Richard Stallman, a computer programmer and free software activist, brands famous operating systems such as iOS, Windows and Android as malware.

In an opinion piece in The Guardian, Stallman suggests that nearly all operating systems, whether desktop operating system or mobile operating system, can be considered malware.

Stallman said that software products and software pre-installed in products can be malicious, usually when not free/libre. 'Free' in a sense that users are able to run the program as they wish and are not forbidden or stopped from doing so.

Stallman, who founded the Free Software Foundation, also made it clear in the opinion piece that he is not talking about any type of virus. Stallman defines malware as an application that mistreats users.

Stallman suggests that most operating systems are designed in a way to spy on the users. These operating systems also have a backdoor that can allow malicious activities.

"Windows snoops on users, shackles users and, on mobiles, censors apps," says Stallman.

Stallman argues that Microsoft's operating system has a universal back door, which allows the company to access remote computers connected to the Internet and make software changes.

It is not just Microsoft that Stallman claims is malware. He suggests that the same applies to Apple's iOS and Mac OS X as well as Android. Most of the world's mobile devices, smartphones and tablets, run on Android or iOS.

"Even Android contains malware in a non-free component: a back door for remote forcible installation or de-installation of any app," added Stallman.

Stallman also points out that many apps available collect user data for delivering improved services to their users. He gives an example of Amazon's Kindle e-reader, which he explains transmits data to the company regarding the pages viewed by a user.

The free software activist also highlighted that technology is becoming an important aspect in the auto industry as well. Proprietary software in many modern cars does not allow fixing by their owners. GPS navigators in many modern cars also keep a track of where the car has been driving.

"If the car itself does not report everywhere you drive, an insurance company may charge you extra to go without a separate tracker," added Stallman. "Some GPS navigators save up where you have gone in order to report back when connected to update the maps."

Stallman recommends that individuals should reject using Web services and download proprietary software, which tracks a user's activity.

Organizations should focus on developing free Web services, which do not track the activity of its users. Stallman also suggests that the government should take appropriate action and adopt laws that criminalize malware practices.  

Photo: Christophe Ducamp | Flickr

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