Privacy is the ability to keep some things to yourself
Privacy is the ability to keep some things to yourself, regardless of their impact to society. To take a trivial example, I lock the door when I go to the men’s room – not because I’m doing something criminal or plotting to overthrow the government in the men’s room, but simply because I want to keep the activity there to myself.
Research shows that it goes beyond a want and is a deep need – in all societies through history, people have created private spaces for themselves. Even in the most oppressive regimes, people have found a way to do something, something little, outside of prying eyes. This is rather telling.
When somebody says that only criminals have something to hide, they are plain wrong, as evidenced by this observation. Nobody would dream of making a keyboard for people with three arms, based on the simple fact that people don’t have three arms. Yet, some surveillance hawks and cohorts are pushing for a society for people with no need for privacy – despite the fact that such people do not exist.
So privacy is a concept describing activities that you keep entirely to yourself, or to a limited group of people.
Anonymity is when you want people to see what you do, just not that it’s you doing it
In contrast, anonymity is when you want people to see what you do, just not that it’s you doing it. The typical example would be if you want to blow the whistle on abuse of power or other forms of crime in your organization without risking career and social standing in that group, which is why we typically have strong laws that protect sources of the free press. You could also post such data anonymously online through a VPN, the TOR anonymizing network, or both. This is the analog equivalent of the anonymous tip-off letter, which has been seen as a staple diet in our checks and balances.
It’s obvious that these concepts – privacy and anonymity – are beneficial for the individual. But more importantly, it is in society’s interest overall that every individual have these benefits. There is not just an individual benefit, but a collective benefit.
We’ve discussed a bit about the benefit of anonymity already – without anonymity in society, we’ve essentially lost the ability to keep our government in check. Simple as that. (Unless you want to pull a Snowden and flee halfway across the planet, but most people probably don’t want to do that.)
The benefit and necessity of privacy are a bit more… hidden under the surface, and has to do with the fundamentals of democracy. In a democratic nation, we elect people to govern the country, including the full capacity to apply to force to individual citizens. Then, after a term of n years, we hold them accountable to their performance and re-evaluate whether they are fit to run the country or not.
If these leaders with the full capacity of a country’s force had the ability to look into voters’ homes, hearts, and minds, they would be able to hold voters accountable for their thinking and opinions, rather than the other way around. It becomes a complete 180-degree reversal of power. This is why privacy for the citizens and transparency for the government is paramount in a democratic society. And indeed, every society that has had it the other way around – transparent citizens and opaque government – have been, shall we say, low-satisfaction societies.
But anonymity isn’t just important to blow the whistle on scandals. It can have profound catalyzing effects in developing society, in particular when breaking taboos or forwarding forbidden causes that were later vindicated.
For example, the events that led up to the formation of the United States centered early on something known as the Federalist Papers – documents and pamphlets nailed to trees throughout the then-British colony, documents advocating secession from England, independence, and a United States of America.
At the time, advocating such opinions publicly was high treason, not just punishable by death, but by a particularly gruesome type of death. It’s not hard to see why the Federalist Papers were posted anonymously.
Thus, to illustrate the importance of anonymity not just to the individual but to society overall, the United States would not exist as a country if anonymity had not existed at the time preceding the Declaration of Independence.
Privacy and Anonymity Are Essential To a Democratic Society
Therefore, both privacy and anonymity – although different – are essential to a democratic society, not just to the individuals, but to society overall.
As an end note, it could be argued that nobody is really anonymous, but pseudonymous – that is, everybody has a name of some sort, even if it is one that cannot be connected to their common name. If you’re uploading evidence of a government scandal under the nickname “Scarlet Whistleblower”, are you really anonymous, or did you just create yourself a new name for this specific purpose? Arguably, the latter.
This can be seen as a philosophical issue with little real-world impact, and today, it is. However, the teenagers growing up today are used to changing names online more frequently than underwear, and I predict the values around something as basic as a name can change dramatically over the next few generations.
Source: Private Internet Access
The New and Improved Privacy Badger 2.0 Is Here
EFF is excited to announce that today we are releasing Privacy Badger 2.0 for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. Privacy Badger is a browser extension that automatically blocks hidden third-party trackers that would otherwise follow you around the web and spy on your browsing habits. Privacy Badger now has approximately 900,000 daily users and counting.
Third-party tracking—that is, when advertisers and websites track your browsing activity across the web without your knowledge, control, or consent—is an alarmingly widespread practice in online advertising. Privacy Badger spots and then blocks third-party domains that seem to be tracking your browsing habits (e.g. by setting cookies that could be used for tracking, or by fingerprinting your browser). If the same third-party domain appears to be tracking you on three or more different websites, Privacy Badger will conclude that the third party domain is a tracker and block future connections to it.
Privacy Badger always tells how many third-party domains it has detected and whether or not they seem to be trackers. Further, users have control over how Privacy Badger treats these domains, with options to block a domain entirely, block just cookies, or allow a domain.
New features with 2.0
Version 2.0 of Privacy Badger includes many improvements for users and developers, including:
- Support for “incognito” or “private” browsing
- Import/export capabilities, so you can export a backup of what Privacy Badger has learned about your tracker-blocking needs and import that into another browser
- Fixes to “break” fewer websites, ensuring that you can both block trackers and enjoy rich content
- Improved user interface translation for non-English-speaking users
- Blocks to prevent WebRTC from leaking your IP address
- Blocks to prevent HTMLl5 “ping” tracking
- Notable speed improvements (Firefox only)
- Multiprocess Compatibility (E10S) (Firefox only)
- A single code base for both the Firefox and Chrome versions
Ending non-consensual browser tracking
With the 2.0 release, the Privacy Badger team remains as committed as ever to end non-consensual browser tracking and promote responsible advertising. Although Privacy Badger blocks many ads in practice, it is more a privacy tool than a strict ad blocker. Privacy Badger encourages advertisers to treat users respectfully and anonymously rather than follow the industry status quo of online tracking. It does this by unblocking content from domains that respect our Do Not Track policy, which states that the participating site will not retain any information about users who have expressed that they do not want to be tracked.
Do Not Track and Privacy Badger 2.0 are here to help you block stealthy online tracking and the exploitation of your browsing history. Download Privacy Badger now to take a stand against tracking and join the movement to build a more privacy-friendly web.
Source: EFF ORG
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