Citizens around the world are waking up to the fact that their digital privacy is under attack. We are witnessing what is known as 'function creep'; the gradual widening of the use of technologies beyond the purposes for which they were originally intended.
The World Wide Web was designed to be a collaborative space, where users could communicate through sharing information. It has evolved to be so much more than that. It is engrained in our social fabric and has become an extension of our physical world.
But the rights we enjoy in the physical world do not extend to our digital lives.
Privacy is a qualified and fundamental human right. This right is articulated in all of the major international and regional human rights declarations:
- United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) 1948, Article 12
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 1966, Article 17
- American Convention on Human Rights, Article 11
- American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, Article 5
- European Convention on Human Rights, Article 8
In fact, more than 130 countries have constitutional statements regarding the protection of privacy, in every corner of the world.
Despite near-universal acceptance that privacy is a right that carries the same credence as life itself, many of us remain numb to its persistent erosion; and the very agencies that we charge with protecting our ways of life are the ones responsible for their demise.
At ProPrivacy, we say that enough is enough. It's time for us, the people, to take up [proverbial] arms and fight for our right digital privacy. If you want to join the fight, you've come to the right place.
"It's time to recognise the internet as a basic human right. That means guaranteeing affordable access for all, ensuring internet packets are delivered without commercial or political discrimination, and protecting the privacy and freedom of web users regardless of where they live." ~ Sir Tim Berners-Lee
Who am I protecting my privacy from?
Broadly speaking, there are four immediate threats to digital privacy today:
Your internet service provider
Everything you do online is routed via your internet service provider (ISP). That means they have logs of every site you visit. Most people don't give this a second thought unless they are doing something that is legally or ethically questionable.
Those that dismiss ISP surveillance by claiming that they have 'nothing to hide' are looking at privacy through the wrong end of the telescope. We shouldn't all have to wave our right to privacy because of a few bad actors. And we shouldn't be afraid of being our true selves online for fear that it might fall outside the spectrum of 'normal behavior'.
Our inability to recognize that our own governments are directly threatening our digital privacy is perhaps the greatest sleight of hand and unspoken scandal in a generation. Even after the Snowden revelations, which revealed details of a global surveillance apparatus the likes of which were previously thought impossible, the average citizen didn't even pause for thought.
We now know the facts - every call we make, every email we send, every site we visit is potentially being harvested by government agencies; and yet we sit idly by.
The web is dominated by a handful of powerful companies. There are 63,000 Google searches being carried out every second; nearly 2.4 billion active users on Facebook, close to a third of the world's population. These services have become engrained in our social make up because they fulfil a need, they do it very well… and they are free at the point of use. All they ask for in return is unfettered access to your private data.
And it's a trade-off most of us are willing to make, because let's face it, these services undoubtedly enrich our digital lives – and if we have to give away some of our right to privacy in the process - so be it. Right?
Then there are malicious actors who are much more transactional, but just as invasive, in their approach to privacy. All of your private data, be it your name, your pet's name or your credit card number, is of value to someone.
The tools you need to protect your privacy
ProPrivacy aims to equip internet users with the tools and knowledge they need to maintain their privacy online. Below, we've listed our top five 'must have' tools for protecting your digital privacy.
Not every tool can protect your privacy against every threat, but used in conjunction with each other, you can dramatically reduce your online footprint and take a step towards reclaiming your digital privacy.
A good VPN
Of all the tools you should have in your privacy arsenal, a VPN should be at the very top of the list. VPNs or virtual private networks are designed to encrypt all of your web traffic and mask your IP address.
This prevents both your ISP and government agencies from monitoring your online activity. It also means that you can evade website blocks and other forms of censorship.
You can easily ‘spoof’ your location, gaining access to services not available in your region.
ProPrivacy (formerly BestVPN.com) was the first VPN review site on the market. We have industry leading comparison tools to help you find the right VPN for your needs. Take a look at our Best VPN Services 2019 list to find a VPN.
A secure browser
Browsers such as Chrome, Edge, and Safari collect user data actively and aggressively. They are, after all, owned by Google, Microsoft and Apple. These three providers enjoy a nearly 84% market share of web browsers. That means the chances are you are reading this article using one of the browsers.
Do yourself a favour and make this the last site you visit using an insecure browser. Head over to our Most Secure Browsers Guide to see which browsers and extensions you can trust to keep your privacy secure.
A decent ad blocker
At some point we’ve all faced the dreaded pop-up. Even great websites like ours, brimming with useful information, serve up the occasional ad (hey, we’ve got to keep the lights on somehow). Most of us can cope with an advert or two, but when commercial interests get in the way of user experience, you need a decent ad blocker.
Some pop ups are downright evil and will redirect you to pages that inject malware.
An ad blocker keeps both pesky advertisers and malicious actors at bay. Have a look at our Best Ad Blocker Guide for our top recommendations.
A solid anti-virus solution
All of the tools above can be viewed as proactive measures to protect your privacy. Anti-virus solutions are the reactive method of protecting your privacy. No matter how hard you try, no matter how much effort you put into protecting your personal data – viruses and malware are all but inevitable these days.
A lot of the malware found on the web is relatively benign. But malicious code has the potential to strip you of your privacy in ways you might never have thought possible. Anti-virus software is often the last line of defense between you and those that wish to do you harm.
Have a read of our recommended anti-virus solutions.
We are pro privacy
Our mission is to help users around the world reclaim their right to privacy through research, reviews, knowledge-sharing, investigations and direct action. We are willing to do whatever it takes to reverse this gross breach of law and the erosion of online privacy.
The internet is yours as much as it is anyone else's.
We invite you to explore our site, use our tools and read our reviews. If you have any questions at all, don't hesitate to get in touch. We aim to respond to every single question.
By the way, our site is funded through affiliate links, which means if you purchase certain products by clicking on a link, we make a commission. This doesn't affect our opinions in any way. Your clicks directly fund the work we do. Thank you.