Bruce Schneider states that: “Privacy is an inherent human right and a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect.” However, most of us do not equate online privacy with real-world privacy. In the real world, we would not tolerate our right to a private life to be breached; we surely would not be happy if others would enter our houses and snoop around without our consent yet we tend to allow this in the online world.
In the past few years, we have seen how online privacy has been breached over and over again, not only by governments but also by businesses and private persons.
Surprisingly there has not been a large societal outbreak, in fact, many people seem not to care, in fact, a large number are of the opinion that if one has nothing to hide, then they should not care about privacy.
Edward Snowden tackles this line of thinking by stating “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.”
I would like to argue the opposite, online privacy is of pivotal importance, and urge internet users to protect their privacy and for specific activities also use tools that ensure their anonymity online. Here are just a few reasons.
Data is valuable:
Data is the New Oil of the Digital Economy. Companies are making a fortune from their user’s data, which is good for the economy but bad for users.
This is bad because most companies do not ensure adequate security measures, this means that they can be hacked and the data can be used for personal exploitation from criminals, this can especially be an issue for sensitive data. Some companies even sell their users’ data to third parties.
As we know knowledge is power, and data is knowledge. From gathering your data, the government and businesses get to analyze and profile you. In the wrong hands, this information can be used to stir you into the directions they want, whether it be to alter your shopping habits to the way you think and vote.
It is highly crucial for all of us to be able to manage our reputation to a certain extent. Without privacy that is not possible, we would not want people to know everything we do in our spare time or be harshly judged for something innocent we do which happens to be stigmatized in the community we live.
Take for example Ashley Payne, a teacher who was forced to resign after her pictures of her vacation in Europe became public, they were pictures of her drinking which in most places would be considered tame and acceptable, yet she was forced to resign.  When it comes to reputation, one’s careless actions in an earlier age might haunt them tomorrow.
We live in a world where there are still many authoritarian regimes, where citizens can be unjustly persecuted for their behavior, it helps enormously if one can hide their identity when criticizing their regime or engaging in harmless activity such as social media, which happens to be considered illegal in their country.
Anonymity also helps greatly when doing research on certain sensitive topics; it also encourages active participation and creativity. Activities which most people would not do under their real name, due to lack of confidence, fear of stigmatization or any other reasons, one example would be writing erotic novels.
Online Privacy and Anonymity allow people to focus freely on things they want to do and develop themselves, whether it be professionally, creatively or for entertainment. It’s also a way to express controversial, unpopular opinions without being harassed or silenced.
No doubt there are also those who misuse privacy and anonymity, but just because there are some bad apples does not mean we should entirely censor the internet. Instead, governments should try to enforce adequate data protection laws.
Until proper legislation and protection are in place, it is best to take matters into your own hands and ensure your online privacy, by using different tools such as Tor, VPNs, Proxies and other tools. You may visit vpnalert.com for more information about online privacy.
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