Social Networks and Privacy in the Eyes of Richard Stallman

Social networking is ubiquitous today – you’ve heard this phrase over and over again.

From the earliest days of Usenet to the huge leaps of the last decade, online socialization has come a long way, bringing with it interesting redefinitions of words that are part of everyday speech. If you hate an organization, you still have to hit ‘Like’ to get updates in your Facebook newsfeed to know what they’re up to. Someone “befriending” you can mean different things, often pretty much removed from reality.

Making the Web More “Human”

The web is getting increasingly social, with search engines relying on signals from Facebook ‘Likes’ and Google’s ‘+1’s’ as factors in ranking results. The idea is to strengthen the human aspect and avoid showing you material which is generated and popularized automatically. Companies and web publishers (including this one) use social networks to connect with people in an attempt to hear from them and help spread information.

And, we do get to see brands using not-so-pleasant means for promotion – Hit Like, Click Share, Tweet, +1, Leave a Comment, Blog About Us and Win a Trip To Space! – the idea being to reach every nook and corner of social networks and quickly create an impression that a huge number of people are talking about those brands!

Richard Stallman’s Speaks on Google+ and Facebook

While the Google+ vs Facebook war for dominance rages on, not everyone is happy with the compromise on privacy issues.

One of the most outspoken opponents of social networks’ tactics is the founder of the Free Software Foundation, Richard Stallman. “Those two – mistreat their users by requiring people to give their real names. That’s a policy that puts some people in danger, so you shouldn’t use them”, says the pioneer of software freedom, referring to Google+ and Facebook.

And he reserves his sharpest words for Facebook: “But Facebook does many other bad things as well. Facebook does massive surveillance. If there’s a ‘Like’ button on a page, Facebook knows who visited that page, and can get the IP address of the computer visiting the page, even if the person is not a Facebook user. If you visit several pages that have ‘Like’ buttons, Facebook knows that you visited all of those pages, even if it doesn’t really know who you are.”


In another interview, Stallman says, “Facebook does a bunch of nasty things.....In fact, I’m trying to get a browser modified so that Facebook ‘Like’ buttons will not show up at all.......And Facebook uses its users’ faces in paid publicity for companies”.

When The Economic Times asked him to talk about Facebook's IPO listing, he reiterated his concerns about the social networking site being a surveillance engine and said that he asks people not to put photographs of himself on the site, to stop the collection of data about the names of people in the photos.

While some might argue that humans have become robotic and wouldn’t mind themselves being used up as “products”, there are many others who would strongly dislike having their private life put up for discussion.

Do you use social networks to connect with friends or fans? If yes, do you feel an urgent need for changes in the way the data about yourself is being passed around? Do you agree with Richard Stallman’s views on the behavior of the two leading social networks? Your views are welcome!


Well, Richard Stallman is right in his views and why social sites, even search engines we are aware are using data tracking for users. The question is: are these organizations mature enough to handle that data sensitively apart from using it to make systems better and if so, in future will they keep doing the same self-discipline ? The fact of the matter is, these sites have become so pervasive that avoiding them does not seem a practical option. The only way to contain them is having strong regulations and effective ways to implement those, at the same time not harming freedoms of expression over net.

By Vishal

The video tutorial provided by Richard Stallman is very informative and precise in terms of social networking methods. I mean it is always great to know about Facebook and Google+ two current giant social networking platforms. I think I am more agree with his views on these leading social networks rather than disagree simply because he is right when he say that Facebook does massive surveillance. His concerns over security are totally right.

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