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Privacy? Well Just remove the Word from your life

The Snooper’s Charter passed into law this week – say goodbye to your privacy

Why does privacy matter? Often courts and commentators struggle to articulate why privacy is valuable. They see privacy violations as often slight annoyances. But privacy matters a lot more than that.

The benefits of the Web have come at some cost, one being loss of privacy. Moreover, we are more susceptible to identity fraud and data breaches.

The governments of Australia, Germany, the UK and the US are destroying your privacy. Some people don’t see the problem…

“I have nothing to hide, so why should I care?”

It doesn’t matter if you have “nothing to hide”. Privacy is a right granted to individuals that underpins the freedoms of expression, association and assembly; all of which are essential for a free, democratic society.

The statement from some politicians that “if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear” purposefully misframes the whole debate.

This affects all of us. We must care.

Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.

– Edward Snowden

A new bill, recently passed by both parliamentary houses, requires UK ISPs to store user internet history for up to a year, and to decrypt data as needed for police investigations.

The hundreds of chilling mass surveillance programmes revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013 were – we assumed – the result of a failure of the democratic process. Snowden’s bravery finally gave Parliament and the public the opportunity to scrutinise this industrial-scale spying and bring the state back into check.

But, in an environment of devastatingly poor political opposition, the Government has actually extended state spying powers beyond those exposed by Snowden – setting a “world-leading” precedent.

Another major piece of the bill is that it grants the power to remove “electronic protection applied by or on behalf of that operator to any communications or data.” Essentially, this allows the UK government to require providers to remove encryption, and could severely limit the effectiveness of end-to-end encryption.

The fact that you’re on this website is – potentially – state knowledge. Service providers must now store details of everything you do online for 12 months – and make it accessible to dozens of public authorities.

What does your web history look like? Does it reveal your political interests? Social networks? Religious ideas? Medical concerns? Sexual interests? Pattern of life? What might the last year of your internet use reveal?


Personal Responsibility

Taking personal responsibility for online privacy and security is the most essential element in stemming the tide of cybercrime. Simple steps that everyone can take include:

· Installing anti-virus software on your PC.

· Selecting stronger passwords.

· Being careful when sharing sensitive data.

· Using a VPN when encrypting data online.

· Establishing Digital Home Security.

What next?

The governments of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US and others are poised to take a big step in the wrong direction with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The EFF explains why the TPP is a huge threat to your privacy and other rights.

  • Take action – if you are a technologist, join Hack for Privacy and fight back against mass surveillance – hackforprivacy.org.
  • Spread the privacy mindset – we must foster understanding of this issue in order to protect ourselves from harmful laws and fight against future invasions of privacy. Please help spread the knowledge, discuss this article with a friend, tweet it, share it, etc.
  • Protect yourself – protect your own data from mass surveillance. This increases the cost of mass surveillance and helps others too. Read my advice on protecting your data from retention in Australia, the EFF’s Surveillance Self-Defense Guide, and Information Security for Journalists.

 

About Jay Kumar Ryan

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