Day 15: Secure online communication | Your right to privacy

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Sunday, December 9, 2007
Information and communication technologies (ICT) allow the user to speak to many people at the same time, and to repeatedly transmit the same information. For example, the same email or SMS message can be sent to multiple recipients over and over again.

It also enables the user to occupy several spaces at the same moment. When you are sitting in front of your computer, you are in a physical space as well as a digital one. The physical space could be a private space - such as your bedroom, and the digital space could be a public space – such as a forum or chatroom.

Digital spaces blur the boundary between the private and the public in interesting ways. But it can also potentially lead to risks in safety.

Commercially available spy software such as Spy Agent can be purchased an installed on a home computer, which can enable another person to log all keystrokes. This includes email correspondence, password, surfing activity etc. For a domestic violence survivor, this could mean that searching for information is particularly precarious.

It is also increasingly common to have video recording and camera functions on mobile phones. While this means that access to such technologies and their benefits becomes more affordable (instead of buying three equipment, you only buy one), it also means that users have to be more conscious of where these images will eventually end up.

A lot of internet services also requests for personal information such as name, age, location, sex etc upon subscription. Sometimes, it is really not necessary to disclose these information willingly, as the networked nature of the internet means that your information on one space can easily disseminated to others, and that your activities and identity can be tracked.

Our right to privacy is especially important in an age of ICT development and emphasis. They have countless transformative potential, but to better explore and affect their possibilities, we need to be smart about their risks.

Take back the tech! Empower yourself with information and knowledge on secure online communications.

  • Do a web search on yourself. This is a good way to find out what kind of information about your is available online, or if someone is pretending to be you and posting personal information on different online spaces.
  • Make up an identity. You don’t always have to completely disclose your full identity just to get a free email service. Try submitting a form with a pseudonym, invented address and age. The only probably harm is that some market research company will get their data wrong. Weigh that against your own right to privacy.
  • Install programmes like Spybot – Search & Destroy, that can detect spyware in your computer hard disk and registry.
  • Check out the “tech tips & tools” section for more handy information on how to better protect your security and privacy when communicating online.
  • Download and use the Take Back The Tech Portable Apps, especially if you share a computer. It has a collection of software designed to make your online communication safer.