He told CoinDesk, “What I’d really like is a way to make purchases anonymously from various kinds of stores, and unfortunately it wouldn’t be feasible for me with bitcoin.” Using a crypto exchange would allow that company and ultimately the government to identify him, he said…. Asked what he thought about so-called privacy coins, Stallman said he’d gotten an expert to assess their potential, and “for each one he would point out some serious problems, perhaps in its security or its scalability.” And speaking broadly, Stallman continued: “If bitcoin protected privacy, I’d probably have found a way to use it by now.” Fortunately, Stallman’s GNU Project has a better answer: The GNU Project, which Stallman founded, is working on an alternative digital payments system called Taler, which is based on cryptography but is not — forgive the hair-splitting — a cryptocurrency.


Stallman founded, is working on an alternative digital payments system called Taler, which is based on cryptography but is not – forgive the hair-splitting – a cryptocurrency.

The Taler project’s maintainer Christian Grothoff told CoinDesk that the system is, rather, designed for a “post-blockchain” world.

Concerned with privacy…

It doesn’t even seem like the technology has been around long enough to already be thinking of a world after it, but to Stallman, bitcoin isn’t suitable as a digital payment system.

His biggest complaint: bitcoin’s poor privacy protections.

He told CoinDesk, “What I’d really like is a way to make purchases anonymously from various kinds of stores, and unfortunately it wouldn’t be feasible for me with bitcoin.”

Using a crypto exchange would allow that company and ultimately the government to identify him, he said.

And that can require getting private information from people and about people.”

Stallman also calls for laws that restrict the use of face recognition cameras in the streets or license plate recognition cameras, putting the United States as a case of implementing surveillance methods:

“We need laws restricting the use of such cameras to make sure that databases that track people around the city as they move around cannot be collected. Any systematic attempt to recognize people other than people subject to specific court orders, perhaps, a limited exception because their limits are safe for society. They will not lead to general repression.

As a result, cryptocurrency enthusiasts could be forgiven for thinking Stallman was also head-over-heels for bitcoin.

He’s not.

Before his oration on libertarianism was interrupted, he said that the right-wingers who made up a significant portion of bitcoin’s early adopters don’t really deserve the label. His own pro-freedom views are more “libertarian” than bitcoiners’ “anti-socialism,” he argued.

As we spoke, it became clear that Stallman doesn’t find the decade-old technology all that appealing, for more reasons than just politics.

“I have never used it myself,” he told CoinDesk.

If that’s surprising, keep in mind that fine distinctions matter a great deal to Stallman.

In fact, it is supported by Richard Stallman.

Unlike Bitcoin, GNU Taler is not a crypto-currency, but a payment system designed to be used for anonymous business cancellations.

In addition, the payer uses a signature or token, one needed with each purchase, to get money from the system. So it’s an alternative to Bitcoin?

Meanwhile, according to an article published in Security, Privacy, and Applied Cryptography Engineering, GNU Taler is described as complying with ethical considerations. The paying customer is anonymous, while the merchant is identified and taxed.


GNU Taler is not a crypto currency

Richard Matthew Stallman, say you can use your bank account to get tokens from Taler.

Talers, and this will initially be useful with digital purchases because what you pay with a Taler, the site could send the data you asked for to you right through that same connection. It doesn’t need to know who you are, only that you paid. Using Taler payments for deliveries is a bit harder.

That requires a system of basically anonymous mailing. If there are pickup boxes and various locations, post offices, convenience stores that don’t belong to a monopolist like Amazon – by the way, I boycott Amazon absolutely, I’ve never bought anything through Amazon, and I urge people not to buy people for me through Amazon – but if the delivery boxes were independent of any company so that anyone could deliver to them, you could obtain the use of a suitable delivery box, and specify it along with your payment, and the product would be delivered there.

A place for crypto?

While Taler is not a cryptocurrency and doesn’t have a native asset (there are no talers or TalerCoins), as a new payment rail for existing assets, the system could support cryptocurrency at some point.

Just as euros (the first currency that will be supported by the system), dollars and yen could all be sent using Taler, so could bitcoin.

Similarly, while Taler is not a blockchain, a blockchain-based system could take the place of a bank within the system.

For users to be able to move euros into the Taler wallet, though, Taler exchanges will need to interact with the traditional banking system to withdraw that money.

Grothoff said, such a system “would again enable dangerous, money laundering kind of practice.”

Indeed, in a break with the anti-government ethos that has tended to characterize bitcoin and some of its peers, Taler’s design explicitly tries to block opportunities for tax evasion.

Speaking to this, Stallman told CoinDesk, “We need a state to do many vital jobs, including fund research, fund education, provide people with medical care – provide everyone with medical care – build roads, maintain order, provide justice, including to those who are not rich and powerful, and so the state’s got to bring in a lot of money.”

What a break from the political leanings of many of bitcoin’s first adherents.

Stallman continued:

“I wouldn’t want perfect privacy because that would mean it would be impossible to investigate crimes at all.

You would have code to demonstrate that you were the purchaser of it.

Cointelegraph: What do you think about Facebook’s Libra project?

Richard Stallman: I haven’t tried to study anything about the details of Facebook’s money project because the most important thing about it I already know. It’s connected with Facebook, and Facebook means surveillance. I urge people to join me in absolutely refusing to use Facebook or rather be used by Facebook.

Because Facebook doesn’t have users. Facebook has used. So don’t be a sucker, don’t be used by Facebook.

Cointelegraph: Have you seen anything lately that could change your mind on cryptocurrency?

Richard Stallman: My criticism of cryptocurrencies is nothing new. I’ve felt this way about them ever since I first saw them.

Now, I’m not against them.

It won’t be able to tell that you got the token from a particular bank account at a particular time, even though you did so. To convert your payment into money in its own bank, the store (the payee) will have to identify itself. So this gives privacy in a much more reliable way than cryptocurrencies do, and it blocks the idea of using this system to enable tax evasion.

GNU Taler recently had an exciting milestone.

A few months ago the eurozone banking system became interested in supporting Taler payments, and just recently they succeeded using a test setup in obtaining Taler tokens with one bank account and paying them to another bank account through the Taler system. Now, it’s not something that anybody can use but it will be, and that will be really exciting.

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