The use of Linux in London’s Oyster-card system has come under fire from a renowned free-software advocate

Richard Stallman, president of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), told ZDNet.co.uk this week that the use of open-source software, such as Red Hat Linux, JBoss middleware and Apache web-server software means that online payments cannot be made anonymously, so anybody paying online or via credit card is immediately handing their details to ‘big brother’.

Open-source irony

Stallman claims in an email: "The GNU system (often called "Linux") has been developed, since 1984, for the sake of computer users' freedom. Ironically, it is now the basis for a system designed to smother the freedom of the people of London, through online payments to Oyster cards.

"Each Oyster card has a unique ID, which it transmits when it is used. So, if you make the mistake of connecting the card with your name, then Big Brother knows exactly when and where you enter the Tube system and where you leave. For the surveillance-mad government of the UK, this is like a dream come true."

If you don’t fancy handing over your details to the state then Stallman suggests paying for your Oyster top-ups in cash and swapping your pay-as-you-go cards regularly: "That way, even if Big Brother finds out which card you have today, he can't use its number to look up all your movements for the past N years."