Monday, 16 May 2016

Restricted mobility

Another example of restrictions in digital mobility is China's great firewall.  Chinese citizens face severe restrictions to their online activities. However, it isn't only traditionally oppressive governments and regimes that restrict people's digital mobility.  The current UK government is trying it's best to remove our digital autonomy too.

Image result for mobilityMobility is crucial to privacy and is generally considered a basic human right.  If you're not free to go (more or less) where you want, it becomes much more difficult to have secrets.  This is especially worying when governments place restrictions on their citizens' mobility because it becomes more difficult to express and share negative views about that government and to effect change.

It's not only governments that can restrict people's mobility.  Other groups can do so too (more on that in a moment) but mobility can also be restricted by circumstance.  Illness, lack of money and responsibility can restrict mobility, so it's important to support people with such restrictions.  The most important tool we have for this is the internet and digital mobility should also be considered a basic human right.

Needless to say, therefore, governments and oppressive organisations are keen to restrict their citizen's digital mobility as well.  Here's a particularly illustrative example:
When people sign up to fight for ISIS, their passports and mobile phones are immediately taken away.  There are many who immediately regret their decision to join ISIS, so both their physical and digital mobility are severely restricted throughout the term of their military and religious training. 
Once training is complete, their phones are returned.  Make no mistake, though, this isn't a return of digital mobility; by then the soldiers know better than to use their phones to contact the outside world.

First, there's the porn filter.  Everyone in the UK who gets a new internet connection must inform their ISP if they wish to opt out of using a filter that supposedly screens out pornography.  Aside from the fact that porn filters don't work, having to opt out of the filter is an oppressive mood, albeit a fairly mild one.  I'd personally rather avoid telling the government that I want to opt in to porn, not because I'm embarrassed but because it's information that the authorities might use against me in the future.

Then there's the government's determination to ban encryption without a backdoor.  The possibility that governments (or criminals) can snoop our private conversations at will is a more severe limitation on digital mobility.

This is why it's so important to oppose these measures.  They compromise our digital mobility and, as usual, the most vulnerable members of society suffer the most.

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