Free software advocate Richard Stallman has told an audience in Johannesburg that South Africans should put pressure on government to scrap the electronic tolling of South African roads because the surveillance inherent in the system is a threat to their freedom.
The eccentric Stallman, who developed the GNU operating system that today forms part of the Linux operating system — Stallman insists it be called GNU/Linux — told the audience of mainly computer programmers and open-source software advocates at Wits University that South Africans “have to fight e-tolling”. His lecture formed part of a Software Freedom Day event held at the university.
The remarks, which drew applause from the audience, formed part of a lecture by Stallman on issues believes threaten freedom in the digital society. Electronic surveillance is one of them, he said.
“[E-tolling] is another surveillance system. It is a gratuitous surveillance system. They don’t have to use that system to raise the money. In fact, they could raise the money more efficiently through the [petrol] tax, as everyone knows,” he said.
“If they want to collect tolls electronically, that can be done anonymously, too,” Stallman said. “It’s not too late to switch to systems that are anonymous and where the patents have expired so there’s nothing standing in anyone’s way.”
He also slammed the South African government over powers it has given the National Intelligence Agency.
“Thanks to [whistle-blower] Edward Snowden, we know that the US does surveillance to an extent that is unconscionable, unconstitutional and incompatible with democracy,” he said. “But the government of South Africa is worse. South Africa’s spy agency is explicitly set up to spy on South Africans, not foreign enemies. It doesn’t even have to stretch its rules to spy on everybody all the time.”
— Download and listen to Stallman’s remarks on surveillance from his Johannesburg address. Note that TechCentral has agreed to a request by Stallman that the audio be made available in a format that is not proprietary and is not in any way patented. The Ogg Vorbis file format we decided to use can be played back in software such as VLC and through most modern Web browsers. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media
- Image: Christophe Ducamp