Who Needs the KGB when we have Facebook? An Interview with Eben Moglen
For years, the network ideologist Eben Moglen cautioned that the Internet had become
a tool of control and surveillance; a tool whose very nature endangers human
freedom in an unprecedented way. Nowadays he forewarns: We have ten years before
it becomes permanent. In an interview, he explains how the network structure impairs
democracy and promotes totalitarian regimes, why Mark Zuckerberg paralyzed
the basic right of human privacy more than anyone else in his age and why today’s
children are the only hope to stop him.
When it comes to his privacy, Eben Moglen is not willing to take any chances.
The security system he set-up to surround his personal information online wouldn’t
embarrass the protagonist of an ultra-paranoid spy thriller, where government forces
are constantly attempting to maliciously penetrate the privacy of ordinary citizens.
The wall he built includes eight encrypted servers, all of which belong to him
alone, to run all his online activity. These servers communicate only with a limited
number of devices, all of which belong to him and closely track against any attempts
of intrusion. Moglen built them himself, with his own two hands, with parts he
purchased separately. In cash.
Moglen does not own a smartphone—his phone is as ignorant as a shoe. His computer
is a Chrome-Book, from which every sign of both Chrome and the cloud were
erased. Of course, he does not own a Twitter, Facebook or Gmail account.
“Information wants to be free,” that is the commonplace coined clichÃl’ of the
digital age. It is also the phrase spouted by all the network giants; it is their way of
justifying their privacy practices. Nevertheless, Moglen is not impressed. “Notice” he
points out dryly “that the people who defend their right to invade the user’s privacy
are also those spouting that phrase. They are also those that have the most profits to
gain from using users’ private information while keeping their information disclosed.
The idea behind free information is the right idea: every mind on the planet should
be free to learn. Unfortunately, those who are spouting that catchphrase don’t mean
it. They don’t mean it in that sense. What they mean is”information wants to be
free, so your information is the one that should be free so that we can make money
off it“. But they would never sacrifice their own privacy for that distorted version of
freedom of information”.
“Nowadays, most of us treat privacy as it were a worthless relic of the past. Gradually
we are abandoning our personal information to anyone who will allow us to
press”like” on a video of cats.” Although Moglen may sound like a crazy man hiding
from the world in a digital bunker, he sees it differently. “The funny thing is, I didn’t
intend it to be a bunker, it’s my home,” he says “I just built the most beautiful home
in the world”.