Considering the revelations last year by Snowden, the increasing pressure by our Government on ISPs to filter our internet traffic, the steady and stealthy removal of our rights to free speech online (and in real life) and the overarching surveillance programs the reach of which is unprecedented, I’m still concerned that the wider public seem to be relatively nonchalant about the whole affair.
Yes, there are the odd outspoken individuals who oppose these steps and are fighting for our rights, and I joined the Open Rights Group to be one of these people - but many people I speak to either have the opinion that we can never be free, that the Government will never stop spying on the population, or that in the grand scheme of things, surveillance isn’t a big problem because it keeps us safe and they can’t imagine a time when all our freedoms are removed.
The problem I see - and my working theory - is that as a generation, we have grown up in a time of relative freedom. I’m in my late twenties and so the Internet is like my brother. I grew up with it, played with it and learned with it. I also knew a time when Governments had no such surveillance programs, where CCTV cameras were purely for safety and security (and were few and far between) and where our every movement wasn’t tracked, stored and analysed.
Our children will not have that luxury. They are born into a time of tablets, mobile phones and wearable technology, where they see their privacy as a commodity to be traded for commercial benefit or Governmental security. They’ll never know a time where they could be anonymous or untraced.
That’s why I believe only our generation can turn this around. We have to stop the Governments of the world from spying on their citizens, put in place safeguards and legislations to protect our liberties, ensure that our kids can enjoy the privacy and freedom that we used to, and educate them as to what’s happening - because if we don’t, they won’t know that they’re allowed to fight for something better. They will have no idea that privacy isn’t a privilege, it’s a fundamental right.
We must not be the last children of liberty.
If you’re interested to know more about how we fight for our digital rights, please do come along to the Forum on the 26th of April at 5.45 to meet three awesome speakers: