“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
Every American is well aware of these words and most of us know this by heart. The declaration of independence, written on July 4, 1776 by our founding forefathers, talks about the rights that every American is entitled to. More so, the aimed to create a society which other nations could idealize. In other words, they wanted other countries to rake inspiration from the declaration of independence and give their citizens equal or even better rights.
However, the modern society has taken very little impact from the declaration. In fact, many of the rights, which the people are entitled to, have become such a far-fetched thought that the people have seemed to have forgotten what they rightfully deserve. This article aims to remind the people about their rights in the modern society, which is governed, regulated, and often limited by what we know as the internet.
By definition, liberty is the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s behavior or political views. This means that all the abstract concepts such as freedom of expression, freedom of access, right to development, right to anonymity, right to privacy, and right to security are all categorized under liberty, which every internet user, or Netizens as well call them these days, is entitled to.
Freedom of Expression
Every person has the right to speak their mind on any media or platform, provided that their opinion about something is not offensive, abusive, or hateful. However, the freedom of expression has dwindled over time, and has now become a luxury. It’s no secret that countless bloggers, journalists, and many other whistle blowers have faced the music only because of having an opinion that was contrary to those who were in power, even though they were right.
Just three months ago, Freedom of Expression was actually murdered in Turkey. The Turkish Prime Minister introduced a ban on journalists across the country, labelling them as fake reporters, leading to arrests of hundreds of such people.
Not so long ago, the world was shaken by the Maguindanao Massacre, which was described by the International Crisis Group as “the largest number of journalists slain on a single day ever, anywhere in the world”.
It’s not just the famous people that are silenced for blowing the whistle. Internet users from all backgrounds and classes are bound to face restrictions and bans for expressing their opinions which go against the authorities. For instance, in many countries, documenting or criticizing government affairs and their short comings is a criminal offense.
Freedom of access
This is just another aspect of Liberty, as mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. In fact freedom of access is one of the basic rights. Information, and all other similar utilities related to it should be free, and publically available to the masses. However, observation suggests otherwise.
Not everyone has the same freedom of access for desired information or any other form of content. There are countless restrictions that are made applicable on regional levels to regulate and control what information should be made accessible to whom. Its common knowledge that the almost-basic necessity of the modern age, Google, is not accessible in China and North Korea.
It is important to understand that freedom of access is not just all about limiting what content people can see, but also about enforcing content, and even narratives, ultimately playing a role in their decision making skills. Needless to say, it is actually an Orwellian society.
Freedom of access is regulated by the authorities on multiple levels. They are based on regions, age, gender, preferences, contacts, and more. The list is huge, but it provides a basic profile, which helps in ad targeting. Whether it’s legal to do so or not, that’s a separate story. More on that in Right to Privacy.
Right to Privacy and Security
Have you ever noticed that when you sign up for a new service, it asks you to provide access for your accounts of other services that you use regularly, such as Gmail or Facebook? The moment we carelessly click Allow, data harvesting firms, such as advertising agencies, intelligence communities, and governmental authorities, all start peeking into our personal lives.
It’s true that ultimately all the information is used to target people with ads that are most relevant to them, the unethical measures that are taken to violate privacy and personal spaces of every internet user is just not right. After all, why should some app require access to your smartphone’s camera and microphone 24/7?
A few types of data that are collected from millions of people every day:
- Banking Information
- Online Shopping History
- Social Circle
- Browsing History
- GPS coordinates
- Search Preferences
Right to anonymity
The internet remembers you. It knows who you are, where you live, what you talk about, what you like. It won’t be inaccurate to say that it knows things about you that you may have forgotten, or are yet to do. That’s right, the products we see online in the form of sponsored content on websites, YouTube and Facebook, impacts our buying behavior.
In the recent wake of the infamous Cambridge Analytical scandal that gripped Facebook, it was discovered that during the duration of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, many Russian advertising agencies ran sponsored content for targeting US citizens, based on their political views. As bizarre as it sounds, the Russians may have gotten Donald Trump elected as the POTUS.
Many firms, governments and agencies violate privacy of millions of people in many ways, every day. Even the most intricate details are collected from individuals without their consent. This is blatant violation of privacy, and is illegal according to most laws. However, due to authoritative influence, right to anonymity has become extinct for all Netizens.
How to Regain Your Rights
There is nothing wrong is reclaiming all that you rightfully deserve. In essence, it’s the right thing to do. If you are even slightly worried about your personal information ending up in the hands of people who can use that against you, its time to take measures to prevent such people from getting what they want.
For regaining your rights to Liberty, the first step should be to protect your cyber security. You can do so by subscribing to a good VPN service that makes you completely invisible online.
There are a few countries where using VPNs that are not approved by regional authorities is a cybercrime, complete ban on VPN is just not legally possible. Of course for the same reason, that it is aligned with the Declaration of Independence.
Some other tips include:
- Keeping children from sharing too much personal information on public forums and social media
- Educating teens and youngsters about the hurtful consequences of bad online relationships
- Keeping your devices protected with tools such as a VPN
- Updating your gadgets, PCs, and other devices regularly