Privacy Articles

“Innocent data does not exist, it is only a matter of the right time and the wrong hands to turn it into a weapon” TrilightZone

Governance of countries, throughout history, has always depended on monitoring and tracking its citizens. Common people in their effort to protect their privacy have tried to set a boundary to what could be monitored and snooped. This boundary has kept shifting; particularly advancements in technology have always made it possible to reach further into the lives of common people and their personal details. Add to that another powerful entity, the corporations, who in their pursuit of holy profit have tried to read customer behavior to ensure their profit targets are met. History shows businesses and governing powers have often worked on common agenda. Increasingly bypassing laws intended to protect people from unreasonable interference in their life. The line between governments and corporations is fading away. This is not a prediction but a fact which is happening all over the world. The govporation will use and deploy whatever it can to keep the status quo despite the increasing gap between the common people and the few who own almost everything. Despite all the negativity we all see, hear and read, there are always people within governments and corporations who do not agree with certain actions or policies. We hope that they can bring change from the inside by doing whatever they can to steer the ship to a better destiny. One cannot point to a whole government or corporation and say everyone in it is out to dictate life to the rest to serve holy profit.

Now the world has turned into a global digital community where a large percentage of individuals and devices are connected to this entity called the Internet. One of the ways the Internet enriches our lives is that we can reach anyone on this net wherever they are. But then, do not forget that if you can reach anyone easily, others can reach you equally easily and dig into your life. When it started, it was a tool for collaboration between researchers and security issues were not on the mind map of developers. Any security mechanisms that we build today are retrofits trying to cover the gaps. The internet, or the net to be short, reaches into most modern devices in one way or the other. It’s in your house, office, outside “watching” you or even on your body as a wearable. More worrisome is the rise of intelligent mobile technology that is potentially high-risk whether you are at home or outside jogging in the park.

Several social-political trends indicate why those in power and in the monitoring / tracking business will seek to grab additional power and access. Look around you and see what is going on while reading this to understand we are not seeing a decrease of threats to people everywhere but an increase. The additional power to monitor your lives in-depth will be justified through certain, man-made, events and technical developments. The threat is not just to privacy anymore but to life and limb. We will take a look at several current and upcoming developments which impact the personal world of the “commoner”. The pressures to give up personal data will be immense and relentless. An important defense for the people is awareness and try to set the boundary which governments, corporate bodies or anyone else must respect by real laws. Suitable laws will have to be enacted, you will need to be aware of new developments and their consequences. As somebody once said; eternal vigil is the price one has to pay to maintain freedom. You do not want to live in an Orwellian world where “big brother” watches your every move ! Boundaries of your privacy need to be guarded zealously.

Assuming by default that everyone is a threat and therefor justifying total surveillance and control of people is not the way to go. It opens a giant can of worms which is a guaranteed ticket to a society we do not want. One reason is human nature as demonstrated countless times by history, not talking about the good kind. Another reason is that governments come and go just like the world keeps changing. When, not if, we enter another dark period in human history it will be a digital disaster as all the data gathered is now available at the hands of evil. Innocent data does not exist, it is only a matter of the right time and the wrong hands to turn it into a weapon.

Automated Multi Source Profiling

Automated multi source profiling is now part of daily life whether you like it or not. Such profiling is used to narrow down targets that need to be watched for any specific reason. The reason may be good or bad, the method itself is flawed and will cause a lot of people to land in databases where they do not belong. The part of gathering data from as many sources as possible and automatically use it to categorize people is asking for problems. Now that humongous amounts of data can be easily analyzed and computer technology provides the tools to manage this “big data” there will be increasing pressure to combine databases from many sources. Data gathered from government branches, commercial parties to non-profit organizations providing another piece of the puzzle about your life. With the technologies available today, it will be simple to collect, merge and manage the data about an individual. That all is collected without reason, innocent or not, for profit or just because it is possible.

Biometric Data Sharing

The use of biometric data is to help determine the identity of individuals in an authentic manner, particularly when multiple sets of data are used. For example, the passport documents of many countries now routinely include the fingerprint information but iris scan data and face recognition data are making an introduction too. Today the Canadian government uses the US biometric database in addition to what they have to determine the desirability of an individual to enter the country. Sadly enough the use of biometric data is now also applied on the streets and by third party organizations for different uses. Think of identifying some one at specific places within the country and saving that information for later use. This does not target international travelers anymore, but everyone within borders can be remotely identified by face recognition camera’s without reason. Many experts have accused biometric data of raising a large percentage of false positives. You can get automatically identified as an undesirable person grounding your travel plans or worse. Remember, countries, corporations and others are linking more and more of their databases to form a giant worldwide database where a lot of people have access. Some with not so good intentions.

Everyone, Everywhere, Anytime

Consider the recent spate of news about the NSA snooping. Although for some people this was not a surprise, for others who always called worried citizens tinfoil crazies, it is embarrassing by all the revelations about the widespread mass surveillance. Not only have they been monitoring domestic citizens, they have been cited for snooping on people and political parties in other countries. No doubt, the extensive availability of internet technologies and the reach of the Internet have made these activities possible. That some well-known whistle-blowers could access the data acquired by NSA, is a testimony that even intelligence agencies have difficulties protecting their operations and data against the human factor. It’s of-course not only the NSA, basically any similar agency in other countries does the same. Where possible they cooperate with others or go at it alone. A lot of their operations are not reported to their own governments or only limited to a few people who are not allowed to say much. One of the reasons is that public figures can keep claiming there is nothing to worry about and life goes on for the common man. Also traditional intelligence gathering shifted to economic intelligence to help the own economy. In commercial terms it’s called business intelligence but when it comes to the level of secret agencies it goes beyond the known horizon. Everyone is a target, just by reading this article you are probably already being monitored and categorized in some database. Sorry to break it to you.

Hardware Bigger Target

There is a trend which is slowly finding its way to the general public to use encryption software to secure data instead of leaving it in the clear. This goes for exchanging data but also storing data on a local computer ranging from tablets, phones, desktops to servers. The awakening of the general public is now also forcing a lot of companies to start implementing some kind of encryption and privacy rules. This is encouraging but not enough, especially the dominating corporations will always find a way to breach that trust while at the same time enjoy protection from their friends in governments. Recent, leaked, information shows that hardware is the new priority target to intercept data. Not just criminals but also government agencies are, with or without the knowledge of manufacturers, rigging products to spy on the end-user. That they gather a huge amount of information which has nothing to do with a legitimate target they are after is ignored. Everything is stored for future use. Now with the Internet of Things, IoT, it is more important than ever to implement proper security. Still it is not a guarantee as other events show how shady agencies influence companies to weaken their product security to allow them easy access. Open-source hardware and software is advancing thanks to the cooperation of worldwide communities of people and is an alternative to “blackboxes”. Combined with more decentralizing of encrypted data flows mixed through Tor-like networks it will mean people can still get data from A through X to B. Even if such progress is unwanted it cannot be stopped without destroying the internet as it is and turning the world into one big surveillance state. Crime in all its forms and shapes will always be part of humanity to deal with, so using this as a reason to sacrifice freedom, progress and alternatives is a no go. Perhaps it would benefit only the few who have a different agenda and need to spread fear to keep people in line serving them.

Increase of Cyber Strikes, Disinformation & Infiltration

It seems to be getting normal to attack first and investigate later as that is “always” the best defense against those pesky enemies of the state; pre-emptive cyber strikes against other countries are increasing while disinformation is being spread through “bought” news media outlets. Add to that infiltration of organizations and other entities and we are another step closer to perfect Orwellian societies. Cyber strikes are not as visible to the mass so they do not seem to be important enough to question or think about even if they get reported. Some media outlets spread disinformation on command, another example of the govporation complex. The question is what is accomplished beside making a potential situation worse by pre-emptive strikes, corrupting news media for hidden agendas and spreading distrust in society by more infiltrations ? By knowing the why and who society can determine if this is the world we want to live in or do we need to make changes.

More Secret Courts

Here we take as an example the U.S secret courts but this is by no means the only country using such setups for specific operations. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or the FISA of 1978 allows a secret court to be setup. It is considered to be almost a parallel supreme court today. Here the cases are completely one sided and are argued by the government only. There is a review process to appeal decisions of the FISA court but these are few and far between. Not one case has gone in appeal to the Supreme court. This is the court that issues warrants for (mass)surveillance including phone taps on individuals. The extent of these warrants reached 1800 in 2013 alone. The official story is to stop terrorism and protect people which in itself is logical. The point is that there is no more accountability for the people in this process. These warrants are bound to increase and specific judges of FISA are likely to be amenable to issuing more of these authorizations. The authorizations often allow massive amounts of data to be supplied to the NSA and other agencies by telecom operators. In its rulings the court often takes on questions about constitutional validity and delivers interpretations which never undergo any public scrutiny. This is happening especially in the countries which always boast about their democracy and point to others which are not. Many of the developed countries, particularly the ones growing into the “developed” club, certainly have such secret courts. The troublesome part, beside legality, is the use of such data for more control and economic espionage on everyone. The old mission to protect and serve the people seems to be getting less important with each passing year.

More Threat Branding

It is no secret that many entities come under the scanner of government agencies and even companies trying to take over part of that job. As more and more people get “connected”, like on the Internet, their activities become visible to those who want to monitor and track them. How or on what basis any entity is dubbed a “potential threat” is often a subjective thing. Unless these decision makers have strict checks and balances, there will be higher potential for getting dubbed a potentially disruptive influence by someone. Now with all the newest technologies it is easy to get tagged as a threat but almost impossible to fight against it or even know such entry exists in some database. The broader powers the govporation complex gets the more entities will be branded as a potential threat. By now everyone who critically followed worldwide developments can predict that a “threat” could be based on economic motivation or perhaps asking the “wrong” questions, even as a journalist.

Weaponized Urban Drones

Amazon has announced that it will be delivering products bought by its customers through drones. That may or may not become reality, but it clearly demonstrates that this commercial behemoth thinks it is feasible. Drones that have capability to reach the desired addresses are feasible today. However, authorities in different countries have to finalize regulations governing flying drones in urban airspace before commercial projects could launch. It is easy to realize that the various governmental agencies are already increasing the urban use of flying drones for surveillance and monitoring purposes. Beside that it contributes to mass-surveillance, a worrying development is arming drones with lethal and non-lethal weapons for use against civilians. These are not the type of heavily armed drones used in military operations but rather the compact type with more features fitting an urban setting. Perhaps a first step to robocops of the future with the authority of a real cop. As of this writing there are various companies already offering armed drones for crowd control with pepper-spray, rubber bullets, blinding lasers, ear-piercing audio and so on. A drone equipped with high-definition cameras and other light spectrum modes can quickly identify targets in real-time connected to some mainframe. Several experts conclude there is an increasing trend of militarizing police forces and extending their capability with drones. The day may not be far off when police drones can launch missiles and other projectiles on a crowd in its mission area, in your backyard and not in a far away country.

World Events Impact Liberties

Today’s world is quickly changing with each negative event speeding up certain unpopular agendas. Not to say that change is always bad, but we focus here on the effect it has on liberties and how some powerful groups benefit from it. After each major event like 9/11, wars in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, regional bloody revolutions with or without foreign influence, we do exactly what we should not do; sacrifice liberties we fought so hard for in the past just to get a false sense of security. That sort of flawed logic has helped increase the monitoring, tracking, limiting freedom of citizens and increasing the power of the govporation for its own agenda. What we should be doing is find the root cause of why a conflict or event happened in the first place and learn from it instead of just fighting the symptoms as usual. If you still think after all what has happened so far and leaked to the public there is still no reason to hit the alarm button then nothing else is going to change your view until it is too late. Perhaps it is too late.

The Rise Of Crypto Currencies

Several crypto currencies have come into existence during the last few years. Bitcoin is the most well-known of these while there were 275 crypto currencies in existence as of 2014. One clear trend you can easily notice is their popularity is steadily increasing. The market capitalization is a good indicator of this although it is a bumpy ride with all the speculators involved. The Bitcoin market cap is currently around $4.3 billion, Ripple as a second is at $774 million and Litecoin as a third at $96 million. With economic and political issues affecting various countries in the world, more people start to hedge their bets on the national currencies and work with these crypto currencies that are not controlled by any government or entity. It is another example of how people push back by starting to develop and provide alternatives to a system which does not serve them anymore.

Cash Limits & Debt Increasing

Most developed countries, governments, float nowadays on credit while an increasing amount of citizens run through their credit limits and start to live to pay the rotating credit repayments. The larger this burden, the lesser is the freedom of the person to really follow his free will. The primary concern of the person involved will be to stick to the current job, not rock the boat at all and go through the daily grind to ensure the debt repayments happen. One very effective way of control is to have greater burdens on everybody’s shoulders. To keep that control it is important for those in power to restrict ways of trading which cannot be easily monitored, taxed and controlled. God forbid people to actually skip the middleman and deal directly with each other and change the system from within.

Worldwide Increase of Conflicts

By the end of year 2013, The Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research (HIIK) reported the existence of some 400 conflicts all over the world. At least 20 of these fit the category war. As of 2015 the rise of conflict areas in a year is worrying since elements of such are starting to find a way into the daily life of many people in stable communities. That in itself can be bad or good if it awakens people to reality and see why these things happen, the story behind them and not just a symptom out of the blue. The following is a limited list, in no particular order, of major ongoing conflicts which keeps growing:

– Democratic Republic of Congo, where the army of the ruling government is fighting with the M23 rebel group and religious tensions are flaring up between Christians and Muslims.

– Mali, where Islamist rebels are actively seeking to take over the country fighting against mostly French forces who intervened.

– The war between Ukraine, backed by the US/EU, against rebels in the east of Ukraine where they declared their own Republic states backed by Russia.

– Nigeria, where terror group Boko Haram in their attempt to introduce Sharia law, keeps attacking moderate Muslims and Christians.

– Sudan, where groups of mixed ethnic origin are fighting with government forces and each other.

– The long bloody conflict between Israel and Palestine with no real solution in sight.

– Afghanistan, remains a war zone of fighting between government forces, assisted by the US mostly, and the Taliban.

– Unstable Pakistani border with Afghanistan and increasing drone strikes on extremist groups.

– Mexico, remains the hotbed of drug-wars, human trafficking, blackmail and smuggling by the drug cartels.

– Syria, the civil war continues to rage on with the terror group IS taking over a considerable part including a piece of Iraq.

– Iraq, struggling with the war against IS, assisted by an international coalition consisting of the US, Arab countries, Iran and the EU. Religious violence between Sunnis and Shiites is also increasing.

– The Philippines where Moro people continue their struggle for independence.

– Somalia continues to have problems arising out of fighting between the rebel Al-Shabaab group and the government forces. Part of it is spilling over to surrounding countries.

– South Sudan, created as a new country in 2010. There are two wars going on. Fight between the ex-vice president’s and the president’s forces is one of the conflicts. While the presidential force is also engaged in supporting autonomy struggles of two provinces in neighboring Sudan.

– North Korea and South Korea, occasional skirmishes and technically still in war.

– Yemen, rebel groups fighting against the central government mixed with terror groups using the country as their base of operations.

Although most of the above conflict areas have a long violent history it is expected to see new conflict in regions or countries where conflict is not directly expected. Economic disparities have always been reasons for flare-ups throughout history. Now that the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) break into the “developed” countries club one must anticipate serious friction over market, influence, resources and territory. Internal conflicts, within countries, sometimes differ but often it involves a combination of one or more of the following causes: poor economy, corruption, police state, religious tensions, foreign influence, oppression, unpopular politics, extreme difference poor vs rich, racial inequality. The same old story for humanity as you might be thinking, just another flavor and color.

Corporate Influence on the Internet & ICANN

There are major developments in the digital world that indicate the increasing dominance of major corporations over the internet. They are closely working with multiple governments on policies, shared projects and sharing data. Most willingly cooperate despite knowing that some of what they are doing is illegal or at least very unethical. But holy profit, power and status is something shared by both parties giving it the name “the govporation”. Before we continue it is important to understand what ICANN is, taken from the ICANN website a short introduction:

“ To reach another person on the Internet you have to type an address into your computer – a name or a number. That address has to be unique so computers know where to find each other. ICANN coordinates these unique identifiers across the world. Without that coordination we wouldn’t have one global Internet. ICANN was formed in 1998. It is a not-for-profit partnership of people from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. It promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet’s unique identifiers. ICANN doesn’t control content on the Internet. It cannot stop spam and it doesn’t deal with access to the Internet. But through its coordination role of the Internet’s naming system, it does have an important impact on the expansion and evolution of the Internet. “

Now with the push for ICANN to remove itself from governmental oversight to a more corporate setting it is even more worrying for the future of the internet as it exists now. Of-course it is currently choosing between the lesser of evils until hopefully a better solution is found. We have seen what happens when the so called “free market” takes over, often people will not benefit from this but again those who can afford it in wealth and power will applaud it. It is too much for this article to discuss the limits of “free market” by those who control it but rest assured we will do so in a new article. Giant corporations like Facebook, Google, Amazon and others plan to provide internet services to poor regions in the world where there is none or hard to get online. Of-course it is not just because it makes their heart warm but they wish to also decide what people pay, see, do and get on “their” version of the internet. Just like what the lobby of corporate groups wants for the internet as it is now. This is also why some countries went ahead to fix net neutrality by law, although some implemented a weak version of it under pressure from the corporate lobby. So you might want to take a look at how this is arranged in your country if at all.

Few more words

Like some people we are worried that with all the agendas being pushed by bought politicians, corporations and other entities behind the curtains we will end up in a nightmare scenario with no point of return. Perhaps you remember seeing a dystopian movie or tv-show where unimaginable things happen and now you see the same thing in reality. Maybe we need to go back further in time, like how we got to this point after the second world war. A generation of people which at that time experienced and understood what madness can cause if left in the hands of a few on all sides. Ever wonder that once an enemy is gone a new one is suddenly portrayed by politicians, media and so on ? Maybe we should start investigating what the root cause is of all these enemies popping up ? Then we might understand that something is wrong, really wrong. How about less worrying about the superficial but what world do we want to live in ? To you, who is reading these words, wherever you are, whoever you are, whomever you serve, why ?
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions” Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)

The year 1984 is behind us by some three decades. In the meantime, we are close to that Orwellian world in more ways than the author would have imagined. As we are lured by new technology that makes our life simple, they are the additional pathways being created that let powers that be to increasingly be in the know of our behavior. That knowledge is a very short distance away from controlling our lives in the wrong (right?) hands !

Anonymous, aggregated data about consumer behavior could easily be justified as a business need. They do need to assess and segment the demographic data in terms of consumer behavior to address the market and offer the right products. In our efforts to surf the net and conduct business over the Internet, we give away a lot of data that is identifiable and can be linked with an individual. Some of these, like name, address, social security, date of birth, birthplace, email address, IP address, vehicle registration, drivers license, credit card details, photos, fingerprinting, handwriting and so on, can identify an individual directly. Some other non-personally identifiable data can uniquely identify a person when combined. Privacy does not make sense after that. The risks associated with such personally-identifiable data are that they can not only be exploited by criminal elements but are increasingly being monitored and used by ruling governments of countries. That’s one part of the problem. The second part is active snooping to get into your systems that are connected to this worldwide network, the internet. As these connections extend to your home, to you personally, there can be active data gathering by getting access to your systems. You may try to secure your device, but the technology is so complex you may not succeed completely. Besides, the interested people who supply you the technology to give you ease of use, comforts and so on are themselves interested in leaving trapdoors that enable gathering of information. Along with the apparent ease with which you can utilize the ever newer devices, you are open to snooping and profiling with every new technology that gets deeper into your life. Along with the technologies, we use today and are about to start soon, imagine how close we get to this huge connected network with such technologies of the Internet of Things (IoT)! Along with the comfort of being able to pick up that bottle of juice for your fridge when you are in the store, the intelligent fridge can provide information about what juice you prefer and other food habits related data. Did the news stories about how NSA snoops on citizens, other governments and various other organizations bother you?! Forget any ethical questions, this clearly shows nothing can be secure enough. When even government agencies from other countries with access to sophisticated technology cannot always protect themselves against snooping, commoners stand no chance without help. It clearly establishes that whatever you may do; interested parties can get into your systems quite easily if you simply assume your government and corporations have your back. Then there is the human aspect to the vulnerability story. Snowden, the whistle blower of the NSA story, mostly social engineered coworkers to get access to more NSA secrets. The people you believed were respecting your privacy and followed the law ! No Idle Imagination of Conspiracy Theorists

One could easily dismiss such concerns as imagination of conspiracy theorists around the world running wild. We discuss some pointers to a study and a news item to indicate;

1. Significant portions of people are not bothered that their privacy may be compromised.

2. Large-scale data gathering is happening and they include data that should be private.

3. Governments increasingly are coercing data-gathering companies (besides their own gathering) to hand over data about individuals.

