Around the world, the human rights to privacy and freedom are compromised online. With the unending attacks on encryption and the exploitation of our personal information, it can be easy to forget that the United Nations declared privacy a human right in Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
In the United States, it’s hard to come to terms with the dissonance of how it’s a federal crime to open a piece of physical mail addressed to someone else, yet our communications with our friends are subject to warrantless search. Even “just” our browsing habits and trails of who we interact with and when (the metadata associated with what we do online) can reveal who we are as human beings: our fears, our relationships, our vulnerabilities. And having that information readily accessible makes us all targets.
Protecting Dissent and Freedom Online
Tor software has been, and continues to be, a vital tool for dissidents worldwide, including during the Arab Spring, but privacy and freedom online should not be a luxury. Human rights are not radical.
Even though it’s creeping up all around us and is a part of our everyday lives, no matter where you are online in the world, we cannot get comfortable with the erosion of our rights on the internet. We can’t come to terms with it. With the Snowden revelations, Cambridge Analytica scandal and myriad of data breaches, people are waking up to the reality of how deep surveillance capitalism has its claws. There are tools out there, including Tor, and new laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), but the protections are not comprehensive.
CCPA is meant to grant people the ability to see, delete and stop the sale of their personal data. This is a major victory, but companies are having trouble agreeing on how to enact it. It’s up for interpretation.
Digital Rights Should Not Be Up for Interpretation
At the Tor Project, we believe that sharing information is a personal choice. We think privacy should be the default online. We need an internet where people can exercise their intellectual freedom and curiosity without being exploited by big corporations for profit, targeted for their personal beliefs, manipulated for political gain or worse. By using Tor Browser, you can browse freely and privately, and with onion services, you can publish and share information all while retaining your rights as well. Onion services can be used to protect almost any online service, so we are preparing for their popularity to grow as the next step after HTTPS in securing the net.
While we and our friends around the world fight for better privacy laws, we are building an online experience that gives people back their rights to privacy and freedom online. Similar to Bitcoin, the backbone of Tor software is a decentralized network; there is no central entity to trust. This is the way forward. We can build a better internet and enjoy our rights, and the laws can catch up to us. You can help create this future by running a relay, making a donation or even just using Tor software.
Anonymity loves company.
This is an op ed contribution from Steph Whited. Views expressed are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of Bitcoin Magazine or BTC Inc.
Steph Whited is the Communications Director of the Tor Project, a 501c3 nonprofit. Tor’s mission is to advance human rights and freedoms by creating and deploying free and open source anonymity and privacy technologies, supporting their unrestricted availability and use, and furthering their scientific and popular understanding.