U.N. declares online privacy a human right, global Internet freedom declining
While the United Nations has recognized the importance of online freedom around the globe, government continue to censor cyberspace, which is decreasing access to online liberties.
When it comes to personal freedoms, the ability to freely express oneself is among the most liberating. Be it a simple reaction to a piece of news or an argument against government action, the ideas of an individual should be allowed to move freely from one's mind through any medium of expression that they see fit. With the Internet becoming more a part of the everyday lives of citizens across the globe, having free and open online access is extremely important.
A global human right
The ongoing discussion about individual privacy in the face of the Edward Snowden leaks is further shedding light on just how important the Internet is to the lives of those throughout the world. If governments are able to spy on the lives of anyone from government figure heads to individuals, then activity on the Internet can certainly be limited. This is especially true in countries with oppressive governments. If these ruling bodies can monitor the activity of their citizens, then these people will be less likely to engage in the kind of important discussions that emerge from the ability to freely express ideas.
This is why the U.N. has sought to make the online privacy a larger priority so that these kinds of government action can be stopped. Intellectual Property Watch reported that the U.N. General Assembly recently voted unanimously to grant the right to privacy in the digital age to people throughout the world. The resolution was introduced by Brazil and Germany, two of the biggest countries that have spoken out against these invasive policies.
While the resolution is certainly a step in the right direction, it does not have particularly strong legal effects. However, it does show a strong concern about the repercussions that pervasive surveillance can have on communications around the world and on a personal level.
Despite this resolution, the future for online freedom does not look particularly strong. Countries like China, Turkey and Iran seem to have only grown more limiting in their online policies. Coupled with the surveillance actions of the U.S. and the U.K., the freedoms that the U.N. is looking to protect seem to be on the decline.
The suppressing of Internet liberty can be seen in a recently published infographic from Golden Frog, a software developer. Using information from the group Freedom House, the map reveals that nearly half of the world goes online in a heavily regulated setting. This means that about 4 out of 5 people in the world do not have access to an open and uncensored internet, according to the graphic.
What is worse is that many of the countries that currently operate with a more open Internet have actually seen freedoms decline. The infographic indicates that the U.S., along with Brazil and Germany – the two drafters of the U.N. resolution – have all increased their censorship practices. This is discouraging as it shows that even those who could be seen as "leaders" when it comes to the proliferation of a more progressive Internet, are partaking in the same practices that they have seemingly condemned.
Fortunately, there is action that can be taken by individual citizens to help reverse this trend. By raising awareness of suppressive practices, more people can be learn how it is their online rights are being suppressed. Further, the infographic recommended that citizens urge their government representatives to practice better responsibility, along with aligning themselves with groups that also advocate for such practices.
Without strong citizen action, the world may continue to move into a more censored online future.