“Big data” is a big deal with businesses. The easiest way to understand the big data is that it is about the collection of as much data as possible about consumer behavior. Businesses process such data to derive competitive advantages. Simplest issues would be to derive knowledge of market segment so that their products or services could be offered such that profit is maximized. Obviously individually identifiable data too is gathered for analysis. Forbes Insights published a report “The Promise of Privacy: Respecting Consumers’ Limits While Realizing the Marketing Benefits of Big Data” this year based upon a survey conducted as recent as last September. Though the report is about how to collect big data for a business’s benefit and still respect the privacy of individuals, the findings are interesting in the context of the current discussions. A part of the summary from the report says ”everyone knows” that privacy is a sensitive issue when it comes to marketing and big data. A Forbes Insights study conducted in association with Turn, a provider of data-driven marketing services, has found that, while a small subset of consumers cares a lot about privacy, what most are concerned with is security.” Security measures make sure no one could intrude into your digital life and gather data about you. The main premise of this article is that technology is extending the reach of the elements (government and otherwise). Some of the findings that are of interest here are as follows below. The surveys covered big as well as small companies, B2C and B2B.

1. Companies are active in data gathering. 59% of them are very active and 23% are active; that’s a total of 82%. It tells you the extent of data gathering going on.

2. Only about 47% of B2C consumers are concerned and very concerned while 31% of B2B buyers are concerned about privacy. Businesses feel that consumers willingly participate in the data-gathering trading off the benefits like discounts (etc) that arise. Clearly, consumers are out of touch with reality !

3. Measures that prevent data gathering such as declining to provide information, “abort due to too many questions”, delete cookies to stop tracking, ad-blocking among others are used always by a small fraction of B2C consumers. These measures are used without fail by a small fraction (12 to 23%) of users. Even individual use of any one or more of these measures is adopted by a fraction of users at similar percentage levels.

4. A high percentage of such data-gathering efforts is meeting or bettering ROI targets. Thus, they are likely to continue to do so and an even larger percentage of companies is likely to get into the band wagon. About 59% of businesses plan to accelerate data gathering and analysis. 40% will at least continue their efforts at the same levels.

Another part of this story is all these data reaches the hands of governments eventually. Just an indicator towards this is the news Google: We’re bombarded by gov’t requests on user data. Google says such requests for data has doubled from the number of three years ago. The US government is the top such requester. The number may well be the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Google says this is about the requests they are allowed to talk about. There are others they are not allowed to provide estimates about. The governments are from all over the globe. India in Asia is the second in the list, followed by Germany, France and the UK. Between January and June 2013, there were 11,000 requests made by the US. There are similar reports from Apple for information on individuals. Sir Tim Brenners-Lee, the father of the Internet is on record about his concern about widespread privacy invasion and snooping.

Technologies That Bring the Vulnerabilities Closer to Home

As discussed already the vulnerabilities arise from the connectivity available to technological devices we use with the rest of the world. Someone determined enough would be able to hack systems that can be reached. This section of the article looks at how such access is available through the use of devices / technologies such as;

1. Smart Meter for power, water and gas

2. Smart Phones

3. Smart TV & Interactive TV

4. Smart Cars

5. Smart Glasses

6. Smart Drones / UAV

7. Smart Cameras & CCTV

8. Fingerprint ID

9. Body Scanners

Smart Meters

The smart meters report energy consumption (water, electricity or gas) frequently to the offices of the utility. They use digital technologies and communicate with central servers using wireless frequencies. From the standpoint of the suppliers, detailed data on consumption at different periods during a day, aggregated over users in a supply area provide them better managing of demand and supply. However, the use of these frequencies raise health issues and many compare the threats with those caused by cellular phones. Privacy and security concerns arise from the fact that such meter can be used for other purposes. The data it supplies could easily be correlated with when someone is in the shower, when a fridge door is opened, if the homeowner is in or out of the house and so on. For example thieves and burglars would be able to better identify their targets and determine the time of break-in for low-risk time periods. Law enforcement agencies and other intelligence gathering agencies would be able to pinpoint the behavior pattern of occupants easily. Quite often it would not take much of a hacking effort as this data is often transmitted without encryption on open channels or only takes a legal order. Other snooping technologies are available to tap into communication over the power lines. Once every corner of your house or building can communicate with the outside world, the threats multiply !

Smart Phones

Smart phones are just another computing platform. They have the capabilities to execute various apps (applications). Thus, it would be easily possible to download an app to your phone that can use the array of sensors (camera, GPS, touch.) to snoop on you actively or simply listen to everything you do with it. Even the manufacturers are not beyond using such capabilities in these devices to gather data of their interest. When iPhones came out there was news about “iPhones phoning home” where data is reported to Apple. There were even reports of a “kill switch” that will make the phone inoperable in some circumstances. There is hardly any protection available with smart phones that can check for such tweaks and possibly disengage them. Besides, external agencies too can invade the phones and the protections are not as well developed as with the PC (even with PCs security vulnerabilities remain after decades or so that they have been around). Smart phone protection mechanisms will take its own time to come up to the standards available for personal computers. Even then, vulnerabilities remain that are inherent to software life cycle and its development. As with recent news it shows that especially governments are interested in exploiting smart phones for their own agendas. Sometimes it has nothing to do with general safety but rather economical espionage.

Smart TV & Interactive TV

Smart TVs are those that can connect to the internet and allow users to surf the net. Interactive TVs let users connect back to a central location to interact for finding out program schedules, selecting a program, scheduling recordings and maybe interact with customer service too. For this they connect to a network through which communications can be sent and received. In case of smart TVs, the vulnerabilities are the same as when a PC connects to the Internet. Interactive TVs often use the Internet to get the interactions done. In which case the security vulnerabilities and privacy concerns are the same as with your computer on the Internet. Often such intelligent TVs are interconnected through a Home theater PC to the home network, creating extensive vulnerabilities for all the machines in the home network besides the TVs themselves. With access getting extended to all the parts of your home network, snooping or data gathering can take on many forms. A simple form of snooping could turn on a webcam on one of the home PCs and shoot footage that show what family members have been doing during the snooping period. Same applies with the microphone on the machine. You do not need to hire a gumshoe to install bugs anymore.

Smart Cars

Smart cars will use a lot of computing power and connectivity with the Internet to derive advanced driving information such as driving conditions, directions, location of the next petrol pump and pricing or a rest area and even delivery of entertainment. Even though you are comfortable to leave the most stressful job of actually driving the car, you are connected to the rest of the world and in communication with millions of computers all over the globe. Your driving habits, travel history, stops you made (time and locations), how many passengers were in the car, what entertainment you consumed, what communications were made, etc. could easily be reported automatically to the manufacturer or be collected by a snooping entity. The manufacturer probably will offer you the excuse that all such data will help improve the car’s performance for the current one as well as future ones, maybe offer you extra benefits in exchange for your data. As corporations operate from diverse locations, there is no way they can avoid complying with the dictum’s of the government for that geo-political location (on top of their own agenda’s ofcourse). Smart Glasses Google glass is a notable recent example of wearable computer technology that is already on us. It is a spectacle shaped device that has a camera and a display in front of the eye. At a personal level, it is very useful as you are able to interact with your computer even when you are outdoors and there are no wires tethering you to your back end equipment in any way. You are able to view vital information like airline flight details (gate number, flight time, etc.), driving directions, answers to queries regarding something you are viewing, biometric data and much more. It is also a great snooping tool as you can take pictures, record videos, share them immediately etc. Anyone wearing a Google Glass can snoop on you without detection. Complementary part of it is entities will hack into it while you are connected to the Internet and undermine your privacy and security like with any other computer-based equipment that is connected with the net.

Drones / UAV

Gizmodo and Engadget reports availability of miniature drones or UAVs for direct monitoring of target persons on the ground with laser and cameras. These were launched about a year back. Depending on who controls it in a given mission you could be followed and your actions monitored in unlikely places. Even when you are mobile, it is hard hiding from them. While these specific devices are about 25 inches square, technology promises these flying robots / drones / UAVs to come down in size and become comparable to insects. Where would you hide when such devices are following you and these could be launched by a corporate body or the government for example. Additionally, if you were to deploy such equipment for your own safety, there is another side to the problem. These devices will have to communicate wireless back to the command center through the Internet for example. That makes it vulnerable to the shenanigans of the snoopers of either corporate variety or governments.

Smart Cameras & CCTV

Closed-circuit TV systems for security use have been around for a while now. The recordings used to be done inside the premises and the tapes used to be stored in a secure location. Things were simple back then. In a security scenario these days, the cameras send the images to a central server by (unsecured) FTP periodically or when there is movement detected. The cameras may communicate wireless within the premises. However, the bigger systems deployed nowadays will have to connect to at least a network that goes outside the premises. Most often one uses the network infrastructure already available in the form of the Internet. Once that is done, your vulnerabilities and snooping risks are about the same as in the standard PC connected to the Internet. With video cameras, the added vulnerability is that somebody can use them as remote eyes to view into every corner of your home or business.

Fingerprint ID

Had it worked dependably, this was a technology that could have solved the problem of the password. Many used passwords with today’s computing power available can be easily cracked. Not so with fingerprints, at least theoretically. However, within days of Apple introducing the technology with their smart-phones, someone announced having hacked the technology used. Now you have an added threat of your fingerprints being misused, identity theft in combination with (copied) fingerprints. Also note that the flaws in fingerprint authentication have been around for several years already but did not receive enough attention.

Body Scanners

As we are already aware, the body scanners in airports show you off in full naked glory. In airports, it could possibly be justified for security reasons. Even during development of the systems, the potential for misuse was hotly debated. It is quite certain corporate, particularly developers of the system and those marketing them will find convincing reason to sell them at more places outside of the airport use. That volume is hardly anything to go by! There will be any number of user agencies, including government agencies who would be able to find justifications for installing such systems at other places. The potential privacy invasion would be unimaginable. Various lobbyists would eventually succeed in convincing politicians to adopt these systems for more widespread use. Saving money, safety and comfort would be typical selling points used by these people. If a problem needs to be invented for solving by using these devices, so be it. Health Concerns Most technologies use wireless technologies to get connected and to communicate. Communications at those high frequencies as are used for a lot of wireless networking / scanning can have health repercussions. There are studies that indicate that being submerged in these high-frequency radiations is harmful for you. That is another reason to carefully evaluate if you always need the latest and the greatest technological convenience. Though jury’s still out for a conclusive proof, it is safer to be careful about it. Sometimes, corporations, backed or not backed by governments, often experiment with their technologies out in the third world. It is mainly because the awareness about privacy, security and health issues are not that strong. For confirmation, one has only to look at the clinical trials being conducted by pharmaceutical companies in the developing world. In fact, many governments in these countries may actually welcome technologies that help control and monitor their people. Subsequently, it is possible to present statistics about how a number of countries have already adopted and approved these advances to convince or lobby (bribe) the decision makers to give green light.

Wake Up

As we get connected more and more the vulnerabilities increase. The technology is moving towards a scenario where connections are creeping inside our homes. It is easy to imagine that IoT (Internet of Things) is going to succeed, and you will have a situation where even your fridge is going to be a tool of reporting on you and your family members. Whenever computers are connected together and someone from somewhere can find you, it would be easy for someone to hack into your devices. None of the protection methods available can make you absolutely safe. The basic technologies of communication over the Internet were initially built on trust. The Internet was to be a means of collaboration between such trusted collaborators. Any security system we build will find it very hard to secure everything completely based upon that good faith foundation. That seems to be a weakness that cannot be overcome easily. Even after several decades of existence of the Internet so far, security holes keep coming up even today. It will be practical to assume that anything that is connected with the rest of the world would be vulnerable in some way. All the billions of devices communicate with each other through the software built on them. Software building is a team-based effort and people have varying sense of security, closure and even the concept of software tools in use. Even these tools and programming languages have in-built flaws that can create security holes providing clandestine access to malicious parties. The whole process is not as robust and accurate as the products built with engineering discipline. Software is now critical and can make nowadays the difference between life and death.

Consider this a wake up call to not blindly rely on whatever is “sold” to you as a citizen using one or more buzzwords like: comfort, safety and profit. Things are inherently problematic and the “attackers” keep utilizing newer techniques (in addition to the age old “social engineering”) one needs to watch out. Every new technology provides access to another wonderful world, making it more convenient to live and so on. However, when you do get tempted, remember the flip side too !
The character of the Internet has changed over time. The Internet started as a communications and collaboration tool between groups of researchers. As the Internet was built, there was hardly any thought about keeping things private. The focus was on open communication. The fundamental communication element, a packet, carries not only the destination address but also the sender’s address. The Internet user community has been growing all the while. User population growth was fueled by the “World Wide Web” that started being implemented in December 1990. This is a system of “hypertext to link and access information in a web of nodes in which the user can browse at will”. This worldwide web or the web fueled the explosive user growth. Even the growth rate is accelerating. The user community doubled during the five year period 2007 to 2012. What used to be 1.15 billion users grew to 2.27 billion during that period. The browser was the tool to access the web and obtain useful information and buy products and services from the increasingly commercialized Internet. Social networking was another phenomenon on the net. People took to social sites on a huge scale. For example, Facebook members have now surpassed what used to be the total number of Internet users back in just 2004; the year the social networking phenomenon came about. This is a large possible source of buyers of products and services that no business could ignore. The usual techniques of marketing, increasing brand recognition, brand building, promotion etc became equally important to web based commerce as in the real brick and mortar world. It is equally important in the virtual world to be able to divide prospects into as many definable segments as possible. Then all the commercial activity costs could be kept minimal, and made more efficient by exploiting these segments to the fullest.

Accurate profiling of prospect behavior, in both real world and the virtual, is needed to address appropriate segments. Collecting detailed data is absolutely vital for sellers of products and services. As long as this data does not contain any personally identifiable data, actual address, name, social security number etc the data about a person is simply statistics and privacy of the subject is protected. No one should be able to misuse that data. Several items of personally identifiable data by themselves and in accordance with other non-personally identifiable data can uniquely identify a person and compromise his privacy. These include beside the name, address, social security also date of birth, birthplace, email address, IP address, vehicle registration, driver’s license, creditcard details, digital identity, face, fingerprinting, handwriting etc. There are other details that can help identify individuals. What’s so important about maintaining privacy is that such data can be criminally exploited. Scope for such exploitation in the cyberworld is much more, as there is a criminally motivated section of entities always looking for opportunities to exploit individuals for profit, politics, power and other reasons.

While the aggregated profiles are a legitimate need for marketing purposes, there are no guarantees personally identifiable data (by themselves or in combination with other pieces of data) would not be misused. One of the major activities related to the demographics data is to sell this data to others for gain. As some personally non-identifiable data could be used to track down individuals, it is prudent to be very careful about profile data and to whom it is given out. Malicious attacks that cause damage and stealing of private data and real money from bank accounts happen often. They are a big threat to Internet use. Most of the problems could be avoided if complete anonymous and private access was widely available. Whatever policies, protocols, systems are implemented to protect users are basically retrofits on the system that was intended to be free and open. It is very difficult to completely close all the cracks in protecting privacy. Being on guard seems to be a critical step towards protecting your digital footprint.

In the Internet world there are a range of companies in the electronic business who want to utilize the surfing behavior of people visiting various sites. These companies acquire the data by tracking the surfing behavior of individuals and then aggregating and categorizing them. Most such companies maintain that no personally identifiable data is collected or traded on. However, such data could be collected easily if these companies wanted to or they might be doing it anyway which is most likely for some. This article looks at how the tracking is done and how a user, concerned with privacy, could minimize the digital footprint of a surfing session. The terms plug-in and add-on are used interchangeably. When we talk about “companies” it should be read as “entities” since it can concern any party doing the tracking/breaching for any reason. Although this article will try to cover a lot of the basics for safer browsing it must be noted that there is a lot more to learn and use when it comes to privacy which cannot be written in a single article. Trackers Entry Points This section takes a look at how the tracking is done, the tools the tracking companies use and the technological vulnerabilities that could be exploited. The anti-tracking tools that could be used to avoid being tracked will be discussed later in this article. Anti-tracking tools are able to identify and protect you against these tracking companies. They offer options to allow or disallow a particular company to track your online behavior – if you trust it enough. This is particularly true, when you have faith in the company that the details provided will be used only in aggregated form and no personally identifiable information will be used. This is equivalent to filling out a survey from a trusted company in the real world, which you may do willingly.

Problems start with things that evolved over time to facilitate the user. This includes (super)cookies. Others are inherent problems in programming languages and web technologies used to create attractive and dynamic sites. These include problems with Flash based applications, Java applets, ActiveX, Javascript and many more. There are some sites where users are invited to use their real (residential) IP addresses to enable free products or services. Then there are the streaming audio/video sites that offer to install their own plugins. plugins then can send details to some designated server(s). To top all these issues, the user-agent in the browser you use, offers the information on the major and minor version of the browser software. That clearly tells someone the security patch level of the browser and what vulnerabilities to exploit if one wanted to. By providing the version data of the browser, the intention was, to help web sites dynamically adjust the web experience that is optimized for the user accessing it. Malicious exploiters, on the other hand can use the browser vulnerabilities to easily remotely exploit computers. What’s more, the features that were supposedly implemented to facilitate the user through the browser, often make it easier for the attackers.

The Tracking Process

Cookies were introduced to make website visits a little more comfortable. This is a process by which the website visited stores data on the user’s computer. On a later visit, the website is able to identify the preferences of the user (potentially the user identity too). For example, if you wanted the site to remember your password and help you log in easily from the same computer, the cookie can help. The cookie can hold details that setup the website so that color preferences and other options available at the site are remembered. You do not need to set up these preferences every time you visit. Since the sites are able to store data on your system, it can store identifying data snippets. This data then can be used to track your movements to other sites and the pattern of your visits, which sites, which specific pages and what activities are undertaken by this user. What started off as a means of convenience for the user as well as for the websites to setup the site preferences of large number of users (without wasting storage for them and spending the search time to find them), has become an easy means of tracking your movements across cyberspace. Notice, for example, when the website can clearly associate the userid and password with you, you become vulnerable to many kinds of attacks. This information could now be sold to others and if it does match the pair you use for your bank, then that could easily be under attack. Other part of the threat is that the free sites we love to use need to earn revenues by some means. The usual means is to let advertisers run ads on the site. These companies would like to show the user specific ads that are tailored to the customer preferences, identified by the data in the cookies. These companies store their own cookies that help track the user and find his/her behavior on the net. These thirdparty cookies are used to track users. The ads can take the form of popup ads, banners or other variations. Profiling through the cookies involves collecting several events (which URLs you visit) that are linked to the original user. Cookies from traffic tracking sites are installed and additional information is tagged to the cookie. The data is sent to a tracking server. The behavior history in the cookies keeps growing with each session. Aggregated surfing behavior would be legitimate, if stripped of personally identifiable data as discussed already. But the whole cookie process is a stealthy process; you are normally never aware of who dumps a cookie into the local storage via the browser although modern browsers can block cookies. However, this can make visiting your preferred website inconvenient. The site would not be able to handle the preferences anymore. Nowadays many browsers let you automatically delete cookies after a surfing session ends. As tracking/profiling depends on continuing access to the undisturbed cookie, blocking them altogether or purging the cookies after a session could be an effective defense against profiling. This led to use of other cookie varieties known as Flash cookies, persistent cookies, zombie cookies and ever cookies. Flash cookies, a.k.a locally stored objects, exploited vulnerabilities in Flash technology and are difficult to erase. All of these newer cookies have this property in common. With recent versions of various browsers, it is possible to delete these local shared objects (LSO) of the flash player. Except for flash cookies, all the other cookies get stored in different storage modes. So if the one stored in the browser or the local storage is erased, other copies could be accessed or the cookie regenerated. Zombie cookies are stored in folders that are common to all the browsers. Thus, even if you were to change the browser, the zombie cookie remains accessible. Evercookies are a type of zombie cookies. These are Javascript applications that have the ability to store the cookie via ten (or more) different types of storage mechanisms of a browser. When the application detects any one of the copy to have been deleted, it is recreated and stored back. Most current browsers have the ability to exterminate the Evercookie now. That is another reason to keep your browser updated.

Other situations that enable tracking include Java applets download. Allowing interesting sites to download and install (useful) applications (plugins) can open you to vulnerabilities. Downloaded Java applications can do anything beyond the stated features, such as storing a cookie that enables tracking. Similar concerns apply to that nifty application downloaded and installed by the streaming audio/video/game-sites you found. ActiveX, another popular scripting technology, has vulnerabilities that could be easily utilized. As discussed here, totally avoiding cookies and thereby tracking, is nearly impossible. Thus the next level strategy is to detect these trackers and block them as you move from site to site. Browser plugins that help prevent tracking your browser (you) are designed around this defense strategy.

Popular Privacy Plugins

In the following sections we will discuss several plugins for various browsers starting with Firefox. Firefox is reputed to be the most secure among the popular browsers that include Internet Explorer, Opera, Chrome and Safari. The three most popular Firefox plugins that help defend against tracking are named “Ghostery”, “NoScript” and “Flashblock”.


