Why we should all be using VPN?
The first printed book in Europe known as Gutenberg Bible was published by Johannes Gutenberg around 1554. It marked the beginning of a true Printing Revolution. In the XVI century there were about 20 mln printed books, and over the next one hundred years their number grew up to 150-200 mln. Indeed, medieval epoch was a period of intellectual stagnation, but the development of printing and publishing industry accelerated the arrival of a new positive Renaissance era with its colossal cultural and scientific progress, a forerunner of our nowadays world.
Today we perceive Renaissance as the time of active fine arts expansion, flourishing science and new geographic discoveries which moved Europe to the forefront of global development. This position was retained over the last five centuries. However, these new positive trends were naturally and fiercely opposed by the medieval leaders who had money and power backed by devastating weapons and church postulates. Deviants were prosecuted with extreme violence.
Quite naturally, the development of printing and publishing promoted the freedom of expression and the inception of many new humanitarian ideas. However fragmental or naïve, and almost universally opposed by the noblemen and church who would not want to give up their power and authority, they gradually took roots in people’s minds. These were the concepts of universal equality, religious toleration, civil rights and freedoms to name just few. They were further promoted by scientific and geographic discoveries.
The mankind was gradually progressing in technical terms over the last five hundred years, but in the XXI century this progress moves forward with at greatly accelerated pace. The rate of changes and technological advancement is truly unparalleled. One of the major drivers here was the expansion of Internet. At the turn of the century there were around 394 mln users, in 2012 their number was 2.4 bln (more than 1/3 of global population).
In other words, in developed countries everyone can get immediate access to the whole body of human knowledge and directly communicate with many other people breaking through the conventional barriers, with no need for intermediaries like press or TV. The internet access is expanding rapidly, and we can be almost confident that soon these opportunities shall be available for everybody.
One of the by-effects of this expansion is that every authority backed by money or political influence, as well as the conventional foundations of governmental power and supremacy of the statute law, can be challenged. This is a real threat, as real as the one originated 500 years ago by mass printing.
The response is predictable and quite similar to that of nobility and church in the epoch of renaissance. Repressive measures are fierce and extensive. Well, there are no tortures or inquisition, at least in the so-called civilized world. However, WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning reveal some very unpleasant stories evidencing the contrary. Businessmen and governments are naturally interested in total surveillance and fully controlled internet and are ready to invest huge money and legislative power to fulfill this task. So it remains to be seen who will win the battle: magnates or ordinary people.
Protection or protectionism
Those who want to mute the dissident voices or consolidate their authoritative powers can always use a proven tool. This is moral panic. People can be easily manipulated this way, and for a good reason: crimes and immoral acts must be prevented and punished, which is beyond any disputes. But the fears and the required responses and often exaggerated to have a justification for mass-scale attacks which are truly destructive for the values of liberty, privacy and humanity. For instance, in the Great Britain where anti-terrorist laws were adopted following the attacks of 7 July 2005, these laws serve as the basis for taking into custody without legitimate court decisions or criminal investigations and for the practice of so-called secret courts where the accused are deprived of the right to get acquainted with evidence gathered against them. The Patriot Act adopted in the States following the 11 September 2001 implies that law-protection agencies have carte blanche to break in the private lives of people when investigating any sorts of terrorism.
Two extremely convincing arguments: terrorism and child pornography are successfully used as an excuse for depriving people of their civil liberties.
The national legislative frameworks in US, Canada, UK and Europe are unique, but there is a clear common trend: authorities want to get access to and keep track of ALL e-mails, instant messages, phone calls, and web-site visits of each and every citizen, in line with hardly any judicial control (or effective safeguards to protect sensitive data from unauthorized disclosure).
A spectacular example of this kind of efforts is the Protecting Children from Internet Pornography Act of 2011 initiated in the States. In Canada a similar bill was dropped in 2013 due to massive opposition. According to this act, the ISPs must keep track of IP-addresses, phone numbers, credit card and bank account details of their customers, and constantly record the dynamic IP-addresses and all visited websites. This information shall be disclosed upon request of any law-enforcement agency in connection to any issues (which might go far beyond child pornography).
