When the Internet was initially introduced, everyone thought it was that place where they had the maximum freedom of expression and that the freedom will never be restricted. However, with time, the Internet has become plagued with several forms of censorship, from those enacted by governments to others for economic and other reasons.
Apart from the censorship of content by different authorities, there are other ways in which privacy on the Internet has been abused. The different ways in which human rights and privacy have been abused on the Internet and how a VPN prevents such abuse are highlighted in this article.
Forms of human rights and privacy abuse
Countries such as China have a censorship system that prevents residents from accessing specific websites in a bid to protect national security. The censorship system that is applied in China is known as the Great Firewall of China and has seen the government make consistent efforts to stop residents from accessing websites such as Facebook. When a person is caught bypassing this censorship system, they could be prosecuted.
China took this censorship measure a step forward by banning the use of VPNs that are not approved by the state. This action saw Apple pulling its VPN service out of the country to respect the laws enacted by the government.
Censorship systems such as The Great Firewall of China limit the freedom of expression of the average resident of China, much more that of journalists and human right activists, especially those supporting causes which the government considers as threats to national security.
Russia has also been making moves towards implementing a censorship system which can be likened to that of China, another effort towards limiting the freedom of expression which is a basic human right.
The UN, in 2015, stated that the right to anonymity and privacy while using the Internet is a basic human right and should be protected as such. However, the different governments through their security agencies, have continued to intensify efforts to spy on residents. More methods of “spying” of citizens are being pushed forward and disguised as means of ensuring national security and curbing criminal activities which are aided by the Internet.
In the statement made by the UN supporting online privacy and anonymity, an emphasis was laid on the fact that the Internet provides a means of expression of one’s ideas as well as opinions. Any move that limits such expression, according to the UN, abuses a basic human right. Despite this call and advocacy on the abuse of human rights by limiting freedom of expression, efforts are still made by agencies to stifle the freedom of expression on the Internet.
The development of spyware for security purpose is even being encouraged by government security agencies.
Apart from the censorship of internet usage and implementation of methods to spy online activity, governments are increasingly allowing ISP to extract user data and sell such data to advertising firm to achieve targeted advertising.
How a VPN ensures privacy and protects human rights
With different measures of abusing user privacy implemented, and more measures under development, it is important for individuals to adopt personal means of ensuring their privacy. Seeing that the established authorities in a handful of countries do not take the issue of online privacy and the associated abuse of human rights seriously enough, it is important for individuals and organizations to take measures to protect their privacy and still express themselves online without any restriction.
These measures include the use of a VPN which is increasingly becoming necessary for journalists and human right activists to maintain secure communications over the Internet. With a VPN, the communications sent over the Internet are encrypted and made inaccessible to all interested parties, from snoopy law enforcement agents to greedy ISPs.
The use of a VPN is especially important for residents of countries where various methods of censoring online activities have been implemented. However, since a government would most likely not own up their activities that abuse human rights as regards internet usage, the use of a VPN is recommended for any person or organization involved in activities that want to keep as private as possible. These activities range from private conversations to initiating resistance against extreme government regulations.
It is very much easy for ISPs to see what a user does on the Internet since ISPs provide the resources with which they access the internet. Since, very clear lines are not drawn, in most cases, on the way user data are shared by ISPs, anyone that values privacy and freedom of expression should see the need of a VPN.
The implementation of means of monitoring online activity of users by the government also calls for the use of VPN to protect privacy. The move by the Chines government to ban non-state-approved VPNs goes to show the importance of VPN in preventing abuse of human right as regards freedom of expression.