Is a plugin that recognizes the hooks used on websites by the analytics and ad companies to tag your browser for tracking. They are able to identify the companies trying to track you. These companies use what is known as “web bugs”. Like a real life bug in a room, these are left hidden in a webpage or an email that helps trackers to find if a user is visiting the site or a mail was opened by the user. Often they are called by names such as beacon, tag, etc. These are implemented as pixel, clear GIF, 1×1 GIF (…) elements which are a single transparent embedded image to be loaded from a server of the tracking company. The request reveals your IP address as that is where the image is requested from. The trackers use this address to place a special tag in some kind of a persistent cookie into your local storage. As the browser is used more and more the cookie inside your computer builds up browsing history. Periodically cleaning cookies helps as it fragments the history collected. The webserver that serves the pages of sites you visit usually logs your IP address. However, the thirdparty trackers do not get access to these logs and have to resort to listening to the communication interchange when a page is requested, much like listening to a bug in the physical world to find if someone has entered the bugged room. Identifying such trackers comes down to monitoring if image requests are going to external servers and identifying them. If these images are prevented from loading and any further communication then the tracking will be blocked. The images being transparent do not interfere with the webpage presentation. So called iFrame HTML tags are also used to help the thirdparties place a cookie on your computer. You can set pre-emptive settings to stop all tracking companies found. A purple box appears on the right hand corner of the screen and shows the names of companies detected and deleted (displayed with a strike-through on the name listed if blocked). Additional information about the company, their privacy policy and contact details regarding privacy matters are provided by the plugin with a single click of the mouse. Ghostery also has an option, known as GhostRank which allows sending anonymous statistical information the servers of the Ghostery developers. That helps update data and protection against these tracking companies. Ghostery is available for all the major browsers Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Opera, Safari and works the same way. The plugin is also available on the iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone. When you download the plugin, a wizard helps set up the plugin. The plugin is entirely free to use and does not violate your privacy.


Previously known as DoNotTrack Plus is an addon that has similar functionality available across the major browsers except Opera. It may not be able to block everything compared to Ghostery. Trackers that are being blocked can be viewed. Cookies are blocked as are ads with tracking functionality. Alerts are provided when privacy policies of the tracking sites change. Some websites will force you to enable a specific tracker before you can continue using their service which is a very questionable practise.

NoScript and Similars:

Firefox has a plugin named NoScript and prevents scripts from any website to execute in your browser unless the user specifically allows it. JavaScript, Silverlight, Flash, ActiveX, Java and others can only be executed if you allow them. Creating a whitelist will enable adding trusted sites that are allowed to execute scripts on a continuing basis. The script execution can be enabled very easily with a simple left click on the NoScript status bar icon when visiting a specific site. The plugin helps block (the vulnerabilities related to) these scripts and gives you control. It has some other advantages from a security standpoint too. It prevents cross-site scripting and click-jacking among others. This plugin affects the working of many sites. What a user needs to do is build up the whitelist for their favorite sites. This needs to be done manually one by one.

Internet Explorer script policy could be set through the Internet options available in the tools menu. Disabling of different flavors of scripting is available through the Security set of options. Security level high disables everything as expected. You can selectively whitelist sites in different security zones defined in IE by default.

Opera has a plugin named ScriptWeeder which is similar to NoScript functionality. It has three modes; whitelist, whitelist + same origin and blacklist. Scripts are blocked unless they are on the whitelist. In the second mode, the only exception made is if the script is from the same domain (script being run from the original website). In the blacklist mode all scripts are allowed to run unless the site is listed on the blacklist.

Chrome has the NotScript plugin with functionality similar to NoScript for Firefox but is somewhat limited. The usual whitelisting functionality is available. The limitation is that some java applets may not be blocked properly.

Safari has recently a plugin available called JavaScript Blocker. It is in many ways comparable to the NoScript plugin for Firefox but requires a very recent version of Safari.

Flashblock and Similars:

Firefox and Chrome have a plugin named Flashblock which blocks downloading elements like Silverlight, Shockwave, Flash and other variations. Placeholders are shown on the pages where they would normally appear and clicking on them downloads the specific element. Flashblock will not work if a scriptblocker like noscript is active or javascript disabled. Whitelisting is available for sites that can be allowed to work unrestricted.

Internet Explorer has a kind of flash-blocking option built-in. It is not very obvious but can be turned off/on easily. Default is to allow all flash elements. To set its status you need to go to Manage Add-ons and select it from the list assuming a flash plugin was installed. This also depends on which version of IE you are using since microsoft does not seem to have a clear path about the future of flash / thirdparty plugins in recent versions like IE 10.

Opera has a Flashblocker plugin, equal in name, available although it does require some attention in the way to use it. It is recommended to check the latest instructions.

Safari has a built-in plugin-blocking mechanism that stops older Flash versions from downloading through its plugin blacklist feature. Only the latest secure version will be allowed. To block flash you can use the ClickToFlash add-on available for Safari. Elements are turned into placeholders and clicking on them loads the content. Flash videos get converted to H.264 format from selected websites with a single click. It also offers whitelisting features.


It is always a good idea to take care of the following issues to be safe in your journey through cyberspace. By default you should always have a capable virus and malware protection system, constantly updated, as a first level of safety. The starting point is to keep everything patched up to the latest patches released by the manufacturers. The operating system, your browser and certainly the browser plugins. It is easy to forget about updating the plugins. Keeping, among others, Java, JavaScript, ActiveX and Flash controls turned off. Allow them only when you are absolutely certain of the site providing them to you. Have the option setup such that you are alerted when needed and then be able to choose to allow them. Revert to no-script settings as soon as you are done. Disable cookies, if it interferes with operation of your favorite sites then delete them after a browsing session; do this regularly. Keep all applications, particularly if they are for multimedia, patched and configured up to the latest security levels. Blocking pop-ups can help as some may contain a malicious payload. Always be vigilant when it comes to your data and the digital footprint you leave in cyberspace. It is very difficult to repair your privacy on the internet if it is out in the open. A known good firewall that is always kept current is another strong protection layer against privacy invasion and security threats.
“I have no fear that the result of our experiment will be that men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master” Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)


Bitcoin is a digital currency that was first proposed in Oct 2008. Curiously, the proposer had a pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto and started dissociating himself from any of the developments related to the currency from 2010. Nobody knows who he was. The currency came into existence starting with the genesis block created by Satoshi. The operation was started on 3 rd January, 2009 by starting a free source project on Source Forge. In the four years since then, the number of units in circulation has reached more than 10.5 million units. This is half the total number (21 million) of units this currency can ever have, and is hard coded into the system as designed. This is designed to be reached by the year 2040. A Bitcoin unit or BTC can be divided into 100 million units in trade operations. These smaller units are known as satoshis.

Currency Creation & Operation

All currencies are issued by some central bank or the other. Depending on the nation using the currency, it is the central bank of that particular nation. These banks control on how much money should be in circulation at any given time. Any particular currency has paper based, and metal based units of various denominations that represent different denominations of the currency. For example, in case of the US currency, you have paper based one Dollar, five dollars, twenty dollars, hundred-dollar units and coins (metal based) of 1 cent, five cents, 10 cents, 25 cents (a quarter), and sometimes a metal dollar. Soiled, damaged paper notes and damaged coins are removed and new notes and coins are introduced into circulation by the central bank, The Federal Reserve Bank in case of the USA. The central bank controls the introduction of new money, and the total money in circulation based on economic considerations. For example, if the total money in circulation is more than the value of the gross national product, the prices rise. There is more money chasing comparatively few products otherwise known as “inflation.” On the other hand, should the GDP become higher compared to the money available, money would be able to buy more things (aka “deflation”). There are various complicated economic considerations of how much new money is minted by the central banks and introduced into the system. Suffice it for this discussion, that there is a central authority who alone can mint money in the currency setup.

In case on international transactions between different currencies, banks of the two countries get involved and operate based on exchange rates between the two currencies. These rates are determined very broadly, by the trades between the two countries. Parties involved in a transaction get charged quite heavily by the banks and financial institutions. Other characteristics that will be relevant to these discussions, in this case, any currency provides several tokens to be used in transactions. All those notes and coins are such tokens. There is a major property satisfied by the tokens. When a token is handed over to the other party, in lieu of product or service provided, the token is gone from the buyer’s stash. This ensures that there is no “double spending.” The buyer cannot spend that set of tokens, representing the total value, again on buying something else. “Double spending” is a distinct possibility if the seller takes time to confirm having taken the money. Same situation arises if an intermediary is involved, and needs time to confirm the transfer.

One big difference with all the other currencies in the world is that there is no central bank or authority who controls the generation, circulation or transaction in this currency. The transactions are based on the public key cryptography system. This system requires that if a communication is to be sent to someone securely, the communication should be encrypted by the “public” key of the particular person. The target person decrypts the cipher text (the coded text) using his/her “private” key. The encryption system ensures that there is no way one can derive the private key by knowing the public key. Thus, the transaction, communication in this case, could be totally secure. A bitcoin transaction happens in the following manner. Bitcoins are exchanged through apps named as wallets. These can draw on local bitcoin store or get it out of a service (much in the style of drawing money from a bank). Since the currency is totally decentralized, there is no need for a bank of any but is a convenience, if available.

Digital signatures of the ECDSA type are used to authenticate these transactions. Party 1 signs a transaction using her private key. This ensures that anyone could verify that party 1 has initiated the transaction. Public key of party 2 is used for transfer. To ensure this transaction is legitimate, party 1 should have actually owned the coins intended for transfer to party 2. It also needs to be ensured that party 1 does not “double spend” or transfer same money to another party. In non-cash transactions, some intermediary such as a bank ensures the money is deducted from party 1 and given to party 2. Even when an electronic transfer (like a wire transfer) method is used, the spender loses the ownership of the money first and then the target beneficiary is credited with the amount. Without the intermediaries, a peer-to-peer distributed network implements two necessary functions to prevent double spending. First, it verifies party 1 did actually own the money obtained through some other transaction that can be traced. This traceability is created through a mechanism where majority voting of the network confirms a transaction. A record or a block is created every 10 minutes that hold the details of transactions. Ownership is confirmed by existence of one such block that includes a valid transaction of money to party 1 from a legitimate source. To facilitate tracing older transactions, all these blocks are chained to an earlier block. One could easily establish legitimate transactions right from the very first block, the genesis block.

Block Creation & Blockchain

The transaction details are sent to the neighboring nodes by the party 1 node/application. The protocol is set such that the node receiving the transaction will verify if the transaction is valid, if a block exists transferring the bitcoins to party 1. If true, the node will add the current transaction (transfer from party 1 to 2) to the block of transactions. Getting a block authorized involves an inverse hash creation problem. The node is required to add some bits (nonce) to the block such that a new hash is created that has a predefined number of zeros at the beginning. These numbers of zeros are adjusted such that the network always needs a fixed amount of time to verify a block. The current block being generated also includes the hash of the previous block. The authenticating node broadcasts the new block and “proof of work” to the network. The proof of work is the string of bits that was added to generate the hash. It is possible another authorized block may be received. The block forming part of a longer chain is taken to be the authentic one. The longest chain of blocks records all the transactions that have happened. The longer chain also establishes that it has been generated by the largest collection of compute power in the network. The rationale being that unless majority computing power is under control of a malicious power; the largest chain will be generated by the honest majority. A timestamp is included in the hash of blocks. Changing this continuing chain that includes proof of work will need doing the proof-of work all over again. The work required to generate the hash is exponentially higher as the number of leading zeroes required in the hash generated. This ensures that the winning node has actually used the maximum computational power. The longest chain will always represent the majority participation. If the voting was based on the number of computing nodes, it could be easily spoofed by creating a large number of IP addresses. The true chain will keep growing the fastest as long as a large number of network nodes are honest ones. As the chain grows, recreating history is going to become that much difficult as the proof-of work will have to be done all over again.

As the network confirms more and more transactions that follow a given one, the record of a transaction becomes more permanent. When there are six confirmed records following a transaction, it is considered a permanent part of the log maintained by the network (the peers in the network). These log records are known as a blockchain. The way it is designed, this blockchain keeps growing as records are always added to the existing chain, none is removed. The designer realized; it will become difficult to keep the entire database stored at local nodes. The Use of Merkle Trees could be used to organize the database. This organization will help prune the chains when the ownership of bitcoins has changed a few times. As all these ownership changes have been verified there will be no need to go further and to the root. The current transaction is obviously verified. Rest of the chain could be pruned out of the local database without affecting the verification process. The peer to peer network does not need to be very structured; messages are sent out all-round on the best effort. It is possible for the nodes to go out of the network or come back to it anytime. The current block carries all the history in it. Thus, as soon as a node receives the blockchain, it learns everything it needs to know.

Incentive To Participate

To make it worthwhile to participate in the compute intensive activity of verification, the winning node is awarded a fixed number of new coins. For the first four years, it was 50 coins and is 25 coins currently. This will be reduced to 12.5 in another four years by 2017. The rate will be halved every four years, and mining will be stopped entirely when total currency in circulation reaches 21 million units. Thereafter, it will only be transaction fees that will be the incentive. Since no one mints bitcoins, mining is the only way coins are created; much like mining gold from inside earth and using it for barter trade. Popularity Of Bitcoins Alternative currencies, particularly electronic form of currency has been proposed some thirty years back and a lot of work has been going on. No such currency took widespread root. However, even though many trials did start but failed. Bitcoin activity really started from the setting up of the genesis block. By Mar 2013, total number of bitcoins was estimated to be equivalent to USD 400 million. Today it could be used to buy products and services of a wide variety. A bitcoin exchange exists today and the standard rate of one bitcoin in Mar 2013 was traded at $40 at the Mt Gox, the bitcoin exchange. Many web services such as the Reddit, WordPress services can be paid in bitcoins. Payments processors have come up. One such payment processor Coinbase reported in early 2013 that more than $1 million was processed by it in a month. Bitcoin works across borders and thus there is no necessity to pay a bank a hefty fee for international transactions. A BTC transaction being non-reversible is also a useful property. The transactions are also proof against credit card frauds, making it attractive in countries were such frauds are high. Conversion to many of the main currencies can be made easily. Hedge funds have come up. Products are available increasingly on payment of bitcoin. All these attest to a surprise amount of growth of the bitcoin phenomenon.

Becoming A Trusted Alternate Currency ?

There are two questions that need to be looked at. First, if the scheme has any inherent weaknesses that will cause the system to break down eventually. The second question is if the system can be hijacked and misused by anyone malicious to the detriment of all honest users. As with any public key cryptography system keeping the private key private is a problem. Initially, the wallets that hold the key in your PC used to be unencrypted. Encryption has been added. Malware attacks could steal the private key. Splitting private keys into random shares and storing the pieces in different machines would be useful. Use of super wallets or a bank like facility for storing the keys is another solution. A corresponding control like limited amount of cash dispensation (private keys) would help limit problems. Accidental loss of key has been reported. Off-site backups coupled with password protection can let you get around that problem. If the private keys are generated based on pseudo random algorithms rather than complete random generation, it would be possible to retrieve/recreate them. Hard limit on the total number of coins makes the system deflationary. GDP of the world will keep growing even after the 21 million hard limit is reached, giving rise to deflation. However, each bitcoin can be subdivided into 100 million units, and any other denomination could be introduced. The maximum number of raw units might not be enough if the entire world starts using BTC, but it would not be too difficult to increase precision in that situation. The transaction format and version number can be changed at some particular block number after a year or two, and everyone can catch up by then. Currently, the exchange rate of bitcoins is very volatile. The rates often vary by 50% in a given day. This can discourage people from using BTC in daily transactions and can slow the adoption rate.

The fluctuations are definitely due to speculative trades. It is possible that a small group is responsible for this kind of disturbance just like a stockmarket on a larger scale. As non-speculative use of bitcoins increases, this should stabilize. Since more products become available for sale with bitcoins, more buyers are likely to use bitcoins. One incentive for doing so is the low transaction fees involved. With the rise in computational power, it is conceivable that 51% computational power could be cornered by one group of people. However, the rest of the network would also advance and make achieving majority power difficult. Effort to change the history is an additional difficulty to interfere with the BTC operation. The BTC scheme introduces hard checkpoints periodically with code updates. Private checkpointing has been suggested in literature to make the revision of history even more difficult. There could be a scalability issue in the bitcoin ecosystem. As users grow, a growing number of smartphones will be used. These have comparatively limited computational power, communication bandwidth and life of battery for one charge. It is required that the bitcoin apps on installation download the complete blockchain. They also need to broadcast new transactions and blocks. Functionally the nodes on the bitcoin network are of two types. A large part would be just generating or receiving transactions and not interested in verifying or subsequent mining of bitcoins. Others are verifiers that need to look at all the broadcasts on the net. The transaction clients can get around the scalability problem by receiving only the transactions directed to their public address. Some sort of a filtering service can help choose the right transactions and forward them to the nodes. Smartphones could thus depend on a filtering service residing in the cloud and get away by paying a subscription for the service.

Bitcoin appears to offer not only a non-inflationary property but also many desirable ones of a currency system. Some of the potential vulnerabilities are not strong enough to cause the currency system to crash. Malware attacks, loss of private key, need for backup, etc. are essential parts of cyberspace today and do not pose any excessive threats.

Real Threat Against Bitcoin

It is early days yet in the life of bitcoin. As we have seen from the foregoing, all it will take to hijack the bitcoin system is to create a duplicate system of coins but more importantly an alternate history of transactions in the form of a blockchain range of transactions that support how the alternate bitcoins have evolved. As of now, there are not too many transactions as the commerce being carried out on bitcoins is not very extensive yet. There are three important aspects of this alternate currency system that can provide sufficient motivation. First of all, it goes against all the banking systems that exist today. You do not need them, and you do not need to pay the fat fees to them for transactions, particularly international transactions. In the bitcoin world, there are no geographical boundaries. It is easy to see why these financial institutions would be happy to see bitcoins go away. As the transactions are anonymous, individuals are immune from taxes by governments from specific geographic regions. Losing these taxes could mean a huge loss to the governments. On another plane, a strong currency is another tool for domination and influencing other national governments to bend to your needs. The nations with strong currencies will similarly be very happy to see bitcoins disappear. For an individual, controlling the currency would be the ultimate control weapon to manipulate economies, nations and people. The world has seen many examples of individuals trying to control the world, motivations for banking and other financial institutions including rich nation governments are strong enough to actually try and destroy bitcoin sooner than later.

Huge computing power would be necessary to mine coins and to create the history. Growth of computing power, until now, has been governed by Moore’s Law. According to this law doubling of the number of transistors (resulting in doubling of computing power, in effect) happens every 18 months. However, everybody has access to these increases. The bitcoin peer to peer network must go through a similar upgrade when the elements posing a threat acquire higher computing power. With the creation of (A.I) supercomputers like “Watson” by IBM or just interconnected supercomputers, it will be possible to amass the necessary computing power. It will still take significant time to create the alternate history but it can be started today if put into action. Then we have quantum computing which promises a huge jump on computing power far beyond what Moore’s Law delivers. It is becoming commercial, and already a corporation like Lockheed Martin bought a commercial quantum computer from a pioneering company D-WAVE to use in their commercial activities. The jump in computing power could be understood from what Lockheed-Martin thinks could be done. The quantum computer is expected to provide simulation results of a complex phenomenon very fast. For example, the effect of a solar flare on the complex software that manages the communication satellite systems could be derived very quickly. It is practically impossible to simulate as of now. D-WAVE is out of Canada and has been in existence for more than a decade. Some pointers to the speculations made here are clear from some of the investments that back the company. These include In-Q-Tel, an investment company linked to the CIA and other agencies of the US government. Goldman Sachs is an investor and so is Amazon. Harnessing this new, high powered computing will be easy for the entities needing to subvert the bitcoin currency and make it difficult for the network supporting the currency.

Although not last and not least, the first step which could disrupt or slowdown bitcoin is a worldwide hunt on all exchange / marketmaker outlets involved in bitcoin. This can be done by international law enforcement / treaties or entities which operate outside the law.

“To Bitcoin Or Not to Bitcoin”

We all know human history and there is enough reason to keep in mind that certain powers do not easily let go what they gained. The only way for Bitcoin to succeed and secure its future is a fast worldwide (legal) adaption to combat the biggest threats to its existence.
“It is a very sad thing that nowadays there is so little useless information” Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900)


Human rights are defined by Sepúlveda et al. (2004) as “the inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being”. Among these clearly defined rights there is a special category reserved for civil rights. Civil rights are designed to protect any persons’ freedom from entities such as governments, private organizations or other institutions. Among these civil rights are freedom from discrimination, freedom of thought and expression, freedom of religion, press and movement and a right to your privacy.

