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All of our digital communications are based on networks which are vulnerable. Intelligence agencies exploit this vulnerability by passively monitoring most of our communications – often through cooperation with service providers. In other cases, intelligence agencies intercept our communications and tap into the fibre optic cables which make up the backbone of the internet. And in other more aggressive cases, they redirect connections to malicious servers for the implantation of malware.
Companies we “trust”, like Google or Facebook, play a role in all of this too. If your country passed a new law which required you to hand over your browsing history, contacts, personal pictures, interests, financial status and political beliefs to authorities…how would that make you feel? We are indirectly doing that already by handing over such data to corporations which sometimes share our data with intelligence agencies and/or are not (always) in a position to prevent agencies from hacking into their data centres.
Big data is big business indeed. Countless companies in the data brokering scene are part of a business which collects, analyses and aggregates our data and which profits out of selling our profiles to various third parties – ranging from banks and insurance companies to service providers and law enforcement agencies. Most of this takes place behind the scenes, largely without our knowledge or consent.
Whether we realize it or not, we are all part of a global surveillance ecosystem. Rather than surveillance being the exception for “national security” purposes, surveillance has become the default mechanism of our new, digitized world. This means that almost everything we say and do is being monitored, analysed and stored. Almost everyone we associate with is being mapped. Almost everything we are likely to think of, do and say in the future might be predicted by algorithms. This is concerning because:
- algorithms are not infallible
- the chilling effects of surveillance can reduce the range of viewpoints expressed and thus the degree in which to engage in political activity
- surveillance limits our freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom from suspicion and our freedom to defend our human rights
This is not the type of world I want to live in.
Creating a world with better respect for human rights has always been hard, but not impossible.
This section of this website aims to raise awareness about these issues.