The current debate being waged around online privacy isn’t always straightforward and can often be filled with legislative and technical jargon that confuses people. We frequently get questions on very fundamental aspects to understanding online privacy, such as the difference between privacy at the IP level and at the browser level, understanding what data retention is, or questions around the myriad of surveillance bills that seem to pop-up every month or so. Therefore, we thought it might be useful to provide a run-down of online privacy basics; a cheat sheet, if you will, for the important task of understanding and participating in the current debate.
Apple and Google are two of the biggest giants in the world of technology and if you’re using a smartphone or tablet device, then chances are you’ve tied yourself to one of those company’s platforms and ecosystems. But with the issue of online privacy even more pertinent, and more inflammatory, in mobile sphere, which company has the better track record when it comes to protecting your data and which is more trustworthy?
So the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act is firmly back on the agenda, with the infamous bill likely to be voted on in the next 24 hours. If CISPA does eventually become enacted it will likely see more US citizens turning to virtual private networks (VPNs) to help anonymise their internet activity. But will CISPA impact VPN companies and if your VPN is US-based should you be worried?
The launch of Facebook Home last week was a significant escalation in the arms race between Facebook and Google; a battle that will only result in the continuing erosion of privacy – and the expectation of privacy – online.
Since Facebook Home was announced, technology commentators have been queuing up to criticise its privacy implications. GigaOm’s editor Om Malik said the new app “erodes any idea of privacy” and “is going to be able to track your every move .“ On Tuesday Facebook issued a Q&A trying in vain to dispel any fears, but the damage had already been done.
The attempted crackdown on online freedoms over the last few years has been relentless. From CISPA in the US, to the CCDP in the UK, governments around the world are ramping up efforts to increase internet surveillance, not to mention private corporations trying to impose draconian legislation such as SOPA and ACTA. Thankfully there are a number of charities, individuals and advocacy groups fighting to make sure anti-online privacy legislation is exposed to the wider public and given the scrutiny its backers would like to avoid.
While the phrase “there’s no privacy online” holds true in many respects, it’s always worth remembering that there’s a great deal of internet freedoms we currently enjoy that could be put at risk by cack-handed, or downright malicious, legislation. Indeed, we appear to be in the midst of a state and corporate-level scramble to update laws in order to cope with the rapidly evolving communication and consumption habits, making this risk higher than ever.
So let’s take a brief look at five of the biggest threats to global internet freedoms, taking into account existing laws that are continuing to have ramifications and potential legislation that would be disastrous if implemented. You may think different of course. If there’s something you think we’ve left out let us know in the comment section below.