Friday, October 11, 2013

Canaries in the coal mine for online privacy

Due to US surveillance practices, two US-based email providers have decided to shut down. Ladar Levinson, the owner of one of the companies, Lavabit, that was shut down wrote that he would rather shut down a ten year old business than "become complicit in crimes against the American people." Lavabit believed in offering "e-mail service that never sacrifices privacy for profits" and although Ladar was not at liberty to voice what he had exactly been asked to do for the US government, he felt that it was a breach of the users' rights. Another secure email provider, Silent Circle has also announced it was preemptively shutting down in order to protect user privacy. Silent Circle has stated that it had not received any requests to access user information, however, they felt it would be best to shut down now before they might eventually be forced to give up information.

             I personally have not dealt with these providers before but this is the first I have heard about companies shutting down purely to avoid having to give up their customers’ information. I imagine that not every company or provider would have the decency or respect to their customers to execute such a bold move. So how many of these “trusted” companies have given up or would give up information about each one of us? How much of the information that we put out on the internet, whether for social, professional, or personal reasons, is actually secure and private? The US policies of government surveillance in my opinion is a huge violation of human rights. We are in an age when almost all our whole lives are now in an internet “cloud” and passwords are merely a ruse for users to believe their information is safe and to give the users a sense of security. Our private diaries are written in internet blogs instead of a journal under our bed, our personal profiles with our likes and dislikes are posted on social networks as opposed to discussed in person at social events or gatherings, and our mode of communication between each other is sent and stored as some form of email as opposed to a personalized handwritten letter. Is there any part of us that is kept truly private anymore? 

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