[ANSOL-geral] A radical proposal to keep your personal data safe | Richard Stallman

André Esteves aife netvisao.pt
Quinta-Feira, 5 de Abril de 2018 - 12:43:35 WEST

  A radical proposal to keep your personal data safe

The surveillance imposed on us today is worse than in the Soviet Union.
We need laws to stop this data being collected in the first place

• Richard Stallman is president of the Free Software Foundation

Tue 3 Apr 2018 12.05 BST First published on Tue 3 Apr 2018 12.00 BST

Journalists have been asking me whether the revulsion against the abuse
of Facebook data
could be a turning point for the campaign to recover privacy. That could
happen, if the public makes its campaign broader and deeper.

Broader, meaning extending to all surveillance systems, not just
Facebook <https://www.theguardian.com/technology/facebook>. Deeper,
meaning to advance from regulating the use of data to regulating the
accumulation of data. Because surveillance is so pervasive, restoring
privacy is necessarily a big change, and requires powerful measures.

The surveillance imposed on us today far exceeds that of the Soviet
Union. For freedom and democracy’s sake, we need to eliminate most of
it. There are so many ways to use data to hurt people that the only safe
database is the one that was never collected. Thus, instead of the EU’s
approach of mainly regulating how personal data may be used (in its
General Data Protection Regulation <https://www.eugdpr.org/> or GDPR), I
propose a law to stop systems from collecting personal data.

The robust way to do that, the way that can’t be set aside at the whim
of a government, is to require systems to be built so as not to collect
data about a person. The basic principle is that a system must be
designed not to collect certain data, if its basic function can be
carried out without that data.

Data about who travels where is particularly sensitive, because it is an
ideal basis for repressing any chosen target. We can take the London
trains and buses as a case for study.

The Transport for London digital payment card system centrally records
the trips any given Oyster or bank card has paid for. When a passenger
feeds the card digitally, the system associates the card with the
passenger’s identity. This adds up to complete surveillance.

I expect the transport system can justify this practice under the GDPR’s
rules. My proposal, by contrast, would require the system to stop
tracking who goes where. The card’s basic function is to pay for
transport. That can be done without centralising that data, so the
transport system would have to stop doing so. When it accepts digital
payments, it should do so through an anonymous payment system.

Frills on the system, such as the feature of letting a passenger review
the list of past journeys, are not part of the basic function, so they
can’t justify incorporating any additional surveillance.

These additional services could be offered separately to users who
request them. Even better, users could use their own personal systems to
privately track their own journeys.

Black cabs demonstrate that a system for hiring cars with drivers does
not need to identify passengers. Therefore such systems should not be
/allowed /to identify passengers; they should be required to accept
privacy-respecting cash from passengers without ever trying to identify

However, convenient digital payment systems can also protect passengers’
anonymity and privacy. We have already developed one: GNU Taler
<https://taler.net/en/index.html>. It is designed to be anonymous for
the payer, but payees are always identified. We designed it that way so
as not to facilitate tax dodging. All digital payment systems should be
required to defend anonymity using this or a similar method.

What about security? Such systems in areas where the public are admitted
must be designed so they cannot track people. Video cameras should make
a local recording that can be checked for the next few weeks if a crime
occurs, but should not allow remote viewing without physical collection
of the recording. Biometric systems should be designed so they only
recognise people on a court-ordered list of suspects, to respect the
privacy of the rest of us. An unjust state is more dangerous than
terrorism, and too much security encourages an unjust state.

The EU’s GDPR regulations are well-meaning, but do not go very far. It
will not deliver much privacy, because its rules are too lax. They
permit collecting any data if it is somehow useful to the system, and it
is easy to come up with a way to make any particular data useful for

The GDPR makes much of requiring users (in some cases) to give consent
for the collection of their data, but that doesn’t do much good. System
designers have become expert at manufacturing consent (to repurpose Noam
Chomsky’s phrase). Most users consent to a site’s terms without reading
them; a company that required
users to trade their first-born child got consent from plenty of users.
Then again, when a system is crucial for modern life, like buses and
trains, users ignore the terms because refusal of consent is too painful
to consider.

To restore privacy, we must stop surveillance before it even asks for

Finally, don’t forget the software in your own computer. If it is the
non-free software of Apple, Google or Microsoft, it spies on you
regularly <https://gnu.org/malware/>. That’s because it is controlled by
a company that won’t hesitate to spy on you. Companies tend to lose
their scruples when that is profitable. By contrast, free (libre)
software is controlled by its users
That user community keeps the software honest.

• Richard Stallman is president of the Free Software
<https://www.theguardian.com/technology/software> Foundation, which
launched the development of a free/libre operating system GNU

/Copyright 2018 Richard Stallman. Released under Creative Commons
NoDerivatives License 4.0/


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