In a world where these rights are constantly and evidently violated, we seem to be good at protesting the painfully obvious infringements of those rights. We try and stand up for our friend who did not get a job because he happened to be black, we do protest a journalist being killed somewhere on the other side of the planet or we think people should be able to voice their opinion by voting, protesting or writing open letters.

However in the midst of those blatantly apparent breaches of human rights, we often forget those violations that are not so straightforward; the ones that creep in slowly, without attracting a lot of attention to itself.

This is what is happening right now. Slowly, but surely we are all willingly giving up pieces of our personal freedom. Every box you check, every policy you do not read, every time you click ‘agree’, you waive a little bit (or sometimes a lot) of one of your most basic rights as a human being. Your right to privacy. Your right to have a place in the world that you can call your own, without anybody looking over your shoulder. Your right to do things your way, without being judged or even harassed for it.

There are many arguments that privacy does not belong in that list of basic rights. One that is most commonly brought up in debates: if you do not do anything wrong why would you want to hide your actions from the world. This is off course true. From a legal standpoint this makes complete sense. But the term ‘wrong’ can be understood in many ways. Some people think being gay is wrong, or that being stupid is wrong or even if they have a different ideology (let us say democrats versus republicans in the United States) that the other party is wrong. From a sociological standpoint this argument can also be countered. For example, people do not want everybody to see them having sex, or going to the bathroom or even standing in the shower. So why would it be ok for these activities to be out in the public domain. Even from a legal perspective, there are laws in the world that are not what you might call fair. For example, there is a law in Indonesia that punishes masturbation with decapitation. These are all very good reasons to keep your private life private, even if you live in the most free and open-minded country in the world. One can never know how we evolve as a society and it is therefore important that we keep our lives to ourselves.

Once you look past the simple argumentations against preserving personal space, one can find many reasons why our privacy should be maintained. This paper will explain how the evolution of privacy came to be, why we willingly give up these rights, who can take advantage of this and what one can do to keep your life to yourself. Framework Before we go any further in this paper, it is important that we define our constructs clearly. Since this topic is very complex and often terms and concept are used interchangeably, it is essential that the context of this disquisition is clear.


Privacy is the personal space of any individual. Anything; physical, emotional or cognitive, can be (but does not necessarily have to) only entrusted to that person or disclosed to people who that person chooses.The infringement of privacy consists of a person, government or organization finding out information that is not meant by a person to be public. Breaching this right is done so without the consent of the person involved. An example would be: secretly garnishing information by hacking that person’s computer.

If private information is to become public, it can be done in several ways:

1) Unwillingly and unknowingly: An unauthorized extraction of information without that person’s knowledge. Example: stealing somebody’s mail

2) Unwillingly and knowingly: An illicit extraction of information with that person’s knowledge. Example: Forced identification by law

3) Willingly: A person willingly gives up some information.

One must note that there is a significant grey area. There are companies and governments that slowly gather information without the explicit knowledge of the person. By discombobulating the gathering of information and secretively collecting data they slowly build a quite precise image of that person.

Information Collection

This is called information collection. The more information on an individual is publicly available the less privacy that person has. This is inversely proportional, so the less data is available about a person the more privacy he or she has.


When an entity has information about a person, it is easier to manipulate and control this person. This seems to be an argument that is so easily countered I would like to use a very simple example.

Imagine John, in general we do not know anything about him. Now imagine that John lives in a country where the government finds and murders gay people. John seems to be safe. John is just John. But if you know that John once browsed a website about homosexuality, he is not as safe anymore as he was a few sentences ago. What about if it is known that John lives in a certain city, knows Jane and Joan and drives a black car? Now John can already be narrowed down quickly. This is obviously a very simplified example, but it holds true for all infringements of privacy.

Evolution of Personal Space

The human race has always had privacy issues throughout history. There have been several defining moments that were key to our privacy.

Key Moments in History

Two moments can be defined as important pillars of how our personal privacy has changed. After all, we used to be all free-roaming people doing whatever we wanted to do.


The first step towards information collection was the obligation to use a family name. People were named based on their jobs (Carpenter), heritages (Washington) or personal characteristics (Brown). This grouping enabled leaders (kings, emperors or dukes) to better keep track of their civilians. Reasons for this vary, from collecting taxes to finding criminals and surveying troublemakers.

Another key moment in time is the requirement of identification. I.D. cards were created, or a substitute such as drivers licenses, to be able to accurately keep track of persons. This allowed those keeping order to be able to easily identify wanted criminals and instilled some sort of accountability in people.


The second big step is the enhancement of technology. Because of information technology, telecommunications, a spike in data storage and the simplicity of collecting information, it has become a lot easier to find, accumulate and organize data.


As you can see by the previous examples, there are a variety of situations and reasons in which these tracking methods were applied. This varies from simple and seemingly innocent motives such as taxing, to very extreme and violent measures such as ethnic cleansing during the Nazi reign.

Data Collection

There are a lot of measures taken by governments to garnish more and more knowledge. In all countries there are more cameras installed in the streets, in shops, in ATM’s and on every public and private corner. If you enter the U.S.A. you have to have your fingerprints scanned and a picture taken to catalogue your biometrics. Your passport contains a chip (RFID) that gives governments (and the companies who make those trackers) the ability to check your movements. The military of several countries have used drones to find war criminals, but there are test runs for domestic surveillance.

Just as governments have many available channels to collect information because of their privileged situation, corporations have an equal amount of ways to get more information. The most significant ones are technological companies, who have perfected their ability to garnish data. Google, who controls more than 90% of all the searches on the internet can link together information by cross-referencing search data, IP data, mail content, contact information as well as social information. Not to forget the records they can trace if you are using an Android phone. Location information, call logs, text messaging, app usage and countless others are readily available. Facebook with its wide variety of information that can be filled out and interpersonal connections and projections. For example, one can find out to what class a person belongs, just by looking at information of their network.

Tech companies are not the only ones using and selling information. Credit card companies and banks have the exact numbers on all of your purchases. Supermarkets know exactly what you buy when you always use the same credit card to pay, or even easier when you have a loyalty card. Imagine if that can be cross-referenced with insurance companies and on your next bill there is an ‘unhealthy diet charge’. This can even go further, your medical files are all stored together in the same dossier.

Perceived motive

The explanation for this kind of surveillance and tracking is dual, for both governments as for companies. It is claimed that it is supposed to make your life easier and that it is done for your personal safety and security.

Make Life Easy

This is an argument most suited for companies. They argue that when they know enough about what the people like about their product, which they can adjust accordingly. If Apple would find out 75% of their customers likes red most for their cell phones, it would make a red iPhone. The same goes for advertising. Facebook and Google argue that they can pinpoint behavior of people and customize advertising based on their ‘likes’ and ‘searches’. You would never have to read another spam mail ever again, only the mails you want to receive. The government also uses this argument. Having all your information on your e-id card, it is easier to pay your taxes, get your drivers license renewed or use any governmental service without any hiccups.

Safety and Security

A more commonly cited reason for governments is your own personal safety. All of this tracking, questioning, gathering data and constant surveillance is very easily explained if you can posit that this makes it all easier to catch criminals, stop terrorists, find missing persons and stop crimes from happening.

Numbers do say differently. First of all, the chance of a terrorist attack on an airline is 1 in 25 million, while getting struck by lightning is just 1 in 500,000. Not only that, there is no significant decrease in criminal activity in recent years due to this extra surveillance.

This has not stopped supposedly free governments from changing or misinterpreting laws for their benefit. The Patriot Act instated by President Bush is an unconstitutional law that actively changed and diminished the freedoms of the American population. This is not the only legislative action that has occurred. In recent months there has been an uproar in the tech community around SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), PIPA (Personal Information Protection Act) and ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement). These are three bills (the first two in the United States and the latter in the European Union) that basically enable censorship of the internet. This means that governments, companies and civilians can remove easily (or file a claim to remove) websites from the internet. A major discontent about these potential laws has been shown across the world and these have been effectively shut down or suspended for the moment.

Actual Motive: Greed & Power

The implications of the three censorship bills are the exact motives for governments and companies to implement such measures and attack our privacy. The ability to make more money by overprotecting intellectual property and the desire to control the masses lies at the base of these procedures.


Because of the way our capitalist system is built up, the companies have an insatiable yearning for growth. This has been proven to fade ethical boundaries. Companies have been accused and convicted for poisoning the environment, abusing their power, taking advantage of low-wage workers and a blatant disregard for their actions on humanity.

Very much in the same manner corporations would like to know everything about their consumer so that they can predict their buying behavior and manipulate the consumer by attaching themselves to the subconscious and interest on a personal level. Companies, by nature, lack empathy for the human condition, and therefore have no limits when it comes to respecting our personal space.


Censorship is nothing more than the control of the information we receive. By controlling the things people know and learn, you can control their minds and thoughts. You can steer people in the desired direction. Whether it is to vote for a party, give a certain idea traction or just to keep the masses entertained.

The same goes for the lack of privacy. If everything is known about you, it is very easy to control your emotions (by linking certain topics to your emotional preferences), your thoughts (by convincing friends, finding your personal contact points and altering information in between them).

If history has taught us one thing, it is that by combining enough information about the population with the ability and willingness to do what is in the elite’s best interest, terrible things could follow.

Take back control

These motives are not the most positive outcome of this story, but it is a likely one. Therefore it is imperative to know how we can avoid giving up too much information about ourselves that could be used for evil.

As Hasan Elahi, a professor at the University of Maryland said in his TED talk titled “FBI, here I am!” :

“I’ve come to the conclusion that the way you protect your privacy — particularly in an era where everything is catalogued and everything is archived and everything is recorded — there’s no need to delete information anymore. So, what do you do when everything is out there? Well, you have to take control of it. If I give you this information directly, it’s a very different type of identity than if you were to try and go through bits and pieces.”


First and foremost, being aware of when you are giving up your private data, what information you give up, what it could be used for and with whom it could end up.

1) When: every time you hand over any information about you or anybody or anything that surrounds you

2) What information: Be aware that some information is more valuable than other. For example: your first name is already for a big part publicly available

3) What usage: be aware that data can be used in combination with other data. For example: combining eating habits with insurance information

4) Who: data can be sold or claimed. Your data does not always stay with the organization you gave it to. Check the privacy policy, and also privacy policies can change. Just look at Google, Facebook and Twitter. The last recently announced it’ll censor messages in specific countries or regions to be allowed by such governments to continue their business.


Know your rights. Be aware that not talking or not answering questions is a right. Be aware that it is your and other people’s right to express their opinion, even if it does not agree with the common belief or the view of the political party in power. Support these rights, stand up for these rights and understand why they are so very needed in a world such as this one.


Finally, there are several practical actions one can take to see that your information stays with you.

1) Do not say anything you do not want others to know.

2) Read privacy policies or find a source that explains them well and accurately.

3) Use the law. For example: as an EU citizen you can ask any company (let us say Facebook) for access to your information and they are obliged by law to delete this information if you request it

4) Use technological tools that help you protect your identity. There are alternatives to all major corporations, a few examples at present;

a. Online search: DuckDuckGo, Scroogle

b. No IP tracking: Tor network, reputable privacy providers

c. Safer browsing: Firefox

d. No cookie tracking: BetterPrivacy Browser Plugin (and many more)

5) Learn and configure your software privacy & security settings

a. Turn off location tracking on your smartphone, tablet and the like

b. Turn off information sending in software

c. Change your privacy settings on Social Media (or do not use them)

d. Disable Google tracking


The vivid protests against SOPA, PIPA, ACTA and the rise of anonymous together with the #occupy movement shows hope and a clear signal that people understand the threat against privacy, the governments’ (corporations’) looming need for control and the attacks on our freedom. Greed and Power lead the way at present, without people standing up nothing will ever change.

All over the world, there are counter movements sprouting and taking a stand against these unnerving actions from governments and organizations alike. Since the notion of privacy, control and censorship has gotten to be a subject on which there has been more and more shared knowledge, it has spread from the tech world to politics to academics and even to the so-called ‘common man’. Because of this turning-point in history where top-tech CEO’s such as Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Eric Schimdt (Google) have claimed that the times of privacy are over, people are becoming aware that this is not the case and that it has evolved into a matter of principle. What many people do not fully realize (anymore) is that they do have the power to change the world if they can let go long enough of their daily distractions and toys.

One can look to the future not with despair and fear for a realization of a modern Orwellian 1984, but a world where people are informed and are aware of their rights as human beings. We can only hope that the entire world, from the high-educated and wealthy person in Europe to the poor and illiterate person in Africa, will understand the severity of this issue and protest when these freedoms are attacked. It is not too late.
We live in a society where technology has completely transformed the way we work, conduct personal business, and enjoy our leisure time. The changes that occur seem to offer us more and more all the time. However, there are some trade offs that you have to look at too when it comes to those benefits. When you benefit from technology that is offered, you also have to take into consideration what you are giving up with it. The issue of the loss of being anonymous along with the loss of privacy continues to grow. The controversy over if the government or the manufacturers of such technology have the right to track us continues to be a hotly debated topic. Let’s take a look at a few examples of such technology out there. As you evaluate what it offers and what you may be compromising you can decide if it is right for you to accept and use. Technology is something for us to embrace and to benefit from, but many people wonder about the overall cost. They worry that we may have gone beyond our means with it. There are also those that worry about the underlying motives for some individuals. What is it that they are really trying to accomplish that could be part of their own hidden agenda ?

Accepting technology without asking such questions, understanding your rights, or being well informed is dangerous. If that has been your method up to now, it is time to make a change that can really help you to feel good about what you use. It can also help you from falling into common consumer pitfalls out there.

Cloud Computing

The use of technology known as Cloud Computing allows for data and applications to be accessed by a business remotely. As a result, there is no longer a requirement for programs to be installed locally. From a business point of view this means that they can work with employees or even freelancers all over the world. It also means that their employees that travel for work can also access what they need to when they are away from the office. However, Cloud Computing also has some issues with it. The concerns over privacy and trust have been at the top of the list of media topics. Sony recently experienced such a situation when their Playstation network was hacked. It certainly disrupted the ability for paying customers to get what they pay for. Cloud Computing has proven to be a great resource when it works like it should. However, there are many weaknesses to consider. For example who else is able to access the data? What types of laws can cover the protection of such data too? Jurisdiction problems continue to surface all the time in a world where cloud computing can be anywhere. When such a central operation fails, it can make a business look unprofessional too. They won’t have the information they need for accounts, employees, and more. When such a service fails, it can cause panic because those that need such data may have no other way to access it at that point in time. That is the cost of giving up control to a remote thirdparty.

Many consumers now use Google Documents so that they can share, update, and create documents for several users to share. Since Google has such a solid reputation out there, many consumers assume they have nothing to risk by using this type of technology. However, all users of Cloud Computing need to take care when they access such materials. For example passwords need to be well protected so that they aren’t easy to guess. You never want to risk the wrong person gaining access to those documents or that data you have a right to view. Deleting cookies when using computers in public locations is also important. Many people don’t do this from a laptop, but they should. Laptops are often lost or stolen, so make sure you don’t leave information that can be easily compromised. If you do use Google Documents, keep in mind that there are glitches that have already been identified with that program. Such glitches have made it possible for subscribers to get access to a percentage of the documents that are stored on the services without permission to do so. As a user of such technology, you have to ask yourself if you are willing to take that risk of your documents being among those or not. Control. Even as new technology and methods are introduced to make Cloud Computing more secure, so are the methods that unethical hackers, organisations and even governments use to be able to access such information. They are always working on something too and that is why a risk will continue to be in place. Still, there is no doubt that Cloud Computing has definitely changed, up to some height, the way that people do business around the world.

Tracking Devices

The use of tracking devices has certainly increased in the past 5 years. Today, quite a few people have a GPS device that they use to find addresses, places to eat, businesses, and more. They keep it in their car so that they can always find an alternate route locally or what they are searching for when they go out of town. The days of using maps for travel is almost obsolete due to the GPS devices or modules which are often integrated or part of a device which primary function is not acting as a GPS to find your way. Not only do such devices help you to find where you are going, but they also allow for your movements to be tracked. For example many car rental locations have a GPS device in their vehicles. They want to know where that vehicle happens to be at all times. Rent to Own centers were recently under fire for placing GPS chips in furniture, appliances, and computers that consumers rented from them. They stated this was to ensure that if the items weren’t paid for, they would be able to locate them easily. For too many consumers though, such a tracking device is an invasion of their privacy. You may think your iPad or iPhone is a great tool for finding information and doing anything you like. Yet as you are performing various tasks with it, you are also being tracked. Apple is using such information to find out what consumers are looking for, what they are doing, and how they can make their business better to meet those needs. From another prospective though, who else is being able to access that same type of information ? What can they be doing with it too that isn’t directly related to the use of marketing ?

Some parents love the idea of being able to buy their teenager a mobile phone with a tracking device. Then they can always pinpoint where they are at. Some parents of younger children like that too. They worry about their child getting lost or even abducted. However, most people aren’t thrilled with tracking devices keeping an eye on where they are, what they are doing, what they look at online, and more. Most people do have a mobile phone these days and cell phone towers allow for moments to be recorded all the time. There are practical times though when a tracking device is a good tool. For example some people place them into the collar of their beloved pets. As a result they can find them if they get lost or stolen. You wouldn’t send out an armored vehicle with tons of money to banks, casinos, and other facilities without being able to successfully track every movement of such a vehicle. Satellites are the reason why we are able to track movements and have such devices. They certainly have their value, but there can also be questions about invasion of privacy. Before you use such a device, it could be a good idea to find out what type of tracking is being recorded. You should also inquire about why such tracking is being done so that you can decide if you want to embrace such technology or not.

Government and Technology

The issues over the government and conspiracy theories are nothing new. Yet the number of people that fear the government has too much control with technology continues to grow. For example the controversy over the use of body scan technology for airport screening. On the other hand though you do have those people that feel it is a good idea for them to all they can do to keep everyone safe. Those that remember vividly the fear and the heartache that resulted from September 11, 2001 continue to support the government and their use of technology to keep us all save. The government has many central databases in place to offer protection. For example the taking of fingerprints of those that have been at the police station. This allows for matches to be made when fingerprints can be taken from a crime scene. The use of centralized information to get out. A criminal can’t just move around and not be under the microscope. Think about how the use of DNA technology has helped the area of forensic science to solve very complex crimes. Without such technology, many serious criminals would likely still be on the street. As a result of the value of fingerprints and DNA there have been those asking the government to mandate it. Their idea is that by getting the fingerprints and DNA for every person out there, and for all newborns, there will be far less risk of crimes. People will know that it is too risky and that can be a huge deterrent. Yet there aren’t really validated statistics about how this would work and if it really will prevent determined minds to commit crimes. Some argue that the cost is just too much for the government to get such personal materials from people and store it in today’s technology. However, you also have to think about the amount of money that is spent annually tracking down people, looking for missing individuals, and more.

People don’t want to live under the microscope, but those that don’t have anything to hide often would consent to mandatory offerings of DNA and fingerprints. Yet we live in a government that offers freedom as a foundation of society. Even if people had the choice to do it, many parents would for their newborns and they could be tracked for life by the government just by that decision. In some government agencies that are high profile, security is very important. They use a variety of personal vices to be able to successfully identify who is accessing anything out there. For example eye retina approval and an entire hand print for access. This is well beyond just a username and password to get into secure areas. The terminology for measuring biological traits is called biometrics. This is what is referred to as being able to verify the identity of someone through various types of characteristics that are specific to one individual. It is believed that this use of biometrics can eliminate the need for ID badges and even time cards in some locations. Both of those elements can be fraudulent to some degree, and biometrics can offer a new level of security. Even though biometric devices are widely used, there can be problems that are encountered. What if an airport is relying on them and they aren’t working like they should ? This can result in the wrong people being accepted and the right people being rejected from accessing certain areas. Even though the error rates are very low with biometric devices, there is still the potential for such a problem to occur.

Traveling abroad is a common element of life, and many people that live in the USA/EU like to travel outside of the home country. In late 2004, the idea of smart passports that have a microchip in them was created. This helps to reduce the chances of passports being created fraudulently. The use of digital passports will likely be the future for all USA/EU citizens, among others, that have one. Such technology helps to ensure that they are authentic. It is also believed that this will reduce the selling of illegal passports on the black market. But, there is a but, all that biometric data stored is a huge responsibility for those who introduce it and guard it. History learns that governments can change from one end of the scale to the other. Your data does not and remains available to whoever is in power and it might be used for something totally different than it was intended for.


If you aren’t familiar with the term DPI in the context of traffic analysis, it is short for Deep Packet Inspection. When applied in commercial motivated settings this is more often used by (mobile / telecom) internet providers to keep an eye on the traffic of users. This was initially created to prevent users from accessing free applications in a given area. As a result, they have to buy / use those services that are from a particular (mobile) internet provider instead ending up with a higher bill. Which in itself raises questions concerning netneutrality and privacy issues. While this part is about commercial entities applying this technology you might as well replace it with governments. The same questions and awareness applies to the case where governments use DPI. Yet what many consumers need to realize is that there are times when that information isn’t being used for just that specific purpose. There is really no way to know who else is going to be able to gain access to that type of information and what they will use it for. Unethical entities have many clever ways to get information that they can turn around and use for their own agenda.

