Richard Stallman, president of the Free Software Foundation, warned listeners at a Bitcoin conference in London that the currency is not truly anonymous, but it must become so if we are to make democracy safe.

“People don’t necessarily give their names when they do Bitcoin transactions,” he later told Russia Today, “but the government can probably figure out who is doing the transaction.”

Stallman, 60, has been promoting free software and technological freedom for decades. He launched the GNU Project back in 1983 in an effort to make software freely copyable and distributable. All of this predated internet piracy concerns and peer-to-peer sharing by 15 years. Much of his foundation’s work focuses on the same principles.

Back to Bitcoins: Stallman said most new Bitcoin users have to buy in to the currency, presumably through a credit card or some other trackable means. Therefore, there is almost always a Bitcoin trail back to someone’s identity.

“We must have an anonymous way to pay websites so that they can’t have the excuse that the only way to get any money is by advertising that tracks people,” Stallman said. “We know that if companies track people, then the NSA or GCHQ is going to look at that data, it’s going to be tracking people through these companies.”

Democracy requires that spy agencies not be able to do this, he reasoned, and the only way to circumvent government spying is to create a fully anonymized currency.

The conference, Bitcoin Expo, was held over the weekend of November 29 – December 1 in London.