A Spotlight on: Private Communications

Please note: this is a repost from Medium — please feel free to support and comment on the article over there too, if you are able.

A Spotlight on: Private Communications

Having already covered the Perpetual Web and Take Control of Your Data, we continue our ‘A Spotlight On’ series with our next topic, Private Communications.

It is one of the most discussed network features by our community, and with good reason. Communication is fundamental to life. It lets us grow and nurture relationships with family, friends and colleagues, with whom we can share our experiences and achievements. It’s woven into the fabric of society and drives our development, not only as individuals, but also as human beings.

But for communication to be truly effective it is not enough for it to simply be possible. We must be able to communicate in our own way, under our own terms, with complete confidence that our views are not shared with anyone other than the intended recipient. Anyone that’s had a deeply personal conversation in a quiet public place will understand. In short, it is imperative that we are able to communicate privately.

Why does privacy matter?

Privacy is a complex topic. It is both polarising and nuanced, and is often greatly misrepresented in the media who inevitably try to oversimplify. They suggest there are only two types of people in the world: good and bad. The bad seek privacy as they are up to no good, using the web for nefarious purposes. The good, on the other hand, have no need for privacy, a view that was infamously echoed by then Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who stated:

“If you’re doing something that you don’t want other people to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

We can take this view with a pinch of salt when we consider that Google’s business model was, and still is, based on invading the privacy of hundreds of millions of users on a daily basis! Furthermore, we suspect even Eric Schmidt uses passwords on his email and social media accounts, sends direct messages and perhaps even has locks on his bathroom doors…

So, despite what you might hear, privacy is not about good and bad. Human beings are social animals, and while sharing is part of who we are, it is equally fundamental that we are able to express ourselves free from the judgement of others, and this is really what privacy is about. We should also not forget that privacy is a human right and is written into all of the major international and regional human rights declarations, including the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) 1948, Article 12, which states:

“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”

Freedom of expression

However, many world governments choose to overlook these rights in order to further their own cause. According to Freedom House, an independent watchdog, freedom of expression (defined as: ‘assaults on the press and encroachments on the speech rights of its citizens’) has reduced each and every year for the past 13 years. Controlling the media is a well-used and understood tool for maintaining control over the general populace. In some regions, such as China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the imprisonment of journalists has become an increasingly common tactic to manage what is written about their regimes. Unfortunately, this issue is becoming increasingly widespread as press freedom scores fell in four out of six regions in the world.

And it is not just press freedoms that are faltering, personal freedoms are too. In Turkey, the autocratic government had more the 20,000 investigations running in 2017 alone, with 6,000 prosecutions of citizens that were deemed to be ‘insulting the president’.

Enabling citizens and press to express themselves freely is an essential part of any progressive society. The actions of leaders should not go unquestioned, and the people in power must be held to account to ensure that they are working for the interests of the citizens they serve Private communications provides a platform for the free flow of information, potentially protecting the identity of the citizens if need be to enable them to express their beliefs without fear of reprisals.

Where does the SAFE Network come in?

SAFE can’t fix many of the political wrongdoing taking place in the world today, but it can provide a safe haven for those who rightly stand up and question the world around them. Private communication is a weapon against injustice, and those familiar with the SAFE Network will know that it has been designed and built from the ground up to ensure that all communications are private, uncensorable and free from surveillance.

Join the fight today!

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Great article! Really well written… I also did my little part - clapped and commented. :slight_smile:

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Fabulous and simple statement of the issues surrounding privacy. Thanks @JimCollinson!

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Actually, I can’t take the credit, this was @Cgray I believe. Great article.

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Super article @cgray @nicklambert [update:] and team :joy: :+1:

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Oop! Then thanks @Cgray!

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Well said. This also stands true for not only the regimes mentioned, but some of the supposedly democratic ones also. One exmple that comes to my mind is a household - a safe place where you interact with the people you want to interact with, could be your family members, or maybe some friends you’ve invited. Place where I’m from, living spaces are close to one anothers, so we keep our door shut, or curtains drawn. An open curtain or door would mean any of the neighbors can invade our privacy by peeping in, or violate our personal space by just entering - whether or not with malicious intent. We take precautionary measures not because we have nefarious activities going on inside the house, but because we value our privacy.
The government here recently allowed 10 national agencies to look into any conversation happening online. While I use VPN from a renound service, and high-security apps such as Signal, I become a higher value target because of the kinds of packages leaving my IP and connecting directly with one abroad. And this truly sucks because now in the above example, the landlords are forcing the door open with the sole purpose of listening to our conversations we might be having with family or friends we’ve invited over for dinner.
Dammit Tom, I’m really just taking a shower!

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I can’t take credit either I’m afraid…this was actually @nicklambert!

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This is like the Anti-Spartacus …

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It was a team effort, but thanks anyway Mark!

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Another great article from the team! Keep em coming :slight_smile:

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Credit to the team but @nicklambert has some excellent blogging skills to his credit alone. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Great article and this has been such an issue upcoming for Australia, having gained so much freedoms during the 80’s and 90’s and then losing them again as the various Governments have feared the public again and attacked the media and the internet in attempts to silence any voices against the polices and ideas of the government officials in power at the time. Its getting to the point where they want to remove cash and have every money transfer go through electronic banking so they can identify anything they don’t like.

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