Persona-comments-Richard Stallman of Free Software Foundation
Source: Email received August 12, 2011
"Multiple personas generally good, but some issues of substance and technology
The general idea of having multiple "personas" seems like a good thing to me. At present, you can do this by having different logins on different sites (which you contact using Tor, or various computers you share with others, so they can't tell these different personas are all you).
I hope that any new system will be every bit as robust as this one: that it won't introduce a single party that can associate these personas with you, and that might reveal to Big Brother that they are all you. That would be a step backwards. And most of the article seems to head in that direction.
If lots of people really want to give personal information to get more "relevant" advertising, I won't try to stop them. But I will refuse to do it myself. So I am very concerned about any plan to redesign Internet publication that would reduce what I can do while refusing.
An insistance on personalized advertising seems very dangerous. If publishers insist on being able to do that, they will insist on making users identify themselves, which is exactly what users should not let them do. No publisher is going to have a personal relationship with me as a reader. AdKeeper is a good example of why I won't do it.
Page 5 says that the ITA would "make and enforce rules governing the user's 'persona' -- personal information". Will users have to hand over any personal information? Would the entities that handle personas know all my "personas" and know that they are all me?
Page 6 says the ITA would offer my choice of places to open a "one-ID, one-bill account". That's the worst thing I can imagine. What I want is the chance to do many "no-ID, no-bill" cash transactions that cannot be linked to each other. Will the ITA help me do that? Can it?
Page 7 talks about cross-licensing. This makes me concerned that participation might require paying patent licenses and force sites to use proprietary software. People who want freedom must shun proprietary software; organizations that want to publish in freedom must likewise shun proprietary software on their servers. Will this exclude them from the ITA?
Page 13, at the bottom, says "the uses have to be tracked" in order to "compensate" the "creators".
"Compensating" writers is a misguided concept (see http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/words-to-avoid.html#Compensation ). They are not entitled to "compensation". Readers need to support the arts if they want more arts, and readers need to support journalism too.
(I support journalism by sending $100 to Greg Palast now and then.) But this doesn't mean readers have a duty to "compensate" anyone.
Page 18 refers to Facebook's "sponsored stories". I talk about that on stallman.org as one of the abusive practices which are why people shouldn't use Facebook. LinkedIn has just backed down from a similar practice under pressure from its users. I hope they take this pressure to Facebook next. To talk about this practice without condemning it is to legitimize it.
Aside from those issues of substance, I'd like to mention an issue of terminology. I think calling works "content" is harmful because it devalues those works. It embodies the viewpoint of a media mogul whose sole interest in what he publishes is the money he can get from them.
Maybe you chose to express that viewpoint because you're trying to convince people who really think that way. But using a viewpoint encourages it, and don't think you really want to encourage this one.
Dr Richard Stallman
President, Free Software Foundation
51 Franklin St.
Boston MA 02110
http://www.fsf.org http://www.gnu.org Skype: No way! That's nonfree (freedom-denying) software. Use free telephony http://directory.fsf.org/category/tel/