Are the days of user privacy over?

Instant messaging has become the main digital tool for social and political activism. As its use expands, so do doubts about its confidentiality. Español, Português

Eduard Martín-Borregón
20 April 2018

Demonstration against PRISM in Berlin, organized by the Pirate Party, during United States president Barack Obama's visit. Mike Herbst/Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.

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This piece is an excerpt from an original article published as part of the eBook El ecosistema de la Democracia Abierta series, which can be found here.

We currently find ourselves in an age of transformation, a transformation that merits analysis, from both the perspective of positive advances such as emerging relational power that is more interactive, direct and open, to advances that are less evident and more hidden. The changes that call into question our privacy, it could be said.

The problem is based on this fact: that the internet is a network designed to share information without considering how that information would later grow or what its current use would be.

Therefore, we encounter a huge problem with regards to the management of user privacy, since currently, it is very easy for anyone to see what we write or what we do on our devices, whether it be a mobile, a computer or a tablet, provided they are connected to the internet. 

Accordingly, discussing communication on a virtual level becomes a complex topic given that it is still very easy to be spied upon, even though most messenger applications are now encrypted.

After the Second World War, the Five Eyes alliance was created by the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK (UKUSA). This pact provides an intelligence agreement that spies on users systematically, accumulatively and constantly.

In the text, we will find many cases of companies, within technological and electro domestic industries, which explain the many ways in which we are spied on, even with our devices switched off.

Additionally, we are informed of how metadata is used to obtain information that helps to determine the degree of surveillance that is used depending on our behaviour.

Finally, it is of upmost importance that we understand encrypting is the only way to protect our communications and our files, and therefore the use of specific servers and non-intrusive services that allow us to safeguard our private sphere are recommended.

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