Encryption and Online Privacy
We won’t have true freedom online until data encryption and privacy become a right for all of us. For now, privacy on the internet is a luxury that only few can truly access as our data acts as a commodity.
Interestingly enough, the average user on the internet is not privacy-conscious even if they think otherwise. According to internet privacy statistics, 68% of consumers believe that data privacy laws are insufficient, and still 48% of them interacted with companies on social media.
How can we claim that privacy is a priority when we blatantly give away our data to sites left and right?
What’s more troubling is the fact that a large percentage of consumers don’t even bother to check the content of privacy policies before clicking the “I Agree” box. In many cases, clicking this box grants the service provider the right to track and transfer our data.
Nonetheless, there aren’t many alternatives. This has become the norm. Rejecting the terms of the service will stop you from being able to access cloud services, or using an app or any other product on the internet.
In simple terms, encryption is the process of putting a lock on a message or text, which makes it impossible for anyone except the recipient to unlock. Therefore, encryption is the bedrock for privacy on the internet considering that surveillance is becoming a threat to our activities online.
Generally speaking, encryption is any software that utilizes mathematics for the fortification of data and its success depends on the quality of the software. As such, it is possible for external forces to unlock the contents of an encrypted piece of data if the encryption is weak. In contrast, it can take an attacker with a supercomputer and a considerable amount of time to break standard encryption.
There are a few options, like a VPN that offer internet users encryption features that will help to obscure their data. However, issues like substandard encryption systems, malicious practices, and mandatory injunctions are limiting the effectiveness of these technologies.
There is no way of ascertaining the integrity of a VPN provider and confirming that they are not logging our data and giving it to third parties like everyone else.
Despite the controversies surrounding VPNs, they still remain one of the easiest ways for private users to access encryption services. This, coupled with the fact that they are affordable, aid to the mass adoption of encryption and guarantee continuous use. More importantly, using encryption for all of our activities is better than utilizing them only when we are transferring sensitive data. The latter gives surveillance entities a clue that the data is significant and worth monitoring.
The World is Becoming Digitized
It’s easy to conclude that you have no need to encrypt your data when you have nothing to hide. However, this is only valid if you don’t use the internet to transfer sensitive data that could expose you to identity theft or other scams.
It should be noted that the world is leaning towards the digitization of conventional services. It is more popular to purchase tickets online—and the same is true for internet banking and online shopping. Before anyone can access any of these services, they have to submit their personal details, particularly their banking information.
As a result, encryption is not only a must-have for criminals. It’s something we all need.
Our Governments Surveil Us
Some governments are hypocritical about the privacy of their citizens. They claim that they facilitate a free society, which usually entails freedom of speech and other admirable ideas. Yet, they continue to surveil our actions online and blacklist people that antagonize their administration. Knowing that your actions are under surveillance will prompt you to bury your ideas, your personality and mask your identity.
You can freely express yourself and your ideas when you know that you have a system that protects your privacy and locks out unauthorized surveillance. What is the true essence of a free society when people are afraid to express themselves?
The Latest Technologies Feed on Our Data
Trending software, technologies, and apps have one thing in common, and it involves the collation of data. It is impossible to perform a task without giving technologies the right to track our activities. Technology breakthroughs like AI, in particular, have contributed to the rate at which we lose any ounce of privacy we previously had.
Take ride-sharing apps and navigation systems for instance. Although they have improved ways of getting what we need, they are tools that record our journeys, our destination, and predict our destination with the help of machine learning. All this data is readily available to governments and third parties. Also, imagine the trouble we could get ourselves into if this type of data falls into the wrong hands.
Similarly, the next big thing, the Internet of Things (IoT), will change the way we interact with our household machines and public service systems. To achieve this, technology must acquire enough data about us to help predict our needs. Unauthorized access to this type of technology that has already created a profile of us can jeopardize our very existence.
All of this demonstrates that the products and services we are enjoying or will encounter in the future will put our commitment to protect our privacy to rest.
The Bottom Line
We need to understand that many of the services we encounter and adopt on the internet are a form of surveillance. Although there isn’t much we can do about this, adopting encryption will go a long way in protecting us from some of these vices. However, we won’t make any headway until legislations recognize our rights and back them up with clear terms, which we can leverage in our pursuit for data privacy.
The introduction of data privacy laws in Europe is a step in the right direction and it could open the door for more breakthroughs in the establishment of encryption as a vital tool for the implementation of our right to privacy.