There’s no doubt that the Internet is one of the greatest inventions of mankind. During the last 20 years, it has become the most popular way of communicating and the easiest way to find any kind of information.
Search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo guide us through a mountain of data. Skype, Facebook and Twitter keep us connected, anywhere and at any time. We’re able to share our opinions with a large number of people and to be at several places at the same time.
People become millionaires, stars, revolutionaries and leaders through the Internet.
Everyone has the possibility to raise his or her voice and get heard.
And that’s precisely the fear of many undemocratic systems and regimes.
Pretending to protect one’s own people from the Internet’s dangerous influences, governments censor or block websites, and information gets filtered, manipulated and deleted. Users get put under surveillance and are threatened if they behave suspiciously.
Our online future decided in Dubai
Last week, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) hosted the World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai. The ITU, an institution of the United Nations (U.N.), suggests guidelines for worldwide telecommunications, decides who owns what radio frequency, and determines how toll calls will be paid. As a special institution of the U.N., member states can influence the ITU directly.
Old-fashioned telecommunications have become less important over the last few years. The big question is: Should the ITU attempt to control the Internet and its data flow?
What can you do?
One way to surf the Internet anonymously is via so-called Virtual Private Network (VPN) services. With VPN, you obtain a new IP address and surf on the provider’s server. The link to the Web sites you visit is like a tunnel, shielded and protected from access by third parties. Even in public WiFi hotspots at bars, restaurants and airports, your data is protected.
But is VPN software actually legal?
Although the conference in Dubai is over, you can still make your voice heard. Whoever wants to sign a petition against possible control of the Internet can do so via avaaz.org: http://www.avaaz.org/en/hands_off_our_internet_i/