Monday, March 14, 2011
Open source GNU telephony could be very disruptive
by Larry Geller
We know that NSA, the FBI, even possibly the kid next door can tap our phones regardless of what the law may say. We have privacy rights, but we cannot exercise them in an environment where government is not bound by its own rules.
NSA routinely collects and examines huge volumes of ordinary Americans' phone calls and email messages without court warrants. So why, I have often wondered, do we still make plain old analog telephone calls, basically the same way that Alexander Graham Bell did when he invented the system? Why do we continue to send plain-text emails, knowing that they can be collected by hackers (as well as the NSA)? Even though these hackers are looking for our private bank account numbers and other personal information, we most often don’t take adequate steps to protect our correspondence..
For some time it has been very easy to encrypt our phone and email conversations so that they remain private and protected from snoopers. Evildoers are already using secure communications. They’d be less successful as evildoers if they didn’t. So it’s unlikely that national security would be compromised if Big Brother could no longer read citizen's emails.
We are truly sheep.
For telephony, the obstacle to secure communications has been the requirement that everyone we call have a secure system. They don’t, so it doesn’t work for us non-evildoers.
Now suppose the sheep had an alternative. That is, suppose we could choose a system that was secure enough that wiretappers and hackers would have an exceedingly hard time reading it. Also imagine that we could finally discard the yoke of predatory phone company pricing and communicate with whomever we please without them.
That would be disruptive. And maybe it can happen, in time.
GNU Telephony is a project to enable anyone to use free as in freedom software for telephony, and with the freedom to do so on any platform they choose to use. We also wish to make it easy to use the Internet for real-time voice and video communication, and in fact for all forms of real-time collaboration. Finally we wish to make it possible to communicate securely and in complete privacy by applying distributed cryptographic solutions. Our goal is to enable secure and private real-time communication worldwide over the Internet that is free as in freedom, and is also free as in no cost too!
It would be like Skype for everyone.
Basically, as I understand it, our computers all become telephone switches. It works just like peer-to-peer networks.
Who knows if this will catch on. Skype did. GNU Telephony may be a project to watch over the coming years.
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