It is always a good idea to read the terms and conditions as well as the policies of any provider. The materials may be dry and boring, but they can provide you with valuable information about what you can expect from the use of that (mobile) internet provider. If you don’t read the information you may be putting yourself at risk without even knowing it. Since that provider has offered such materials for all users to read and agree to, they can’t be held liable either. Never assume that your access to materials online is always going to be secure. Get into the habit of learning of what your provider can do and can’t as well as the individual policies and procedures for a given website / service. It is really upsetting to many people to learn that their provider knows about the emails they send or receive, about the music that they buy, share, and listen to, and even about downloads and websites that they visit. The layers of information run very deep too. Even if you delete cookies and materials from your computer, it still remains deep under those layers and on top of that new recent laws forcing (traditional) internet providers to log communications. These are saved for up to a 1 year in most cases but who verifies that or is there a guarantee no copies are made ? The mobile broadband providers, for example, justify that they really need these materials in order to offer the best services. They defend such efforts due to consumers always wanting a quick connection and a very fast internet speed. The technology that is out there for marketing and other efforts can walk a thin line between what someone needs to know for successful marketing and what can be considered as invasive. To help offset such situations, some countries have now laws in place that provide (mobile) internet users with what is referred to as netneutrality. This means that internet service providers can no longer implement such types of restrictions out there. In the mean time though, there are still many loopholes and countries were such laws aren’t being upheld or even in place, not to mention those doing it in total secrecy anyway.

Consumers that use mobile internet providers need to be extremely careful about what information they access with their smartphone and other devices. Many people use such forms of technology to be able to check email, to review business data, share documents, to check personal accounts, and more. All of that may be tracked and so you just need to really make sure you don’t access information that could be a risk to you if it gets into the wrong hands. Wait until you are able to benefit from a secure location / service instead. The growth of traffic continues to be a concern too with (mobile) internet providers in general. As that growth continues by enormous numbers, it means that they don’t always have the methods and the level of security in place that can handle that number of consumers. Many experts believe that the solution for this is to have a streamlined network out there that all service providers work through. This will allow for a steady flow of traffic and for applications to be very simple to use. The traffic can be moving from one network to the next without causing huge overhead costs for any such entity to experience. As result, this could allow all mobile networks to one day be successfully in alignment with the World Wide Web.

A centralized solution solving a problem but creating a new one of privacy and data analysis. The complexities for such an IP set up has many faucets that have to be explored. The ability to offer a seamless effort, low cost, but also to offer consumers a level of privacy that they accept is very important.


Technology continues to offer us one new thing after another. If you look back just 10 or 20 years you can name off many devices that we didn’t have back then. As a society, we have to deal with the issue of balancing our privacy with that technology so that we can do what is in the best interest of society as a whole. The issue is complex and it is going to take time for such solutions to be found. Consumers have more of a say though than they realize when it comes to such concerns over technology and privacy. For example by not buying a given product it sends a strong message. Contacting the business to tell them why you aren’t buying their product goes even further. If a company gets enough such responses they will think about modifying their methods in order to gain more of the market. The same goes for those who are voted to govern the country. What is the view of politicians in the race to power concerning liberties and privacy ? That might be a good idea to keep in mind next time when you cast your vote.

As technology continues to evolve, there will be complex issues on various levels. Balancing what is of value with personal rights will continue to be a concern. It isn’t always up to the government either to be able to successfully implement laws or make such decisions. It requires a pro-active attitude and people to be informed. Consumers love to live in the age of technology for the most part. They enjoy the many perks that come with it. Learning both sides of it all makes you a well informed party. Then when there are issues to be dealt with such as privacy concerns and more you will be able to take a stand on them. Should such issues go to the government, there will be voting on them. You want to be able to have your voice heard.

Whistleblowing is a common term used to describe someone (often an employee) who exposes and reports confidential or private information to the media or legal authorities. Generally, the motivation behind this is to expose inappropriate, unsafe, criminal or unethical activities that are being hidden from the public. Historically, the reasons for whistleblowing revolved around ethical foundations, but these days there is also a lot of money involved in the process. This article is going to take an objective look at whistleblowing and underscore the reasons behind its rise and prevalence today. It provides explanations and a number of examples from both America and Europe in order to illustrate the key points.

How do whistle blowers contribute?

The major contribution that comes from whistle blowers (in the valid use of the term) is ethical. Whistle blowing is used to expose or show an unethical set of practices occurring in an organisation or company. The long-term effects should be to alter the corporate or organizational behaviour. Generally, the goal of the whistle blower is to expose policies or behaviour that they want to be stopped and reversed. Whistleblowing can be internal or external. An example of internal whistleblowing inside a company would be to denounce any irregularities that have been observed, by speaking to a higher-level manager. The goal here would be to remedy the behaviour or policy via internal measures that the company has set up. There are time times when the general public might not class this as whistleblowing, but the principle is the same. External whistleblowing is what the public are most used to hearing about when this term is used. It refers to an employee engaging with an external, outside authority when the issue could not be resolved internally, or when the employee knows that only an external authority can really take action on the matter. This is when the employee “blows the whistle” on the company or organization.

The contribution made is to alert the outside authorities and the media (and therefore the public) if need be. This has the knock on effect of usually altering the corporate environment in which the company operates, and it can lead to new legislation in certain circumstances. There are now many organizations that welcome internal “whistleblowing” as they have two aims in mind. Firstly, they want to eliminate and prevent any possible internal irregularities, in particular those that relate to discipline at work. The second chief aim is to build an image of a responsible company that is able and ready to assume the errors that have been made and deal with them. These days companies and organizations want to be seen as transparent and ethical in order to build their image in the eyes of the public.

Are there any incentives for whistleblowing?

In the past it was known that whistle blowers almost always suffered for their actions. In fact, this may have been the reason that so many people remained silent when they wanted to speak out against immoral or criminal acts that they observed. As such, many people decided to keep their concerns internal or just keep them to themselves. However, times have now changed and whistle blowers can now be compensated for their actions and their decision to speak out against a company, government office or other organization. This change in the landscape has made whistle blowing much more common. As such, we are now seeing regular reports in the media of people who have decided to break cover and expose an issue to the general public. In order to show how widespread the compensation is for whistle blowers, let’s use an example from the IRS. The IRS has recently expanded its program of protection and reward, and it is prepared to offer whistle blowers from fifteen to thirty per cent of anything that it recovers, based on the information provided. This can offer a much great incentive for people to come forward and expose serious criminal activity or unethical practices. These days there are people able to earn six or seven figures by sharing their story. This money can be earned from the IRS, lawsuits, private equity firms, arbitration panels and hedge funds.

There was a case in the USA involving the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority [FINRA], who awarded whistle blower Michelle Ford, a former broker with Affinity Federal Credit Union, compensatory damages of $825,000. This demonstrates the financial incentive of whistleblowing. Also, these days whistleblowing does not necessarily lead to the ending of an employees career. Over the years, there has been a great deal of legislations passed in order to protect the rights of whistle blowers. This is in stark contrast to just a few decades ago when there was little protection against company retaliation for whistle blowers. This legislation has now added an increased incentive to expose unethical activities, negligent behaviour, unsafe working conditions and criminal activity. Legislation has been brought in that gives the employee the right to file a lawsuit against their employer if they suffer retaliation after “blowing the whistle”. Specifically, there is the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), which is to protect employees who have “blown the whistle” on unsafe or unhealthy working conditions. This was brought in by President Nixon in 1970. There is also the Federal False Claims Act (FFCA), which enables employees to report an employer who is illicitly using federal funding. There are also other pieces of legislation that deal with other similar and related issues.

For or against whistle blowing

There are advocates on both sides of the whistleblowing argument. There are those who believe that where a legal contract has been signed, it should be upheld and anything other than this is a breach of trust and contract. Such people argue in favour of dismissing “whistleblowing employees” as they have broken their contract. However, there are also arguments stating that privacy can be sacrificed when it is in the public good. They further argue that without whistle blowers, the public would not know which companies they could trust, or what really goes on behind closed doors. It is important to consider how whistle blowers are now viewed. Many times, they are thought of as a “snitch”, “backstabber”, “lowlife” who is not worthy of trust or responsibility. Many people also see such people are simply out for personal gain, and think that all whistleblowing revolves around money or power. However, on the flip side of that argument, are those who see whistle blowers are moral heroes, or “saviours” who help everyone out from a sense of selfless duty. There are those that are viewed as representing a major step forward for the public good, and bring unscrupulous activities out into the open. Such people can be seen as guardians of the general public.

Do we need whistle blowers?

In terms of doing good, whistle-blowers can certainly uncover and expose fraud and wrongdoing in companies and organizations. For example, consider Sherron Watkins who exposed the fraudulent financial reporting of Enron, and was viewed as hero for doing so. Another example from America is Cynthia Cooper who exposed financial irregularities at WorldCom. There is also the case of Coleen Rowley who detailed the unethical FBI cover-up of terrorist activity in the U.S. prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. There are further examples from Europe. In 1998, Swiss sports administrator and International Olympic Committee member Marc Hodler revealed corruption in the IOC. There is also the case of executive Stanley Adams who alerted the European Commission to anti-competitive practices by Swiss-based pharmaceutical giant Hoffmann-La Roche. The Commission later fined Hoffmann for abuse of its dominant position in the bulk vitamin market.

The personal ethical reasons behind whistleblowing are also very strong. Most people would like to think that they would speak out if they saw something that was clearly wrong. It is a matter of integrity and moral fortitude. As such, in certain circumstances it is clear that whistleblowing has proven to be the best form of action to take. It is also important to take into account the times when whistle blowing can cause more serious consequences. This is one of the major issues involved in the current WikiLeaks scandal. The U.S. government states that the leaking of confidential, classified military documents put the lives of front line troops and diplomats in immediate danger. The documents that have been released to the pubic via the Internet were given by Army intelligence Spec. Bradley Manning. They allege many things such as cover-ups of large numbers of civilians killed, that the Taliban had heat seeking missiles and so on. While many people find such information horrendous, and feel they were lied to, they also believe that the public should not be given access to it, especially during wartime. They claim that as the information is released to the general public (meaning anyone with an internet connection), it puts the lives of military personnel in danger. That further claims that as per the Second World War, the information of a confidential nature should not be made public until many years after the war is over. As such, it can also be shown that there is line that should not be crossed when whistle blowing. These are the issues that the person should weigh up before deciding to reveal information or not. There is also a case to be made for new laws to be passed in order to protect the lives of people in danger from leaks of information.


It should be noted that whistle blowers can be protected by anonymity, if the person choses to take this route. This can be done by placing certain calls to certain phone numbers, which are set up for whistleblowing purposes. However, there are some issues that come along with anonymity. For example, the person may be poorly understood or not understood at all. Such a person may not be able to clearly get their message across or deliver all of the facts, if they keep their identity private. At some stage, most whistle blowers need to reveal information of a personal nature in order to substantiate claims or make facts credible. This is the issue faced when anonymity is preferred. On another note, when whistle blowing can be done in an anonymous fashion (which many organizations have now set up internally), the motivation can move from a moral one to a personal release of frustrations. For example, someone in an office who sees a colleague taking a longer lunch break than they are entitled to. Another issue when anonymity is required is the long-term result. For example, if the situation becomes serious enough, the person may have to break cover and go public in order to reveal confidential information that the company deems confidential. This raises the issue of ethics. As such, this issue can place the whistle blower in an uneasy situation. Many people may want to reveal information that they deem to be unethical or illegal but fear their name or face being made public. Many people shy away from any limelight (especially of this nature) and therefore prefer to remain silent unless their identity can be hidden.

The Internet and whistleblowing resources

The Internet offers a huge range of informative articles and resources for people that are interested in becoming a whistle blower. There is actually a growing community of people who have an interest in helping other whistle blowers, and the range of websites supports this assertion. There are many websites that can be found online via the search engines, which give government information about whistleblowing, and how such activities relate to legislation. One of the most exhaustive is California’s Bureau of State Audits that tells people how to access the state Whistle blower Hotline. Besides the government sites, there are also independent organizations that show people who to get started in the process, and bring up various issues that people should be aware of. They also link to other organizations that may help whistle blowers depending on the nature of the issue and the industry involved.

There are many websites that encourage people to become whistle blowers, and do so on the theme of ethics. They position the “little guy” against the “goliath” and urge people to be truthful and keep business, industry and government honest. On top of this re the websites that advocate strongly for freedom of speech, and the value of open, public scrutiny of government and business practices. The ethical issues are the most common theme through these websites. For example there is the issue that people should protect their colleagues, neighbours and the taxpayers. There are comments about moral commitments, and the issue of divided loyalties. For example, one writer points out that the whistle blower will need to consider the issue of loyalty to his family in the face of career risks associated with whistleblowing. This is then contrasted with the loyalty to the law, public trust and to the community. The emphasis is continually placed on doing the right thing, in contrast to just doing the legal thing. This is where both side of the whistle blowing argument come to a head and where many disagree. There are very good ethical issues raised by the Government Accountability Project, which asks if silence is complicity. Such a questions leads one to consider that if he or she does not speak out then assistance and approval might be inferred and given implicitly. There are certain websites that try to offer guilt as a means to motivate people, but of those read, the majority offer a theme of caution and general encouragement.

Internet whistle blowing

The Internet certainly offers a new way in which to examine and consider whistleblowing. It gives the average person many more tools and resources so that they know exactly what they are getting into, and what support they can gain, if any. The websites also provide information about how to remain as anonymous as possible and what the chances of success and privacy really are. With the Internet, anyone can now be a whistle blower with a worldwide audience. This is something that was not possible even two decades ago. If someone has the conviction to make information public then there is very little that can stop him or her. With the viral nature of the Internet, the information can be stored on computer servers all around the world inside hours, and it cannot be removed easily. This is how the WikiLeaks information has spread in such a short time, and why even the government of the United States of America cannot stop the information from being made available.

A precedent has now been set which is likely to give confidence to other people who have a similar agenda to the founders of WikiLeaks. This whistle blowing event has really shown how the Internet gives a level platform for all people to produce their own information, even in the face of government condemnations and attempts at removal. The Internet allows whistle blowers to have an opportunity to make their case, and thereby pursue a course of action that is in line with their own ethical and moral convictions. This is really the end goal of whistle blowers and the phenomenon is likely to continue into the future.

With the advancement in internet technology, activities concerning piracy have taken a different path which has shaken the meaning of novelty these days. To tackle and keep track of these hooliganisms, divergent anti-piracy organisations stepped forward. They have put on the shoes of both good and bad wills. Their grey part was extensively exposed when they targeted the legal and innocent P2P users across the web. It is now more than an obstacle to continue their web activities without the un-necessary intercession of anti-piracy organisations.

Who are the P2P users?

A P2P, which is a common abbreviation of peer-to-peer, is a distributed network architecture that is comprised of participants who make a portion of their resources to be directly available to other network participants, without the need for central coordination instances. It is a network protocol for computer users, which is used for downloading torrents or P2P files. Rather than connecting to specific servers on the Internet, P2P software allows surfers to connect with each other to search for and also download the content needed. Peers are very specific because they are both suppliers and consumers of resources, which is in contrast to the traditional client–server model where only servers supply, and clients consume.

What do they serve for?

Peer-to-peer was firstly popularized by few file sharing systems. Peer-to-peer file sharing networks have inspired many new structures and philosophies in other areas of human interface. In such social contexts, peer-to-peer as a meme refers to the egalitarian social networking that is currently emerging throughout society, generally enabled by Internet technologies. Because of the unique structure that a P2P network has, it is extremely efficient for downloading large-size files. A quick comparison between standard and P2P downloading explains why:

Standard content downloading features

The Internet connects users or surfers to many, among others, website servers. By cruising the Internet a user establishes a one-on-one connection with each website he visists. If the user wants content in terms of files from that website, the server that archives the website, transfers the files that have been requested. In this case, clients only share the demands, and not the sources. However, since a website can have hundreds or even thousands of visitors at any moment, file transfer can be slow or even sluggish at times. Generally, download speed slows a lot.

P2P content downloading features

On a P2P network, when a user needs a file, installed P2P software locates any copies of the file within the P2P network. Then it allows the user to create multiple connections with several sources that have all or part of the file requested. As parts of the file are received, they are also uploaded to other users that are requesting that same file. This protocol of matching several sources to a single request makes for an efficient content download scheme. Because files are received from various sources rather than only from a single one, large files can be downloaded quickly by P2P.

However, it is not all that simple. P2P software keeps a record of how much a user downloads, compared to how much he shares. If someone does download more than they do upload, bandwidth for downloading will be decreased or choked. Provided one maintains a 1:1 ratio or even better, download speed is increased. Most users have asynchronous connections to the Internet, which means that they can download several times faster than they can upload. Therefore, uploading data to a P2P network, in contrast to downloading, can take considerable time. To guarantee good P2P download speeds, what users do is they commonly stay connected after receiving their requested files in order to seed the file back to others. P2P software has the possibility to be configured to automatically disconnect the user from the P2P network when a particular share-ratio is reached.

P2P users inviting piracy

P2P technology is legally approved, but sharing copyrighted materials, on the other hand, is not. There are many websites that archive illegal P2P files, which have been targeted by organizations representing recording artists and the movie industry. P2P, similarly to the nuclear technology, is a double-edged and powerful weapon. It could be used by pirates to illegally and massively distribute pirated and copyrighted content, and that is why people are easily misled into establishing the misconception that P2P has little to zero legitimate use, and its only usage is in terms of piracy.

Legal use of P2P

Although effective in helping the stretch of pirated content, P2P is also feasible and has been already extensively used in legal content allocation because of its excellent scalability, high availability, and low cost. There are four available ways for using P2P in legal confines:

1.Free Content Distribution

Using P2P is an ideal way to disseminate free content such as GPLed software like Linux and free videos. Since such content is usually very large- sized, if it is delivered in the standard Client/Server way, the cost is high and the performance is low.

Bad user experience would gradually kill the motivation of people to make a contribution to free online content. Thus, P2P becomes free content’s best distribution channel, generally because of its low cost and high performance.

2.Non-free Content Distribution

When considering non-free content distribution, P2P is even more widely used than the previous way. Proprietary software, like most of the online video games software, which people can get for free but pay for use, are distributed exactly by P2P.

3.User-generated Content Distribution

This kind of content, which is apparently lawful, is distributed by P2P too. One popular type of user-generated content is online instant messaging and audio/video chatting data that are extremely popular nowadays. Since P2P is not only scalable and reliable but it is also able to deliver real-time data within due time, it is very good for instant messaging applications which have to cope with millions of concurrent users requests.

4.Special-purpose Content Distribution

Large-sized business data, such as videos of commercials and operation logs, are hard to deliver because of their huge size. Therefore, special-purpose content, such as business and scientific data, is distributed over P2P networks now.

Legal consequences

Under federal law, a person found to have infringed upon a copyrighted work may be liable for actual damages and lost profits attributable to the infringement, and statutory damages counting from $200 up to $150,000. The owner that has the copyright also has the right to permanently enjoin the P2P user from any further activities of this kind, and all the infringing copies and equipment that had been used in the infringement can be impounded and destroyed. In addition, persons who violate the IT Acceptable Resource Policy, or some other policies regarding the mis-use of copyrighted materials, can be subject to revocation and limitation of their computer and network privileges, as well as to other disciplinary actions, or may be even referred to appropriate external authorities.

Finally, criminal penalties may also be assessed against these criminals and could include jail sentence depending upon the nature of the violation they have made. For example, Michael Chicoine-Texas and William Trowbridge-New York have both been convicted on committing piracy deeds for operating the Direct Connect peer-to-peer network’s central hubs. The two men convicted in “Operation Digital Gridlock” are probably going to get fines of up to $250,000 and prison sentences of up to five years. The charge was done by the Department of Justice last August and sentencing will be on August 29th.

Anti-piracy organisations and laws: Coping with the changing Internet trends

At the beginning of the 3rd millennium, time and space are no longer obstacles to the free flow of information and ideas. The Internet revolution is successfully and fast-pace changing the way we live, works, and entertains ourselves. At the same rate, the Internet is also changing the way laws are carried out and also how they are broken. Technologies related to Internet have recently become the focus of criticism and mild paranoia for many anti-piracy organizations. Some of the most important world wide anti-piracy organizations are:

Business Software Alliance (BSA)
Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft (CAAST)
Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT)
Federation Against Software Theft (FAST)
Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)
Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA)

For them, the focal point of this fear is the increasingly ugly battle centered on the distribution of copyrighted music and movies via the Internet by using a digital format. Some critics argue that the monetary survival of artists is jeopardized because of the e-assault on copyright law led by “file-sharing” companies such as

Anti-Piracy Organization’s Targets

If you are listening to a music which has been downloaded from an illegal source then you are a culprit according to anti-piracy laws. The basic and obvious function of an anti-piracy organisation is to combat the fraud activities relevant to music and video sources.

