be used to sell advertising to me(I use AdBlock).

The best feature of Facebook is groups. It's the easiest way to keep up to date with my gym group, motorcycle group etc.

What was wrong with mailing lists?

> It's the easiest way to keep up to date with my gym group, motorcycle group etc.

Of course it is the easiest if they use a Facebook group in the first place. They could use a mailing list (or Google group) and you could keep track of it with any mail service (even your own) of choice.

Mailing list? What year is it? Barely anyone outside of the tech world still uses emails regularly.

> What year is it? Is this supposed to be an argument?

> Barely anyone outside of the tech world still uses emails regularly. It's not true according to my experience.

2015. You're dead wrong. People, young and old, regularly use email for communication and subscribing to publications. Most people will use email regularly just by sheer virtue of it being the predominant identifier used for registering to just about any website.

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