Recognized as the organization responsible for maintaining international peace and security as well as developing friendly relations among countries, the United Nations has also deemed internet access as one of the world’s greatest tools for growth. In addition, the organization has also analyzed the importance of internet security and encryption.
Online Learning and Surveillance
As of 2019, 56.1% of the world’s population has access to internet. With over 584 million people living in extreme poverty – almost 8% of the world population – providing internet access to under-developed countries could be one of the most powerful weapons to help those in need. Online learning could be useful for providing meaningful education in remote areas. With some countries having poor schooling infrastructures and lacking qualified human resources to provide youngsters with the knowledge needed to escape poverty, internet can be used as a way to establish a network that will allow individuals to more easily move to other countries, get better training, and even land a good job.
Obviously, it’s not that simple. A large number of under-developed countries live in extremely controlling political regimes. With the emergence of internet in countries where human rights are sometimes transgressed, it is expected that without the support of United Nations, online surveillance will be used to control individuals and their freedom of speech. Therefore, and pretty much like in developed countries, online privacy and anonymity is necessary.
Bringing Countries Closer
The United Nations note that many governments have tried to restrict access to strong encryption or limit online anonymity in recent years. Countries like China and Russia have gone further and imposed real-name registration on social media users or bloggers, in order to limit anonymous expression. Cynthia Wong, a senior Internet researcher at Human Rights Watch, has stated that “strong encryption and anonymity are critical for protecting human rights defenders, journalists, and ordinary users in the digital age”. At a time when governments are expanding invasive surveillance worldwide, encryption will allow for a safe and private space for free expression to be preserved.
Despite this, American and British government officials have expressed concern that the use of encryption on the internet would make it more difficult to prevent terrorism and have accused internet companies of providing terrorists and criminals with the means to grow, as their no-log policies will make communication inaccessible to law enforcement.
Bringing Countries Closer
On its “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression”, the Human Rights Council has expressed that the digital attacks on civil society and repression resulting from online expression force has led individuals to “seek security to hold opinions without interference and seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds”. As such, the document recommends that countries promote and protect strong encryption and anonymity, while avoiding all measures that weaken security for individuals online.
As for the individuals who use the internet as a platform to voice their opinions and access information considered meaningful to law enforcements, tools like VPNs should be used at all times, along with an internet browser with reliable security settings. VPN services switch the user’s real IP address with a fictional one from another location. In addition, all browsing data will be encrypted. This way, ISPs and malicious third parties are incapable of identifying the person behind the screen.
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