Monday, November 9th, 2015
For most of us, our home is the essence of sanctuary – a safe place where we are comfortable to do what we want to do because there is no one around to watch or judge us. Now imagine your same home, this time surrounded by glass walls where anyone that passes by are free to gaze in and gawp at the insides. Do you think you could enjoy the same freedom and go about performing your daily routines as you normally would?
Probably not. The thought of someone observing your every move, as innocent as you may be, brings about fear and discomfort, which will then lead you to restrict your freedom to do the things you love, even in your own home! Wouldn’t you want to have some form of protection from the roving eyes of outside surveillance?
Likewise, the current state of Internet privacy is akin to living in a house surrounded by glass walls. Albeit some individuals may be perfectly comfortable with the notion of a glass home, most of us would most likely be extremely uncomfortable at the idea. Yes, we have heard the news headlines time and time again; “Government Uses Surveillance Spyware to Monitor Citizens”, “Your Internet Activities Retained By the Authorities” and the likes of them.
Sure, some online users may argue that they have no problem with the authorities observing their internet activity because they have not done anything wrong. In fact, according to a poll by Pew Research Center, most Americans are still indifferent to the idea of the National Security Agency (NSA) monitoring their phone calls or internet activity. Shockingly, the majority of Americans (56%) approve of NSA tracking their phone records, and 45% do not care if the NSA monitors everyone’s internet activity in the name of anti-terrorism efforts.
Source: Pew Research Center
Going back to the question; “Why should I worry about Internet surveillance if I have nothing to hide?” Internet privacy is not only restricted to your online searches, but also extends to other forms of online activities including social media, bank transactions and job applications. Personal pictures, bank account numbers and employment history –information like this should be private to you and the people you choose, but you never know who else is watching and how your information will be used if they fall into the wrong hands.
As technologies are increasingly advancing, the Internet has turned into a living, breathing vehicle of data transport. Websites, digital devices, security cameras and almost anything connected to the Internet are constantly collecting and feeding masses of our personal data to be transformed into our digital identities, linked to unseen records. On the Government level, these records could be used to classify individuals for criminal investigations, restrict travel privileges, or deny financial benefits. On the private sector level, our digital records would affect factors such as our eligibility for loans, healthcare benefits, or infringement of copyright. The prospect of our digital identities possessing more prominence than our true identities is formidable if there were any misrepresentations in our records.
Then there is the issue of freedom (or lack thereof?) of speech. Increased surveillance capabilities have made it easier for the government to identify reporters’ sources and limiting media groups’ ability to gather the information they need to report (shout-out to the notorious ban on the Sarawak Report site). Political and civil groups, or even us everyday Internet netizens are increasingly hesitant to voice our opinions online. We have probably been warned to refrain from having political discussions on public platforms with cautionary tales of bloggers arrested for violating the country’s Sedition Act.
Hence, this is why it is essential for users to take appropriate measures to protect our Internet privacy. One way is through the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN). VPNs, such as BolehVPN allows users to hide their true Internet IP address, hence providing a strong layer of identity protection. The setup establishes a secure encrypted connection from a user’s computer all the way to the VPN’s servers, which then creates connections on your behalf. With this setup, those “watchful eyes” on the Internet can only trace your online activities up to the point of the VPN’s servers, allowing you to remain anonymous, hence protecting your identity.
Don’t we all have information that we would rather keep private? Would we still want to live in a glass home when there are curtains to enjoy? Do we really believe we have ‘nothing to hide’? Now that we have an option to secure our Internet privacy, it is up to us to take the necessary actions to safeguard and protect it.
“I hear it said that people who have nothing to hide need not fear this strangulating technology of surveillance. And where are they, these people with nothing to hide?” – Russell Baker in The New York Times (1988).
 Huffington Post
 Pew Research Center
 The Atlantic
 Pacific Standard Magazine