Anti-piracy prosecutors have not yet filed criminal charges against these particular, alleged enemies of copyrighted files, although, some of them such as Napster, which relies on an index available on a central server, is a vulnerable target because it is susceptible to a legal attack that can possibly shut down its server, which in turn, shuts down its entire system. This weakness in particular does not come to effect on “peer-to-peer” (P2P) technology because P2P does not require a central server. Therefore, in the peer-to-peer universe, there are no companies to sue, but only individuals. Anyone who uses bittorrents, eDonkey, WinMX, Gnutella, Limewire, or any other P2P network, is likely to be scanned by anti-piracy investigators. In an effort to catch and prosecute people for abusing copyrighted media, these investigators usually pose as P2P downloaders. While they themselves share and download copyrighted data, these investigators also scan and log other users’ IP address. Each downloader’s IP address then becomes evidence for civil anti-piracy lawsuits, where one may be sued for copyright infringement. They are widely spread, and their efforts will sometimes result in large lawsuits, where many downloaders are charged thousands of dollars in copyright related fines. This investigators share comprises up to 4% of all P2P downloaders one could be connected with.

Recent updates reveal that Hollywood lobbyists are engaged in an attempt towards the launch of a battering step on Internet sources and anti-piracy legislation in the U.S. These plans are under the shed of discussion for their implementation process within the knowledge of President Obama. Having played a quiet character on the online piracy issues, the U.S seems to take gearing up steps to tackle this problem which might hit us big in forthcoming days.

“Three strikes and you are offline” rule is a brave step by the French government to keep the entertainment industry transparent. The very similar legislation is likely to prevail in various other countries too. Interestingly the entertainment industry backs up these anti-piracy laws as a solution to online piracy, while overlooking their own involvement in raising these woes.

The three strike law comes into picture when a person attempts persistently to download a copyrighted source illegally. This results in the immediate suspension of internet access of the user to protect the copyrighted sources. While this law is a wake up call for ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to block the download sites, many ISPs are recalcitrant to abide by this law.

There has been a mixture of reactions from public where this legislation stood a tremendous criticism in establishing itself in the mid-way of user and the internet, while the parents have supported the act of protecting the copyrights. Surprisingly the reports highlight the number of crimes that have taken toll after implementation of the legislation in France. It is like illegal users easily get resistant to the new implemented laws to tackle piracy.

Ireland has also chosen the similar path with Eircom, her largest broadband ISP which keeps track of copyright violators. IRMA, the Irish Recorded Music Association is set to forward the ISPs a weekly limit of 50 IP addresses. The users will face three warnings before they get abandoned from Internet access. This proposed plan will be on trial basis for a 90 days period after which the provision gets updated for 1000 IP addresses.

Protector becomes predator: How the innocent P2P users suffer

Frequent flagrant acts by anti-piracy organisations have become an additional issue along with copyright violators’ cases. Some lawmakers illegally spy on P2P users, severely infringing the online privacy of those. This type of activity is shocking and gives a big question mark over the authenticity of anti-piracy organisations and their laws.

Besides from prosecuting illegal P2P users, anti-piracy prosecutors have gone as far as including innocent P2P users too. There are two types of innocent P2P users:

1.Deceived P2P users – Deceived P2P users are Internet users who often face a sort of “copytrap” when they encounter a web site that falsely represents the downloading as legal. With no way to know whether that web site’s representation is true or false, a downloader is likely to be deceived and thus is likely to face harsh penalties under the anti-piracy law.

2.Legal P2P users – Legal P2P users, who did not do any piracy and have downloaded files by legal means, generally face an agonizing choice—either to pay $1,500 to $2,500 to settle the lawsuits brought by anti-piracy organizations, or pay even more money for a lawyer to plead their innocence on court.

In either of these cases, P2P users are not under any circumstances protected from eventually paying the fines, or even worse, going to jail. And whether being innocent or not, a case that goes to court always runs the risk of ending in a $150,000 fine. The sheer size of the penalties for online infringement and piracy would give anyone pause, and there are several of those who are currently wrestling with what to do about it.

Real-World Impacts

Recently, media sources have reported a sharp decline in peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic during the last year, considering user population dropping by half. This assertion is in direct contrast to the perpetual increase of P2P activity over the last few years. The decline has been attributed to legal issues that are often unjustified and most loudly articulated by anti-piracy organizations such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). RIAA reports suggest that the overwhelming threats of possible copyright lawsuits and extremely high fines provided by laws have stalled the growth of file-sharing networks. This situation will remain the same until government decides to stand out and raise its voice to all anti-piracy organizations that have been sending lawsuits to whomever they notice downloading files, without taking in consideration the possibility of being a legal P2P user.

The serving proof of monopoly is Logistep, a so called privacy protection organisation assimilated information about illegal file up-loaders and supplied the same to copyright owners. Thereafter the information was furtively used to blackmail the illegal users to get good cash reparation

“Garante della Privacy”, an Italian organisation responsible for data protection and privacy did blacklist Logistep for their illegal tasks citing three reasons for violating the rules such as:

No private company is allowed to monitor the activities of P2P users on the Internet.

The P2P software is only meant for the communication with other P2P clients instead of using it as a monitoring device.

Monitoring users without their consent is in itself illegal.

The decided action taken against Logistep was that they were ordered to delete the collected information about P2P users which came as a relief for Italian P2P users.

Nearby Future Impacts

Peer-to-peer (P2P) network systems, which are realized as overlays on top of the underlying Internet routing architecture, make a significant portion of today’s Internet traffic. However, real-world cases show that if events continue developing in the same direction they do now, P2P utilization in near future will be reduced to a minimum. Since every potential downloader is a subject of suspect, there are only few left that are brave enough to continue using this useful 21st century technological advantage.

Taking office when the Great Depression was plunging the world into an abyss of unprecedented darkness and horror, Franklin D Roosevelt famously said, ‘So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance’. Years later, facing the marauding Nazis under the leadership of the deranged genius Hitler, Winston Churchill borrowed the fore quoted sentiment and reiterated it, though in not so much the same words. Roosevelt pulled the world, in general, and America, in particular, from the brink of economic oblivion. Churchill helped snatch victory from the jaws of imminent defeat. Now we face the same problems these great gentlemen of yore faced, and this time they seem to have come together. The world is facing another financial meltdown and terrorism is rearing its all too ugly head from every nook and corner. And this time, ladies and gentlemen, fear seems to have taken the better of us.

Countries across the world are enacting laws and legislations giving them power to invade the privacy of hapless citizens and tourists, as in their paranoia, they are regarding every person as a potential terror suspect. Come what may, better safe than sorry seems to be the shameless motto. Sure, the above mentioned gentlemen did stuff they had to, to ensure that the ideals of freedom independence and sovereignty that they were trying so hard to uphold were not compromised. But never did they resort to below the belt techniques.

We live in, what is being widely touted as the information age; the age when information is what makes the world go around, oils the social machinery and keeps the economic engine running. Information is as important to us as was stone for the Stone Age, knowledge for the Enlightenment Age and oil for the Industrial Age. Data has become more valuable than gold, and the storage and retrieval of data, safely and securely is very important. And when everyone is using technology to make life all the more easier, why would terrorists refrain from using the same to make the coordination of attacks easier. So it is no wonder that governments are clamping down on the transfer of information into and out of their borders. When snail mail was the ‘in thing’, they peeped into correspondence from offshore locations. Now, keeping with the pace of technological advancements, they are checking emails and censoring websites. And if all that was not enough to make citizens furious, they are now scrutinizing and copying data stored in portable storage devices like iPods, cellular phones, laptops and PDAs, whenever they are being carried across borders.

Granted, it is a necessary precaution to stop and perhaps avoid unwanted unlawful disturbing events from taking place. But there has to be a code of conduct when such searches are being conducted, and these lines of moral conduct should never be crossed. For all those who believe their government would never resort to such brutality, here’s a scene which was enacted at an US airport in the not too distant past. Last year, Jawad Khaki, a corporate executive from Sammamish, Washington, was returning home from a business trip to Ireland and Germany. At the airport, a U.S. customs agent asked him to turn over his cell phone. Even though he had all the proper documents, even though he was not a suspect of any sort, even though he had explained where he had traveled and the purpose of his travel, he was asked to turn over his cell phone. The customs official then proceeded to go through his ‘to do’ list and his calendar entries. Khaki says he was humiliated and exasperated by the treatment meted out to him, by the blatant violation of privacy. This was no isolated incident. Khaki’s story is one among the growing number of reports of border security privacy invasion coming in every day. And the people who are abused the most seem to be Muslims and people of South Asian and Middle Eastern origin. They say man is the most successful of all the animals because he can adapt to situations. When faced with privacy invasions and the potential loss of personal data due to border invasions, what does man do? He adapts. He adopts unconventional means of storing data, so that what he hold most valuable dear is not taken from him and so that what he has considered most private is not laid bare for the whole world to gaze upon. The safest quick fire method of storing data in a safe, reliable and easily accessible area has been developed and is called online data storage.

Funny, isn’t it, that what one man builds for one purpose, another man uses for a totally different purpose? The internet was first developed in 1960 when research projects of military agencies, funded by the United States of America, tried to build robust, fault tolerant, distributed computer networks. From being a military project, it has evolved over so many decades to become what it is today. With its vast spaces of unexplored potential, the internet continues to grow and evolve every day. That is where the online storage of data becomes a good idea.

Information in the form of data needs to be stored somewhere, so that it can be retrieved again, at a later date so that it can be used. Data storage is an all too familiar concept and we have been practicing it since we could read, only now we have advanced to the digital stage. Now we store movies, music, pictures, documents and databases on hard disks, flash drives, compact discs, digital video discs, blue ray discs etc. We store them and keep them safe in the belief that when the day comes when we have a need for the stored data, we will be able to retrieve them. What most of people don’t understand is that all these methods of data storage are not at all stable nor are they secure. We don’t realize that they are vulnerable unless we lose data once. Guess you need to be bitten once to be shy the next time. The most unreliable feature of the storage methods mentioned above is that they become unreadable after a certain amount of time. The primary storage device, the hard disk is unreliable, because about thirty percent of all hard disks crash within the first couple of years and a hard disk will crash. It is just a matter of time. CDs and DVDs become unreadable over time when scratches appear on them due to usage over long periods. If a CD or DVD with heavy scratches is loaded into a high speed drive, the disc can break, and without proper backup, the data will be lost forever. Then there is the perennial chance of your hardware getting stolen. The prices of electronic goods are soaring and snitching hardware is a very easy way, for anyone with a criminally inclined mind, to make a fast buck. Statistically speaking, only one percent of all stolen electronic goods and devices, like laptops, iPods, PDAs are ever recovered. So if you lose one, chances are, you will lose data stored in them and you will never recover them. There is also a chance that you might lose all your data when your data storage medium is destroyed, lost or rendered unusable due to natural disasters like floods, fires, earthquakes, etc. A story goes that a Minister of State of Ghana got nicknamed ‘Tsunami’ because he lost all his documents and files due to a flood. What is to say that you will not be at the receiving end of nature’s fury?

There are other many such ways in which data that you think is secure could be lost forever. Like for example, you could accidentally delete an important file, replace it wilt another file of same file name and extension. Or you could be the hapless victim of a virus attack. The virus could clean out your hard disk, corrupt files, replace current files with bogus replicas or hide them permanently. Then there is always the chance that when you are transferring data from one media to another, the data can get corrupted, rendering it useless. So it was imperative that a solution immune to all the above mentioned faults be come up with. And the only truly secure medium of data storage seemed to be online data storage sites and you don’t need to carry your data around as all you need is an internet connection.

Well, what is online storage? It simply is the storage of your data on the internet. Your files and data are stored on the servers of some company or website that is providing you with such facilities. You can upload and download any data onto these sites, pretty much like how you do in your hard drive or flash drive. You can use the facility as a second hard disk. You can edit, delete and do anything with these files. Some sites provide you with media players and other necessary software so that you can play your songs and watch movies from the site without having to download them. You can share these files with others if you want to, thus making it a very useful option if you are working on a common project with others over the internet.

A very attractive feature of this kind of storage is that most providers of online storage facilities have free or personal data storage accounts. That means that a reasonable medium sized storage space can be acquired for free. This will be enough to store personal data like photos. But if more space is needed, you will have to purchase it. For businesses and companies, there are larger storage versions available, but at a higher cost. Besides providing larger space for storage, paid accounts will get enhanced security and faster upload and download capabilities. There are usually two parts to your account: one is the personal part which only you can access. The other is a part that others can access if you have given them permission to do so. But not to worry, even the free accounts are secure enough for the average need. You will have to choose a password on registration and your account can be accessed only if the password is known, pretty much like any email account. Some sites provide enhanced protection like two factor authentication. Two factor authentication means that you will have a two layer protection system, because in order to access the account you will need an authentication key in addition to the password. The authentication key will be provided by an electronic card. The key will keep on changing at a particular interval and the service provider will know the key that is being displayed on the electronic card. So, only if the key being displayed on the card and the key that you have typed in match will you be able to access the data. Other storage providers are more tailored towards a public in search for a high security online storage service. Such service would be judged in terms of privacy, offshore jurisdiction, encryption and other exotic features like being able to wipe your account whenever needed.

Accessibility is not a problem at all. All you need is a computer or any other device capable of connecting to the internet and an internet connection. You simply go to the site, log in using your password and download the file according to the site methodology. Some sites insist on you typing in a code as a safety check. There are a number of companies and sites that provide such online data storage facilities. The difference must be sought, nowadays, in terms of privacy and encryption, most of the companies do not use encryption or have a clear pro-privacy approach. Some sites provide storage facilities exclusively for online document storage. Documents are the most important and invaluable of all data. Even if you lose music and movies, you can borrow them from a friend or even buy them again. But once documents are lost, the data in them is lost forever and, in most cases, cannot be retrieved again. That is why documents are being given more importance. Another major reason for the rising popularity of online data storage is the anonymity it provides. No one will know who is posting and what. As if anonymous storage wasn’t enough, some sites offer encrypted storage using real time encryption. That means that data is encrypted even as it is being uploaded in order to greatly increase security. That is, your data that you upload onto the site is stored as an encrypted file so that even if someone gets their hands on the data, they won’t be able to use it. And for businesses making use of virtual private networks for coordinating efforts of offices worldwide, the online storage proves to be very useful as data need not be transferred as anyone who needs it can just download it.

Now, we have one more reason for subscribing to online data storage facilities: to prevent prying eyes from perceiving private data. With the resurgence of terror groups and their deadly activities, governments around the globe are enacting laws and drawing out legislatures to enhance security and prevent atrocious acts from happening on their soil. The United States of America is leading the pack of developed countries, which have passed resolutions giving law enforcement officials the authority to go through the data being carried in portable electronic devices, when they are being carried across the country’s borders. Granted, we need security checks to check the spread of terrorism and granted, we need all the preventive methods at our disposal in order to prevent deadly attacks. But all this at what cost? Does upholding the privacy of travelers come secondary to border security enhancement? Why subject your data to ‘eyes in uniform’, when you can store all your data online and then access them whenever necessary?

In August of 2009, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of America issued new directives for checking of electronic gadgets at the border checks. DHS secretary Janet Napolitano announced the new rules that clarify the oversight for searches of laptops and other portable electronic devices at all US ports of entry. Essentially, this means that TSA officials and the like can now check any travelers’ electronic files at random. The most irresponsible aspect of this is that the searches can be carried out without any suspicion and for no apparent reason. They can go through all the data in the system, including your email address book, your received and sent emails, and your documents. Usually they pull up the laptops for a superficial check up and to ensure that it really is a notebook and not some other electronic device made to look like a lap. But if they feel so, they can subject the laptop to real close scrutiny and all your files and folders can be inspected.

As with most other DHS initiatives, the new endeavor is also one that is being pushed forward in the guise of enhancing the security of our borders. Ms. Napolitano calls this a “critical step designed to bolster the Department’s efforts to combat transnational crime and terrorism while protecting privacy and civil liberties.” While we’re all about fighting crime, we’re beginning to wonder just how much more difficult travel will be with these folks really bent on leaving no stone unturned in their quest for the most secure borders. Secretary Napolitano had this to say on the matter: “Keeping Americans safe in an increasingly digital world depends on our ability to lawfully screen materials entering the United States. The new directives announced today strike the balance between respecting the civil liberties and privacy of all travelers while ensuring DHS can take the lawful actions necessary to secure our borders.”

Following the US example, other western countries like Canada, England and other European countries are adopting such laws. Well and good that they are looking out for their well being. But the privacy concern that most citizens have is that, ever since time immemorial, government laws have been bent or twisted to achieve political and private gains. So why should these new laws be any different? When cross country correspondence was being screened, personal information was regularly monitored for unlawful activities and it will be no different this time. The confidential data of clients that business men, lawyers and doctors carry around in their laptops can be copied in the name of national security and can be used for unhealthy purposes.

Besides, such border checks targeted at electronic devices are not really effective. Think about it, since the laws are so publicized about and almost everybody knows that their notebooks and PDAs will be checked at the entry port, who will be stupid enough to carry sensitive data that could potentially incarcerate him ? No, they are not aimed at checking cross border terrorism, but instead, it is just a cover to hide the ulterior motives with which such laws were drawn up. All this time, not one file had data that was considered a threat to national security. But yes, it will dissuade non law abiding characters from boldly transferring data into a country from offshore bases. With the government checking all internet traffic into the country, such information cannot be transferred through the net. So they might try novel methods that need out of the box thinking.

Fear is what drives government into passing laws and resolutions limiting civil liberties even during peace time. Fear is what they use as leverage to make us fall in line with their policies. Fear of terror attacks, fear of punishment and fear of humiliation is what compels us into going with our governments even when we think that what they are doing is wrong. The bravest of us have fought in vain, wars against fear, only to be ridiculed into submission. What we do not know, we fear. And this is what our fear has brought us. Fear of border check privacy invasion forces us to pursue evasive methods. In short fear seems to be driving us; it has become the rhythm to which the world moves. Let us break free of its cumbersome shackles and live free. And online storage is just one way of achieving electronic freedom.

A quote by Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706 – April 17, 1790):

“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”

A little less than two score years ago, the world, and America in particular, was forced to sit up and watch in awe and horror, the Watergate episode which eventually led to the resignation of President Nixon. What was it about the case that was so captivating? Granted it involved the most powerful man of the most powerful country. But was that it? Was that the real reason why people sat in abject horror, staring at their television sets and newspapers with a gasp stuck in their throats, simply refusing to believe their audio visual senses? No, it was the shameless and total violation of privacy, that single rudimentary quality quintessential to preserving and maintaining our sense of honor and dignity. Sure, things have changed a lot since Nixon quit, but the need for privacy is as important now as it was all those years ago.

Everybody has, some point in their lives, dreamed of being a spy, a super sleuth or some undercover agent on a dangerous mission. Or at least they think it’s rather fashionably cool. That the 007 franchises are so popular lend credence to this fact. But how would we like to be at the receiving end? I don’t think we’d enjoy it much. I mean, nobody in their right mind would find existence a pleasurable experience if they knew that they were being watched and their every move documented for scrutiny and inspection at an unnamed later date. We love being anonymous. Being invisible lets us live unhindered lives, a prerogative afforded by the privileged status of anonymity.

Now, we live in a world that has been so swamped with technology that it has attained the status as a prerequisite for almost anybody. News and information are at our fingertips. The world indeed has shrunk and is now capable of fitting comfortably within our palms. The internet is second only in importance to the essential elements required to sustain life at a certain level of comfort. The usage of the internet has grown at exceptional rates. As the functionality of an object is one of the principal factors determining its usage, it can be safely inferred that the popularity of the online world is primarily on account of its uses and convenience. Having said that, it should be noted that any given coin has two sides, and the internet is no exception. There are wide spread evils lurking in the vast and dark corners of the World Wide Web. And we are in dire need of some sort of regulatory force or legislation to harness the unfathomable potential of cyber space.

Governments around the world have communication and data transfer rules and regulations that control the internet usage in their respective countries to some extent. But some Governments have gone over the edge in their quest to establish a moral code of conduct. They have gone to such an extent as to deprive innocent citizens of their privacy, all in the name of national security. Yes, a code is essential to determine what course the internet takes. It is very much necessary to protect the citizens from unwanted maliciousness that is so abundant in the internet. A chain of command and a regulating body is very much indispensable as the absence of one would mean total and utter anarchy. But there also needs to be some lines that should never be crossed, no matter what.

The main reasons governments give for adopting such repressive laws are the growing presence of child pornography and the seemingly unstoppable juggernaut of copyrights violation. Both these are condemnable crimes, that no self respecting man would indulge in and they need to be controlled and the perpetrators made to face justice. But it should not be at the cost of loss of privacy.

