RMS Trashes the Tube

Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman is no stranger to controversy, and probably never will be. He grabbed himself a fresh dose of it on Monday, attacking London's famed Underground over the potential for government tracking of citizens via the smartcard season pass.

The smartcard, called Oyster, utilizes Linux and other Open Source software for it's payment and operations systems, a decision that one would expect to be commended by the Open Source community. However, Mr. Stallman believes the cards, which operate via RFID, can be used by the "surveillance-mad government of the UK" to track passengers wherever they might go. The cards themselves are anonymous, however, online payments and automatic credit card billing link the pass to ones identity, and the prospect of knowing where one does their shopping is apparently irresistible to Her Majesty. Involving Open Source software — which by design is intended for free use by anyone — in such a nefarious plot is apparently unforgivable, prompting the present tizzy.

Amongst his advice for ditching MI-5 at the platform includes paying in cash and switching out pre-paid cards on a regular — but presumably not discernible — basis, as well as wrapping them in tinfoil when not in use, to prevent surreptitious scanning. We suggest a tinfoil hat and magnetic anti-abduction boots to complete the ensemble — canned food, cache of automatic weapons, and piles of separatist literature being optional.

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