We cannot deny that child pornography exists on the web, but it is arguable whether there is a lot of pornographic content. By way of example, there are almost 300 mln web users in the States and only about 10 thousands of proven child pornography consumers, which is a tiny share. Even if we assume that there are many undetected offenders, it is still a very small group and by no means a sound justification for the law-enforcement agencies to pursue mass-scale surveillance fulfilling the most dangerous prophesies of George Orwell. Here we shall also recall the Protect Our Children Act enacted in 2008 thereunder the police is authorized to investigate and collect information about child pornographers.
These measures are at least disproportionate. Nevertheless, they are available to those who struggle for the restriction of internet freedoms. This idea was very definitely expressed by the head of Anti-Piracy Group (Antipiratgruppen) in Denmark, Mr. Johan Schlueter. Here is what he said: “Child pornography is great… Politicians do not understand file sharing, but they understand child pornography, and they want to filter that to score points with the public. Once we get them to filter child pornography, we can get them to extend the block to file sharing”.
Putting aside the moral aspect of copyright infringements (another name is “file sharing”), the anti-piracy lobby generously supplied with money by show business magnates is the most powerful force able to dent privacy rights and freedoms of individuals.
Specifically, in the US copyright protection serves as a justification for “extrajudicial” domain names seizure and control of visitors. In the UK censorship orders are issued by courts in respect of websites like PirateBay. ISPs are obliged to utilize pre-installed child pornography filters to watch for copyright infringements.
Such controversial laws as ACTA, CISPA in the US and CCDP in the UK were largely adopted due to intensive pressure from show business. All these laws empower the government with unrestricted surveillance authority in line with a very loose judicial oversight. Basing on these laws, anti-piracy lawyers can easily find and prosecute the infringers.
This is not a matter of real or alleged moral imperative. Rather, business interests are concerned, and tycoons shall spare no efforts to protect their wealth even if the basic privacy rights would be overridden. Notwithstanding the real damage caused by privacy protection to show business and entertaining industries, the above-discussed measures are clearly disproportionate and inappropriate.
Encrypted VPN tunnels are an efficient tool to avoid massive surveillance from the government forced by the anti-piracy lobby, because the providers keep no logs. However, serious attempts are made in many countries to force log-keeping by the VPN providers.
Taking in account the global nature of Internet, many VPN providers are in a position to follow zero-logging policy and offer globally accessible services. It is a common practice for authorities and anti-piracy advocates to accuse all VPN users, including of all those who use Tor, of viewing child pornography, selling and buying drugs, infringing copyright laws, terrorism connections or other offences. The reason is obvious: if there is nothing wrong, there is nothing to hide! Hiding means wrongdoing.
Basing on the same reasons the governments managed to enact laws thereunder all citizens are treated as potential criminals.
VPNs as a tool to protect privacy, civil rights and freedoms
Our basic human rights and most precious civil liberties are constantly and massively attacked by powerful show business monopolies. This is a clear warning for anyone who cares about his/her freedom of living and thinking. The laws adopted in this field are clearly offensive for anyone who is free form naïve beliefs that the ultimate objective of the government in to ensure well-being of the citizens.
Fortunately, the adoption of disgusting laws like ACTA or CISPA was slowed down by massive resistance, but these efforts shall be almost certainly beaten by powerful and wealthy surveillance advocates. These are state authorities and corporations, which are much like noblemen and church leaders mentioned in the very beginning who opposed the torch bearers five centuries ago. If they succeed, the most powerful, democratic are readily-available leaning, self-development and advancement resource shall be effectively destroyed, much like the books burned by inquisition.
VPNs are becoming increasingly popular. It is a powerful tool for uncensored, unmonitored and unrestricted Internet access. Surely, there shall be attempts to ban this service as it is banned today in Iran or China, but hopefully there shall be new engineering advancements to circumvent such measures.
More VPN users shall mean less control from the state or corporations. Thanks to strong opposition combating unjust laws, VPNs are about to turn into a true moral imperative.
A positive trend here, much similar to the spread of the printed word, is that internet opens colossal opportunities for a better life which are available from whatever place in the world to learn, acquire essential skills and knowledge without hypocritical supervision. The first line of defense in this war for liberty is universal VPN use.
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