China is the first country that pops to one’s mind when talking about oppressive cyber laws. The country is quite infamous for its totalitarian method of internet censorship. It is the biggest Big Brother of all, with the Chinese government being time and again caught with their pants down censoring internet giants like Google and Yahoo. But in a land where almost everything is subjected to rigorous scrutiny by the government, these, one can say, were rather expected. The worrying part is that western countries especially the USA, Canada and prominent European countries are now following suit and passing legislations and laws to enhance security and avoid the use of the internet for unlawful activities.

Though the ‘Great Firewall’ of China is not the most efficient, it controls the data and information flow into and out of the country. Simply put, the government decided what the rest of world knew about China and the Chinese citizens knew about the world. Now, the Chinese Government is going one step further in internet censorship. According to a new law being enacted, and which will come into effect very soon, all computer units to be sold in the country will have to be pre loaded with the Green Dam Youth Escort software package. Though it appears to be a pornographic filter, it is actually a spyware that lets the government and any third party clever enough to hack into it, watch every citizen who is on the internet.

Green Dam has scores of uses. It can monitor and block a list of forbidden Web sites. It can also monitor a user’s surfing habits and reading habits. In a hypothetical future cyber war, it can convert the host systems into spam generators by enlisting them in some massive botnet attack. Systems like this invariably invite criminal appropriation and government abuse. New police powers, enacted to fight terrorism, are already used in situations of normal crime and sometimes even for personal or political gain. What makes us so sure the Internet surveillance and control will be so different?

It is bad enough that the government misuses it, but should some third party with malicious intent gain control of these instruments of control, the consequences are bound to be not too pretty. Any surveillance and control system developed should be secure in the first place. Any infrastructure, software of hardware, developed to make the internet a safer place, should in itself be safe. The Chinese government may have developed the Green Dam for its own use, but it can and may be subverted by criminals to steal sensitive information like bank accounts and credit card information. Researchers have already found security flaws in Green Dam that would allow hackers to take over the computers. Of course there are additional flaws, and criminals are looking for them.

China’s actions may be condemned as being too extreme. But the western world is not too far behind. The USA is leading the pack of developed countries that are enforcing stringent cyber laws. Though aimed at preventing cyber terrorism and helping in solving cases, these laws can be misused to extract revenge or for unlawful activities: basically, they take away the anonymity that the internet offers. Anonymity is a dangerous thing, as it gives citizens the courage to raise their collective voices against the repressive policies, atrocities of the government and corruption in the government departments. And governments simply don’t want that. The anonymous status accorded to Twitter users helped save Iranian dissidents’ lives. True, the anonymous nature of the World Wide Web can be misused, like for encouraging pedophilia and terrorism. Granted that without a proper framework to determine the inflow and outflow of data, terrorist attacks can be coordinated from offshore camps and bases. But prevention of these horrid crimes should not take away the privacy of unwary citizens using the internet.

The American and Canadian governments have taken a new lead in the war against terrorism by introducing controversial cyber warfare laws. This June, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates ordered the creation of a new military cyber command based in Fort Meade, Maryland, that will not only coordinate the government’s efforts to defend their cyber networks, but to engage in more wide scale cyber warfare campaigns around the world. This, they claim, is in an effort to increase internet security, and the safety of citizens. This means, the government can tap into our internet usage record without a court order and can shadow every movement we make in the cyber world. Although this, they claim, will be initiated only in matters of national interest or if criminal activities are suspected.

These risks are by no means theoretical. Such laws have been misused in the past, and nothing is stopping them from misuse this time around. For example, after 9/11, the National Security Agency built a surveillance infrastructure to eavesdrop on telephone calls and e-mails within the United States, so that they could monitor terrorist cells that they suspected to be operating on American soil. Although procedural rules very clearly stated that only non-Americans and international phone calls were to be listened to, actual practice didn’t always match those rules. NSA analysts collected more data than they were authorized to, and used the system to spy on wives, girlfriends, and even famous people such as President Clinton.

Nevertheless, the Canadian government too thinks that enacting such laws is a healthy endeavor and has mirrored the American cyber laws. The Canadian government has introduced a new law which would force Internet Service Providers (ISP) to allow police officers and government agents to intercept online communications and to gather personal information about internet users without their consent. Two bills – C-46 and C-47 – introduced in Parliament in June would grant police access without oversight from the courts to all private Internet communications and all information on individual subscribers in the files of ISPs. Protesters are afraid that the government is attempting to seize control of the nation’s cyberspace and computers, thought the government states that it is not trying to militarize the internet.

According to Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, the bills are intended to modernize the Criminal Code of Canada and to help law enforcement officers to detect and apprehend those suspected of cyber terrorism, cyber crime, or other crimes through technology. The current laws were drawn up around 30 years ago when crime through the internet was not even in consideration. The police stated that they are well aware of privacy concerns expressed by the citizens, and that they will strive to achieve an agreeable balance between privacy and national security.

According to the new law, the police are free to access information of any Internet subscriber, such as name, street address and e-mail address without a search warrant. The new legislation forces Internet service providers to freeze data on hard drives to prevent subscribers under investigation from deleting potentially important evidence. It also requires that telecommunications companies invest in technology enabling them to intercept all of the Internet communications they handle. It will allow police to remotely activate tracking devices already embedded in cell phones and certain cars. Also, the police will be able to obtain data about where Internet communications are coming from and going to. And finally, it makes it a crime to arrange with a second person over the Internet for the sexual exploitation of a child.

Another aspect of the new law that poses considerable problems is the financial burden that the ISPs and end users will have to bear. A considerable change in the hardware and the supporting software is needed to facilitate such data collection and storage. Given the sheer amount of internet usage per day, the data that is collected will run into terabytes that requires mammoth storage facilities and equally humongous cooling solutions. According to the law, Larger ISP’s will have 18 months to complete the necessary changes to their servers, and smaller ISP’s (with fewer than 100,000 subscribers) will have three years to complete the changes. The cost may go up to around $15,000 per customer and this is too huge a burden for many, especially given the current financial condition. When the cost becomes too much to bear, the ISPs will transfer the burden onto the end users and the citizens using the internet will end up paying more to have their data stolen by the government.

In May of this year, the European Union (EU) threatened to sue the British government for violation of EU privacy rules. The British government had passed a targeted internet advertising law. The technology called Phorm technology which enables Internet Service Providers to track web usage of customers for the benefit of behavioral ads is now legal. The EU found that the usage of the technology is not according to the privacy laws drawn out by the EU. UK laws apply only to ‘intentional’ gathering of personal information of users and require that companies need to have only ‘reasonable grounds for believing’ that the users have given their consent while EU laws require that clear consent be given by the users. Internet behavioral advertising is something that can be very useful to both businesses and consumers alike. But they have to be done is such a way as to protect the privacy of internet users. The participation of the consumers should be voluntary and not inadvertent. The EU enquiry was done after the internet users complained that the Phorm technology was being used without proper user consent.

The censorship flu seems to have spread to other European countries too, with German government, the most liberal of them all, erecting infrastructure to facilitate enactment of a new legislation that makes internet censorship legal. The government is planning to block off certain internet sites in order to check child pornography. The general idea is to build censorship architecture that will give the government power to block sites that have child pornography content. The Federal Office of Criminal Investigation is expected to provide the government with a list of sites that are to be blocked, and also a list of ISPs that will be obliged to setup the secret censorship infrastructure. Encryption of sites will also be banned to avoid encrypted child pornography sites from avoiding detection by the censor. This means that VPNs will also be scrutinized, to transfer of malicious content through them.

As soon as news of the planned censorship program was released, large scale protests erupted across the country’s cyber space, and the numbers of protestors are growing. People fear that once the infrastructure is in place, the indexing and blocking of sites can be spread to other sites also, like web sites dedicated to voicing the ire of citizens who disagree with unfair government policies and corrupt officials. The censorship can be extended to cover all sorts of content that the government does not wish to make public. People do want child pornography to stop but, not at the price of the government telling them what they should watch online.

The most stringent and powerful of censorship laws in the whole of Europe were very recently erected in Sweden. The Swedish government, in its bid to balance the protection of private lives of citizens and the surveillance laws required to prevent crime, seems to have tipped over in favor of the latter. By implementing these legislations, the Government of Sweden is robbing the privacy of not only its own citizens, but also certain people around the world. According to the new law, the government can eavesdrop on conversations by telephone, fax and email and can even shadow internet usage, should the flow of data cross the Swedish borders at any point along its journey. Simply put, the government can hear and see every communication that a Swedish citizen or party chooses to have with a non Swedish party located at an offshore location.

The government can track communications for sensitive words that they think pose a potential threat to national security. All this monitoring and censorship requires the approval of no court: that is, it is the discretion of the police. The law enacted by the National Defense Radio Establishment (FRA) makes it mandatory for the operators to channel the data of their clients to the FRA through certain collection nodes that are setup for the sole purpose of data collection. While the FRA claims that it is in the least interested in listening in on the conversations of citizens, the fact remains that it is capable of that and nothing is stopping them from doing so. The private correspondences of citizens who are not suspected of fraud or unlawful activities can also be monitored for no legitimate reason.

The law also provides that the Internet Service Providers need to monitor the sites that they are making available to their users. That is, the ISP will be responsible if the user accesses any illegal material on the internet, and so they have the authority to determine which all are safe sites and have the power to block sites that they feel have objectionable or harmful content. The term ‘illegal material’ is a loose term, and when the ISP is empowered to determine what all are ‘illegal materials’, it takes on a rather unpleasant hue of corporate subservience.

Then there is the financial aspect of these laws. These laws have no clauses about financial remunerations for the costs incurred by the Service Providers while setting up the requisite infrastructure for effective monitoring of internet usage. This will have the end effect of end users paying extra to have their conversations listened to. Experts believe that setting up all this architecture could amount to nothing as the terrorists could easily encrypt messages while ordering hits from offshore camps, unless encryption of email messages is classified as a punishable offense and VPNs are subjected to careful scrutiny. But such a move would be too repressive and a blatant violation of basic human rights. It would also lead to problems to the corporations who are wary of competitors eager for bread crumbs.

The main reason for the enactment of these tight laws is the mounting pressure from corporations that are being affected by copyright infringement. Sweden accounts for nearly eight percentage of the world’s peer to peer file sharing traffic. The hugely popular torrent sharing site Pirate Bay is based in Sweden. Sharing of large amounts of music and other copyrighted material over these networks are, the industry claims, leading to losses amounting to millions of dollars. While piracy and copyright infringement are deplorable crimes, screening of private conversations is not the way to avoid them.

The undeniable fact that surveillance infrastructure can be exported aids totalitarianism around the world. Western companies like Siemens, Nokia, and Secure Computing helped build Iran’s surveillance infrastructure while U.S. companies helped build China’s electronic police state. Every year brings more Internet censorship and control – not just in countries like China and Iran, but in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Sweden and other free countries. The control movement is egged on by both law enforcements, trying to catch terrorists, child pornographers and other criminals, and by media companies, trying to stop file sharers. Whatever the reasons maybe for enacting legislations legalizing the monitoring and censorship of internet usage, the governments need to find a workable balance between playing Big Brother and the invaluable privacy of citizens. And the bottom line is, it is a sign of the society’s state of bad health when technologies that someday might facilitate a police state are commissioned.

What is cryptography?

Generally cryptography is the technique to transform readable data to unreadable data. We deal with it every single day of our life. Many important areas of science use cryptography, but everyone of us has been using it for years, yet didn’t realize what he/she was doing. One can write and research endlessly when it comes to cryptography, therefor this is just a little peak in the areas where it is applied. Now let’s see where cryptography is used!

I don’t get it, what does this really mean?

Think of the ordinary people. We all have secrets, we have a lot of them, and some of them are so precious that we would rather die then tell something about it. Isn’t it? Another very simple example arises from family lives. A family can be considered like a small community consisting of 2-10 members, differing from country to country and depending on what you call “family”. You go somewhere with your family. You need to ask your father when you are going to your cabana which stands in a very beautiful place, and you don’t want others to find out you’re going there. You just ask your old man: “When do we go there?” And that’s it. You just used cryptography! Why? Only because others who heard what you’ve just said don’t know what you’re talking about.

The role of cryptography in our lives

This technique is so important, that we couldn’t do a lot of things without it. Why so? Well let me explain to you. I will now take some of the most important areas of cryptography usage.


We live in a modern world. We must deliver emails, either for business, to friends, companies, famous people whose address we have. It doesn’t matter. We send emails all the time. People deliver around 210 billion emails daily ! When you deliver an email, it has to get trough the internet – a giant network consisting of a lot of computers most of which are unprotected and attackable. A lot of people like to steal data from others, sometimes only for fun, but danger comes when it’s about something else. Just think a minute of how big the Internet is. The first three countries in the highest number of internet users list are:

1.China (253.000.000 users)
2.USA (220.141.969 users)
3.Japan (94.000.000 users)

That’s a lot! There are around 6,720 billion people on earth. And only the first three countries have 0,567 billion Internet users. That is around 8,43%. Now imagine what is out there.

How do emails get protected while they are being sent? All connections between routers and routers themselves need to be secured. That is done by using data encryption. Generally there would be two methods for this security.

The first one is to use PGP (Pretty Good Privacy). This is both the name of a computer program and the protocol itself. But what is pgp protocol in fact? It is a method to secure emails, a standard in cryptographically secure emails. Basically it is used with MIME Security. Before encrypting with pgp, message body and headers should be in MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) canonical format. “multipart/encrypted” denotes encrypted pgp data and must contain the following parameter:


The multipart/encrypted consists of two parts. The first part is a MIME body with “application/pgp-encrypted” content type and contains the control information. Also the message body must contain the following line:

Version: 1

Complete information for decrypting is contained by the pgp packed format. The second part is also a MIME body, with a more simple structure. It contains the encrypted data itself and it is labeled with an “application/octet–stream” content type.

The second method is a tricky one. Sender owns a secure website, recipient has a username and password, and recipient can read the message after logging into the website.

However ISPs can encrypt communication between servers using TLS (Transport Layer Security) and SASL (Simple Authentication and Security Layer). E-mail servers use this kind of protection between each other for example, these servers need their communication protected so no unintended server can get a copy of any e-mail going through these e-mail servers.

TLS is also used in many different setups. TLS is also used with POP3, IMAP, and ACAP. If HTTP is protected by TLS, it provides more security then simple HTTP. A lot of existing client and server products support TLS, but many of them provide no support. Let’s check on more details about TLS/SSL.


TLS (Transport Layer Security) and SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) are almost the same, actually TLS is the successor of SSL; there are only slight differences between them. They are used for: instant messages, emails, browsing, internet faxing. Well, two of the above mentioned are used by everyone. Emails and browsing the Internet: things you do almost everyday. TLS plays an important role on the internet, especially in communications privacy and endpoint authentication. HTTP, FTP, SMTP, NNTP, XMPP are all protocols with TLS protection. TLS can add security to any protocol which uses a reliable connection (like TCP – Transmission Control Protocol). TLS is most commonly used with HTTP to create HTTPS. We also need to mention that TLS is growing in SMTP lately. In the case of VPN, TLS is used to tunnel an entire network stack. VPN will be discussed in its details later. Let’s just think about HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) and FTP (File Transfer Protocol).

There are around 63 billion websites all over the world, and around 1 trillion unique URLs!

Most of them have a lot of visitors every day. Imagine how important servers are, how important their security is. What would happen if an ordinary hacker could break into any server? Disaster! He would then break another and another and another… Data would be stolen every single minute; Internet wouldn’t have any safe zone. You would be afraid to send emails, to post anything to a blog/forum. It’s hard to understand what would happen without security, most of which is done by cryptography.

A lot of us also use FTP (File Transfer Protocol) to transfer data between two computers. It works like you would open Windows Explorer to view files and folders. The only difference is that on an FTP connection you can also download files, not just view or browse them. There are a lot of FTP servers and clients available on the Internet. These tools can ease your work, you can organize your downloads if you use the client side, or you can organize what others can download if you use the server side. Seems like an easy way to transfer files from your friends, from your family members, to your family members, isn’t it? FTP even lets you to use usernames and passwords for your protection. All of the above mentioned is clear and nice said, but even this way FTP is vulnerable! How so? Regarding its architecture, FTP is built in a way which provides ability for users on the same network as the transfer is being processed to sniff data including: files, usernames, and passwords. There is no built-in security or data encryption. A well known solution for this security problem is to use either SFTP or FTPS. Be careful! It’s confusing. SFTP and FTPS are two very differently working file transfer protocols, they are not the same. SFPT is SSH (Secure Shell) File Transfer Protocol. SSH also uses public-key cryptography, which works like this: you have a text to encrypt, and you have a public key and a private key. Text gets encrypted with the public key, but only who knows the private key can decrypt it. With its architecture – the usage of public-key cryptography – SSH is basically used to log in to a machine and execute commands, but can also transfer files (trough SFTP or SCP), and also supports tunneling and port forwarding. FTPS is commonly known as FTP/SSL. FTPS uses SSL/TLS below standard FTP to encrypt the control and/or data channels.


VPN (Virtual Private Network) is like a virtual computer network. Why so? Think about the Internet. How does it work? It consists of a lot of computers and servers linked to each other. And how do connections exist and work? They exist physically, they are linked with wires. Basically the user has an ISP (Internet Service Provider) trough which it gains access to the Internet. Now, what’s the difference between Internet network linking and Virtual Private Network linking? VPN uses virtual circuits or open connections to have the network together.

All nice, but VPN needs security to be efficient and used. Well, it has a special security system. I’ll reflect on VPN security issues. Authentication is required before VPN connection. If you are a known and trusted user, you may have access to resources inaccessible to other users. More interesting is that servers may also need to authenticate themselves to join the Virtual Private Network. Strange mechanism, users are familiar with being required to authenticate themselves on a website or server…but a server also needs authentication? Yes, it does! There are various authentication mechanisms used in VPNs. Some of these mechanisms are included in firewalls, access gateways and other devices. A VPN authentication mechanism uses: passwords, biometrics or cryptographic methods which may be combined with other authentication mechanisms.

Secure VPNs are designed to provide necessary privacy for its users. The essence of this consists in cryptographic tunneling protocols. Secure Virtual Private Network ensures message integrity, confidentiality and sender authentication.

We can see how important cryptography is in our lives. These were rather technical details of cryptography usage. But let’s take some other examples too, not so technical!

Abbreviations. You may be smart, intelligent, but you’re lost if someone uses an abbreviation and you don’t know where it comes from and what it means. Assume you are on a holiday and hear someone saying: “I got that cool stuff from a good FTP server”. You don’t know what this is about if you aren’t familiar with File Transfer Protocol, and don’t know what it means and where it is used.

Think of the old days, the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. People had no mobile phones, no internet, and no e-mail sending opportunity. If they needed to say something to someone who was far away from them, and they didn’t want to use telephones…what could they do other then visiting that person or those persons? They used the Morse code. This is familiar to us, but many of us only know what it means, not how to understand or produce Morse code itself. There were two common solutions to produce Morse code. One of it worked only for short distances generally. It was something like you pick up an object and hit another object to produce noise; that noise was the Morse code. The other solution worked for big distances too. Assume it was night time, and a ship was sailing on the sea or on the ocean, fighting a huge storm. Back then, people had a lot of wooden ships, which couldn’t resist in front of a big storm’s power. So if there were people on the ground, 1-2 kilometers away from the ship location, they could have used a flashlight to guide the ship safely to the shore. The strong point of the flashlight Morse coding was that it worked even during daytime. Most commonly it was used to ask for help, if someone was in trouble during daytime. A lot of times there were people who had small boats, got themselves far away from the seashore, and didn’t know how to get back to the shore. It was terrifying, and people couldn’t afford themselves to “guess” where to go. So they waited until a ship came close enough to be on sight, and after that they used the flashlight, and were observed if lucky.

We use telephones and mobile phones to communicate. Telephones transmit electric signals over a complex telephone network. This technology allows almost anyone to communicate with almost anyone. The only problem is given by the fact that telephones can easily be eavesdropped. Eavesdroppers only need three things to perform the operation: a pickup device, a transmission link and a listening post. If someone has the above mentioned elements, it can become an eavesdropper. The pickup device is most commonly a microphone or a video camera. These devices can record sound or and video images later to be converted to electric signals. Also some listening devices can store information digitally and then send it to a listening post. The transmission link can be a wire or a radio transmission. A listening post allows monitoring, recording or retransmitting signals. It can be as close as the next room, or several blocks away. An eavesdropper just has to put a bug into your telephone, and it’s ready. Don’t get confused, it’s only a matter of seconds to install a bug. The above mentioned method is based on installing devices. Landlines can also be tapped anywhere between your telephone and the telephone company’s office. Anyway, the installer of the telephone tap needs physical access to the telephone cables. There are several methods to gain access. This second method is called tapping, which involves no device installing and needs no access to the victim’s telephone. You can protect yourself against eavesdropping by using telephone encrypting devices. Mobile phones are used by almost every second man on earth. It has all the functionality of a simple telephone, but it adds more services like: SMS, MMS, Email, Internet, Gaming and Bluetooth. Mobile phones automatically connect to GSM towers or satellites, regarding to which of them is more efficient in time and also available. Mobile phone signals can be picked up just as a backyard satellite dish pulls television signals in. To protect yourself against eavesdropping, you can acquire cell phone encrypting devices. Fortunately there are encrypting devices for both telephones and mobile phones.

