Around the world, censorship continues to grow and expand as the capability of technology increases. We’ve seen China develop state of the art deep packet inspection techniques that allow them to isolate Twitter civil rights activists, and we’ve seen other countries like Russia block websites and encrypted messaging apps at a similar scale. But it’s not just important to be aware of these countries and how they are controlling data, but also to be aware of how these countries are directed affected by the US.
The US was once respected as a good place for privacy, with regulations preventing ISPs from harvesting and selling mass amounts of data. Additionally, the United States proposed a strategy in 2018 to protect an open internet globally. This proposal was signed by many countries–like Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and the UK.
However, while the US has made efforts to help the free internet, it’s also guilty of the same crimes as other censored countries. Profit is often the only end goal. Over the past year many regulations protecting the end user went up in flames as ISPs and telecom companies took over to increase the bottom line without any thought for user privacy. Alongside privacy crises within the country, US tech companies continue to grow in scope and size moving outward–expanding into other countries where we can see a direct negative influence of traded technology. Free speech is severely limited in countries where surveillance technology has become mass scale as in the case of deep packet inspection blockades. Websites are blocked by firewalls, and users are isolated and jailed for speaking their mind. The internet, once a tool for free speech, is now being exploited by authoritarian governments to oppress and intimidate.
There are multiple accounts of US technology being sold to other countries creating a negative impact. One recent example is the U.S GateKeeper Intelligent Security firm selling facial recognition technology to Saudi Arabia. The tech is highly advanced, capable of picking out faces even within tinted windows.
The same tech also been sold to the United Arab Emirates and with the main objective to help authorities hunt down specific individuals. Technology is no longer and perhaps has never been isolated to one country, and the effects are starting to become dangerous.
Technology at large, affects the entire world, and as of now, by selling advanced surveillance tools to countries that censor and manipulate the press at massive scales– the United States is only perpetuating the age of digital authoritarianism that we are seeing take over most of the globe.
How can we prevent the spread of censorship, surveillance, and government internet control? Well for starters, US companies need to take a different approach to how they export technology and digital services to other countries.
Do we want to implement regulations protecting user privacy within the country, and how can we discourage private companies from trying to export surveillance technology that can harm citizens in other countries? Limiting tech companies and how they sell their technology is no easy feat. Even well-respected companies like Apple, are contributing to the censorship regime in China by willfully removing iOS apps from the app store that help citizens keep their privacy, like TorGuard VPN.