Is Your Freedom Of Speech Under Threat?

Freedom of Speech

What do you enjoy most about the country you live in? Many people in western societies may say ‘the freedom of speech’ or the freedom of making my own choices about my life, the freedom of voicing my opinions and the freedom of living in the privacy of my own home.

Yes we do enjoy a lot of freedom that not every country does or has done in the past. We can go about our lives privately without having to justify or answer to the government on the decisions we make in our life, be it relocating to a different part of the country or city for example. We can privately vote for the leader of the government we want without facing consequences for our political beliefs. We can privately practice the religion we follow without it being used as a control form as it has been in the past or still is now in certain countries. We privately make the decision who we want to marry and what career we want to follow and no corporation or governing body is forcing us down a specific path in life.

Where does our love of freedom come from? It is our innate need to want to experience freedom. Since the beginning of time the underdogs have lived under the yoke of masters who have controlled and withheld their freedom for their personal gain. The Gestapo in Nazi Germany making it their business to know every detail about German citizens lives and conversations, US Plantation owners granting not a single private moment or thought to ‘their’ Slaves and there are many more examples we could discuss. The truth these historical events raise is that there can be no liberty without privacy for the general population. Ever since the people realised that the governing bodies need us to function we have been able to demand privacy.

After considering how much privacy enables us to live a life of freedom and how many centuries it has taken the western society to get to this place, I am sure you would agree that we will not settle for any less and support the effort to further our freedom and right to privacy.

Your secret profile

With over 3 billion users the internet is a major enabler of freedom to information. We freely educate ourselves by googling for answers to our questions. We can buy goods from the comfort of our home to save time and money. We take the liberty to voice our opinions on blogs we set up for free in a matter of minutes and easily connect with our friends across the globe, share pictures of ourselves and the places we have visited.

How much freedom do you really have? Every time you search on Google or Bing a profile is built about you. Every website you visit is tracked by advertisers and added to your profile. Everything you ‘like’ is remembered and may enable the page you ‘liked’ to access your social network profile. Everyone you follow has been registered. It seems that this pandoras box we have opened leaves us with no internet browsing privacy at all.

Why should I care?

The real scare here is that you don’t know the exact privacy policy of the websites you are visiting nor do you know of the third party tracking cookies that are allowed to gather information about you. You do not know how securely your information is stored by the third parties and the more information that is gathered about you could lead to a higher risk of identity fraud. It is more likely you will start to receive mail advertising from credit card companies and targeted advertising on websites you visit.

Targeted advertising may not bother you that much and you may even welcome it, but you should have the freedom and right to opt out and have the right to internet browsing privacy instead of companies making money on your browsing habits. By enabling advertisers and outside forces to track you, you are allowing these corporations to dictate what content you see on the internet. They are controlling you through the information they have gathered about you and selecting the content they want you to see on the websites you visit.

Are we not regressing as a nation if we simply throw our hands up in the air and accept ‘privacy is dead’? We have to realise if privacy is dead then so is freedom.

What can I do to protect my privacy – Privacy Tools?

There are a number of things you can do to protect your own privacy while at the same time educating yourself on the subject. There are many privacy tools out there in the form of browser extensions. Privacy Snapper, for example, is an extension you can add easily. It comes with an admin section where you can review all the privacy policies of the websites you have visited. 

If you want to take your internet browsing privacy further then there are a number of privacy software out there. Tor is probably the most popular with around 2 million users according to WIRED. Tor encrypts a users traffic and spreads it out over randomly selected computers. This makes it impossible for anyone to track another users browsing habits and you are truly anonymous when visiting any website.

The privacy software Tails ensures safe anonymity when browsing over Tor. It fends off malware attacks that may cause a Tor users computer to leak identifying data.

In terms of freedom it may be a good idea to get a VPN (Virtual Private Network). This privacy tool will mask the location of your IP address and enable you to connect to proxy servers for the purpose of protecting your identity.

Who needs to be surveyed?

An answer the government seems to give when justifying its surveillance programs is that they enable protection of its borders and the safety of the population. While this is very necessary we should demand the set up of strict policies that will still keep the conforming population’s right to privacy. Should individuals break the rules set up by our country then the rights of the perpetrators  to privacy and freedom should be relinquished. There are programs set up for this that can automatically decipher between the necessary individuals to survey and it does not need to bleed over to general citizens.

The Web We Want

This is exactly what Sir Tim Berners-Lee is campaigning for with the World Wide Web Foundation and the Web We Want movement. You can join at webwewant.org and be at the frontline on taking action for a better web. You can also follow along with #webwewantfest on Twitter.

“Countries should accelerate action to make the web affordable, accessible and relevant to all groups in society, as they promised at the World Summit on the Information Society in 2003.” Sir Tim Berners-Lee commenting on the global lead table Web Index, which ranks countries according to a set of freedoms and relevant web content. He also warned that “a growing tide of surveillance and censorship” posed a threat to the future of democracy, according to The Guardian.

The Future

As it stands, we have to take our browsing privacy in our own hands and with some of the privacy tools mentioned we can see that the privacy software is out there to protect our freedom and to take charge of our rights. With our internet browsing privacy reestablished we are free to go on creating and sharing over the web. This is what the web was intended for and this is why it has evolved so quickly since its birth in 1989. If we have to conform to corporation rules on our privacy it may stifle its progress due to our, the creators, freedom having been relinquished.

 

About Amy Rudolph

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Amy is a well traveled web developer. With a love for technology and appreciation for freedom she is very keen to carry out Privacy Shell’s mission, to encourage the use of technology with a heightened privacy awareness.

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