Many kids like to invent new things and explore everything around them! Probably you know about some kids encrypting their messages or diaries like choosing a custom ABC. That is easy to do. You get an extreme character for each letter of the ABC, and only you and the ones who need to be able to read your messages know which symbol corresponds to which character.


We’ve seen a lot of different areas of where cryptography is used in our days or in the past. As a common man, you can easily observe cryptography everywhere around yourself! It’s so amazing how far science got, and it keeps going and going, getting a lot of new knowledge every day. Emails and Internet are used by more and more people every day. We just can’t imagine our lives without it. And all of these work and get secured based on cryptography.

An anonymity service is a special type of service that requires the usage of certain software to make Internet surfing anonymous. The anonymity software utilises the public proxy servers or their own personal private proxy servers to conceal their actual IP addresses. An anonymous proxy server is a server that serves the purpose of a relay, linking the client and the viewed Web site. The use of anonymous proxy servers helps in hiding the IP address of the user’s computer from the Web sites that they are surfing and helps in providing encryption. Anonymous proxy servers are very helpful to users who want to make sure that their online activities cannot be kept an eye on. Privacy and anonymity is of great importance to users who use wireless networks since they are a lot more susceptible to be spied around than they would have been if they were using a wired network. Proxy servers are widely used by numerous organisations that include schools and corporations. They use proxy servers to consolidate their security and get anti-malware and caching services. Proxies are widely used in businesses to stop avoiding the acceptable use policy since it does not require any browser configuration for the user. It also helps in the prevention of exposing their data to the other third party websites. Proxy servers also help in the prevention of web bugs also known as ‘web beacons”, “pixel tag” or “invisible GIF”. The function of these malicious entities is to pass information from the client’s computer to other third party Web sites. These bugs work together with the cookies. The web bugs make information available to be collected and tracked in the Internet’s inexistent environment. It is usually a single-pixel see-through GIF image. The web bug can transfer the data when its HTML code is pointed to a website to repossess the image.

The purpose of the proxy is to supply a network address translation, which functions to veil the particulars of the inner network. Provided that the user’s configuration is cautious enough and the user has not unveiled too much of unencrypted personal information, the proxy alone can provide anonymity to casual Internet users. One of the things that make proxies so efficient in providing anonymity is that they deal with the data at the protocol level instead of dealing with data packets. As a result they can scrutinize all the protocol transfers, providing a more detailed filtering, security and reviewing abilities. This gives the proxies the ability to filter out unwanted data types such as Flash contents, ActiveX controls or executable files.

Internet Service Providers (ISP)s provide internet access to the users. All the information to and from the users is conveyed through the user’s ISP. As a result, all the ISPs are capable of tracking all the things about the consumer’s unencrypted Internet actions. The ISPs sometimes collect information about the users under their service. They are not supposed to do so due to certain issues like legal, business and ethical factors. From a privacy point of view, the ISPs should gather information required to supply the Internet connectivity only, but it is believed that ISPs gather furthermore information such as the users’ cumulative browsing behaviour as well as personally-identifiable histories. The possibilities of this gathered information can be numerous and whether or not the ISPs notify its users about this, it is a considerably important privacy concern. Although the ISPs claim that they make the information available to the government if requested, it is thought that the ISPs use these collected information and they sometimes sell these information to other third parties. If the data is well encrypted reaching the Internet from the users, an ISP will not be able to tract the data contents. HTTPs are the most accepted standards for web-traffic encryption but still the ISP is capable of tracking the IP addresses of the user and the recipient. A lot of commercial services and programmers have stepped forward to work on anonymous proxy services to help organisations and businesses to mask and protect their data. These services usually do not share or sell any personal information belonging to the user and do not use any cookies or anything equivalent. The data created by their users are not viewed under any circumstances nor are they stored, they contain the rights to disapprove anyone of their services for any reasons under their judgement. These services are usually very helpful to their clients but are strictly against certain types of abuses like child-porn or spamming.

Open proxy servers allow client connections from all kinds of IP addresses and connect to any Internet resources. Therefore open proxies are misused in large portions to deliver spam in e-mails. While using proxy servers, all the data which is transferred between the client and a destination passes through the proxy servers with most of its data in unencrypted form. Therefore chances are there that malevolent proxy servers might record all the things sent through the proxy together with unencrypted passwords and login names. The activities can be concealed from the sight of the client’s destination by linking proxies that do not expose information about the actual requester. If the sources of these proxies are not known, the client can turn out to fall victim to fake security since those particular details are forgotten.

Keeping all these things in mind, while using proxy servers, it is vital to know whether you wish to use an unknown free proxy for your important communications or a commercial privacy service which is known, specialized in these matters and has something to lose.

Nineteen Eighty-four (1984), an anti-utopian (dystopian) novel, published in 1949. The writer George Orwell tells the story of Winston Smith and his dilapidation by the dictatorial superstate Oceania in which he lives. He grew up during the revolution and the civil war in post- World War II United Kingdom. He was orphaned Due to the loss of his parents during the civil war and was placed in an orphanage by the “English socialism” movement. Eventually he got a job in the Outer Party and has been a member ever since. The novel describes a world of “Totalitarianism” where “Thought crime” means death through the dealings of “Thought Police”. The “Thought Police” were said to have placed Telescreens, hidden microphones and informers in every public place and not to mention the Party households.

That was “1984” a book from the year 1949. Now come to reality, think of our world today. Think about the last time you stepped out on the streets, have you ever noticed the sidewalk surveillance keeping an eye on you all the while? The government says you got to put them in your house too, why?! For security reasons of course. To hell with security who is going to give me my privacy. Have you walked into your work place or your friends place without ever getting the feeling that you were being watched? Or spoken over the phone thinking it was only your girlfriend who could hear you on the other side, if you have, say hello to wire tapping. It does get on your nerves doesn’t it? You think maybe you can calm your senses down with a drink at the local bar, oopps!! Guess who you meet there? Your old friend the CCTV grinning right back at you. Ok, forget the drink, lets get out for some fresh air, who doesn’t like fresh air, it’s good for the health too. Well, I’ll tell you, I don’t like the fresh cameras keeping fresh eyes on my neck. You can’t even have a peaceful walk around the park. It’s like “Thought Police”, remember “1984”? Ok, let me see, we must have something that the book doesn’t have. Ah!!! I got it. Our government got complete control over mass media which is constantly manipulated to act in accordance with the past doings of the ruling party. Uh, nope, the book got this one too. Maybe you can enjoy some privacy in your car, go for a long drive to the country, they have ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) and traffic analysis, they can track you but at least they can not see you! The government got an eye on everything you do; the world is a raw victim to “Totalitarianism”. We are the free people of a free country with the rights of every man for himself, nice statement to say and hear, but beware! All that glitters is not gold. This organization (Totalitarianism) is commanded by the political powers using misinformation circulated through the state-controlled mass media, secret police, mass surveillance, widespread use of terror tactics. And forget freedom of speech, they do have laws which covers the regulation and restriction of free discussion and criticism. Whew! Talk about free speech. You could go to jail for doing the same thing they claim you were free to do.

This book explains the nature of the uninterrupted war, and exposes the truth behind the Party’s slogan, “War Is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength.” We might not be shouting out or repeating the same slogan from “1984”, but we can sure see what it means. This slogan is practically living a physical form in the world today. “We are not attacking them, we are trying to free them from their miseries” that’s what our government says when they declare war on other countries right? They even track where your money is going. Someone got to tell them that it’s not their money that I am spending, it’s my money. Who are you to care where it goes. It’s my money and I demand a freedom to spend it where and how I wish. They should get this simple thought through their thick scull. I don’t mean to sound or be pessimistic, but believe it or not, we are living the life of 1984, a vision George Orwell had in the year 1949. I think the higher political levels are using the “Dystopian” society as the role model which used fascism, bureaucracy, socialism, chaos, anarchy, totalitarianism, dictatorships and other forms of political, social and economical control. The funniest part is it is a fictional society. Makes u laugh doesn’t it? Woah! Hold on your horses, I don’t dare laugh. Who knows what they might have implanted in my brain after I was born. With all these biometric data identification and DNA testing things, I pretty much can not have a private thinking session in my own brain. The problem is, with these facilities, the surveillance, voice recognition, ANPR, biometric analysis, you can be framed of a crime you did not do and it makes it look more like you actually did it.

Well, the final point is where I take you back to the header of the writing, “Is it 1984?” what would you answer to this question? If your answer is Maybe, I would nicely ask you to wake up and go brush your teeth. If the answer is NO, well what can I say, you are the ruling party. The vivid answer would be YES. Why? Why not? Go read the book again. Then come back to reality. You would see what I am talking about. There is no difference, we are simply living life in the vision of George Orwell in 1984.

Freedom of Speech on the Internet Once upon a time, the world was made up of many, many communities that each had different opinions about free speech. Some allowed it, some prohibited it, and some operated in vast grey areas depending on what their particular dictionaries defined as freedom of speech. It really only mattered what a county’s particular constitution said about free speech, and most of them had something that ended up being somewhere in the middle regarding free speech.

It wasn’t until the early 1990s that it became apparent that there was going to be something that could take the world’s different ideas of free speech and make them all into one basic definition, and one basic idea. That was the internet. The internet was this broad land where anyone could go, and where anyone could post just about anything. There wasn’t anything that was too much for the internet – as things got more complex, sites just got bigger and more able to handle large amounts of information. Everything got bigger, in fact. At last count, there were millions of web sites, and millions of domain names. Everyone wanted in on the action. Especially the companies that decided to log on to the internet as well. Remember all of them, vying for places to be and domain names, thinking they would hit it rich and make the big time just by being online? It just so happened that there were a lot of business that made it online… and a lot more that did not. When it came right down to it, selling things online was simply another way of selling, and in the selling world, some things work while other things do not.

However, the internet ended up being about much more than selling. It ended up being about having a place to speak your mind and to tell others what you really thought. It very easily become apparent that being online was like being on a huge sounding board, that spread all over the world. You could say anything, and there were no rules and regulations to censor you. Even on sites that had adult content, people were posting things and people were seeing things. There was no way to control what went onto the internet, and there still is no way to make sure certain things stay off of it. It was a nightmare for a country that didn’t want its citizens to see anything.

Before nations were able to log onto the internet, borders between countries meant so much more than they do now. Governments could set rules about the kinds of things that were allowed in their countries. They could search people as they left and came into their countries, taking away things that were either not supposed to leave their home land, or not supposed to be brought in. Governments could control publishing houses, and tell them what they could and could not put into books. Music, writing, and the arts, could all be censored due to the government, and all it would take to enforce the censorship would be government police raiding homes. It was very easy for governments to censor what their citizens were allowed to see, and what they were allowed to do.

There were countries that contained citizens who were not allowed to know anything about the rest of the world. And, when important things happened in these countries, the rest of the world wasn’t allowed to know about it. It was easy for governments to shut down radio and television links and cut phone lines. Information could be trapped and kept, either in a country, or out of a country. For a lot years, you could see that the countries that had leaders who did not want any information about their country to get out were virtually shut off from the rest of the world.

Then, the internet came to be. And since then, boarders have been eliminated, much to the anger of the leaders of countries who do not want their citizens to see things they should not see. It has all changed drastically in the last 20 years. The internet has no country boarders. There is no way to restrict certain sites to be only viewable within a country, and no way to prevent citizens of a country from having access to sites that are within another country. If someone has an internet connection, they can view any sites on the internet. There is no way for a country to only allow its citizens to view one particular site over another, unless they set up an internet of their own and don’t let their citizens connect to other internet sources. The thing about the internet is that no matter how hard someone tries to keep something off of it, it is nearly impossible to do. There are even ways for people to get around sites that require passwords and other things in order to get on the site. Hackers have been logging in to view things for many years, and this means that even if a company tries to make their sites into sites that have restricted or limited viewing, it is going to be to no avail.

This posed a difficult problem for governments that wanted to establish rules and regulations about what their citizens could and could not know. Because it was nearly impossible to outlaw technology like computers and cell phones, it became impossible as well to outlaw the internet, much less restrict what citizens were able to find there, and therefore what they were able to learn, about their country or the rest of the world. This was very frustrating, and still is very frustrating, to countries that want their citizens to have technology but don’t want them to see things that are going on in the real world. Most of the concerns for governments in these countries lie in the fact that when a person logs on to the internet, not only can they access information that their government might not want them to see, they can also access information about their government, and news about their own country, that other countries are reporting. This becomes very dangerous for countries, because many governments try to keep things from their citizens, but these things are impossible for the rest of the world not to notice. When something happens in a particular country, it might not report it to its citizens, but the rest of the world is surely going to notice, and they are going to talk about it. You will find that news, especially news about major operations in different countries, is readily available online. This becomes the norm for people who are trying to look up information about the country that they live in, they will find it out from news sources outside of their country.

In many instances, the internet became the tool of the truth, and thus it remains. In 1990, during the Tiananmen Square rebellion, even though the government tried to shelter the rest of the world from what was going on, other Chinese communities around the world were able to see and hear everything, because of the internet. The same thing happened during the Russian Coup in 1991. The information blackout which took out the television and radio stations was bypassed by an internet company called Relcom, who stayed online in order to keep Soviet citizens, and citizens around the world, up to speed about what was going on. The first real well know Internet Relay Chat occurred during the Kuwait invasion that same year – users logged on and got information up to the second about what was going on in Kuwait, because internet connections and links were able to stay operational more than a week after the radio and televisions were cut out.

Because of situations like these, citizens are able to find out things about their own countries that they might not have ever had access to. This is going to allow someone to be able to see things that their government doesn’t want them to see. If you can look online and see what your government is doing, through the eyes of another country, you are going to learn a lot.

Just look at the United States right now. If we listen to our own news broadcasts, they do tell the news, as in they tell what the government wants us to know. It isn’t always that they aren’t telling us the truth, it is just that they are putting a spin on to it. Especially on conservative media channels, people are talking about things in such a way that makes it hard to believe that our country could do anything but good. Everything that a country like the United States does is good in the eyes of people in the news room. This is blatant propaganda, because they are only reporting the things that might look good to others, and they are failing to report things that might make us look bad. And the style of reporting is the most frustrating of all. The United States has a habit of hiring nice looking people to tell personal interest stories so that everyone will have a nice chuckle and think that our country is the best country in the world. They don’t tell things that are disturbing, and they don’t report news that might not be pretty and beautiful to the other people who are currently watching the programs. If you want to find out news in the United States, the best thing that you can do is to go to a site that reports things that happen in the US but reports them from another perspective. Independent British media channels will tell you want is actually going on in the United States, and they’ll give you an idea of what was said and what was not said, and what really happened. They don’t care how they look, and they don’t care what truths they fail to tell.

That doesn’t meant that the governments feel good about their citizens being able to know what is going on in the world. And it doesn’t mean that governments felt good about allowing access to all of their citizens having access to information. Even in the United States, in 1996, the government attempted to quell freedom of speech on the internet by passing the Communications Decency Act, which tried to prohibit adult material from being distributed on the web. Due to the blatant disregard for freedom of speech, as well as the absolute impossibility of being able to enforce such a law, it was quickly found to be unconstitutional. This doesn’t mean that things like this never happen. All of the time there are reports of websites that get blocked out from certain places. It happens more than you’d think, because the government has hackers as well, and they have people that can go in and find ways to disable sites. There are a lot of ways that sites can become disabled, and if your site is targeted by the government, you can expect that you might have quite a few problems staying online. It is interesting to note that in that same year, many countries all around the world were trying to make their citizens immune to the freedoms of speech that were showing up all over the place. China mandated that if anyone used the internet, they had to register with the police. Germany banned access to adult newsgroups. Saudi Arabia restricted the internet so that it could only be used in hospitals and universities. Singapore passed restrictions that called for anyone having a political or religious site to register with the government. In New Zealand, the courts declared that computer disks and hard drives were a form of publication, and there fore could be censored. This sounds an awfully lot like what happens in the US though, when a site is taken offline.

Or, you should look at what happens in elementary schools and in public libraries. Yes, there is a reason to limit a student’s access to adult information, but schools have gotten to the point where they are limiting their students’ access to many sites. They have gotten so afraid of students getting into trouble because of something that they find online that they have made it hard for a child to do much of anything on the computers at school. This means that the teachers are also unable to visit the sites that they’d like to visit while at school. Now, I’m not saying that we should let our kids look at porn online while they are at school, but because of all of the limitations, there are plenty of good and decent sites that are becoming more and more off limits to kids in schools, and this is bothersome. However, even with rules and regulations in certain places, it quickly becomes apparent that a country or a government can try again and again to banish free speech from the internet, and they can try to limit what their citizens see, but in the end, one of these things could contain the power of the internet, or the power of free speech. Even in a place where schools ban certain sites, those sites can’t be taken down permanently because of that. And even if government hackers attack certain sites, that doesn’t mean that those sites are going to be unavailable. It means that people sometimes have to work harder in order to get their rights that are supposed to be infallible.

Sometimes, we have to work a little bit harder to actually take part in the things that the constitution says we should be able to take part in. I think its funny, actually, because sometimes it seems like in order to get our freedom of speech we have to fight for it, when all of those battles are supposed to have already been won for us. I guess that means that sometimes we just have to work extra hard. But that’s okay. Its worth it, in the end. It becomes very clear to anyone that the internet is an area in the world that everyone has equal access to. This is not counting the countries that don’t allow their citizens to have computers, or to have the internet at all. This means that if you can reach the internet, in any way, shape, or form, you are going to be able to have access to the same information that everyone else in the world can. It is virtually impossible to stop these practices. If a person can get to a computer, there is no way that they can be banned from sites, unless they are in a place that will filter the content of the sites that they see. However, it is impossible for a government to figure out how to filter all of the computers that are in their country, which means that if a person is in a place where they have their own computer with an internet connection, and aren’t relying on a public place that might ban certain sites, they can actually get to any site that they would like to get to, and not be stopped along the way.

Its mind boggling, really. To think that there is a certain place that exists only in waves and on computers, through the phone and cable lines. This place is so extensive that there is room for anyone’s ideas, and there is time enough for anyone to speak their mind. However, this place cannot be touched or felt. It is a place that only exists in microchips, which I find amazing. You can visit it, and with a single click you can be somewhere that is halfway around the world. It is amazing what you might find on the internet, there are no limits to the things you might be able to see and do. And if you cannot find a site that has exactly what you are looking for, you can go ahead and make a site. Anyone can. It is easy. And it is even free. There are hundreds of places that will let you set up your own site, free of charge. And they will let you post your thoughts and your opinions and your beliefs. It is absolutely amazing to me.

What is also amazing is that in the end, there is no way around it. Some countries don’t have internet access for their citizens, or they have it but it is extremely expensive or hard to come by. However, technology has advanced so far that in the end, it also becomes impossible to prevent people form getting online, even in countries that don’t have internet servers of their own. Many phone companies operate overseas, and these companies can allow you to dial in to the internet, even if you can’t access it from your cable lines. You can also get the internet on mobile phones, making it available anywhere that there is mobile phone service. There is no way to protect your citizens from the internet, and there should not be. In the end, even if you ban an internet company from coming in and setting up cable modems and DSL connections, your citizens could get cell phones and pay to connect their computers to the internet. The internet has become the real world, because it is the one thing that everyone has access to.

The world was not intended to be a place in which people were only given the information that their governments wanted them to hear. However, this has happened a great deal in the years leading up to the invention of the internet, and take a look at what has happened. Because of the information block out imposed by many governments around the world, people who aren’t educated have spread the AIDS virus to many more people than they would have had they had the education. Crime and conspiracies abound in all governments of the world, but are even more so in the places where the government controls what its citizens are able to have access to.

The internet is our path to worldwide freedom. No matter who is knocking on your door, or what you can and can’t do in the street in front of your own home, if you can have access to the internet, you can say and do anything you’d like. You can learn about any subject, you can speak your mind on any issue. The internet is the true key to freedom of speech. It is in fact the only place that is really left where you can speak your mind. Even in countries like the United States, that claim to have free speech, I wouldn’t be surprised if that ends up being just a myth. But this is online. I can say anything I want here, and I will be okay. That means that I can find a way to truly always have my freedoms of speech, even if they are slowly being taken away from me in my own home town. But that is for another article, all together.

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