9:46 PM Comment0 Comments

The two biggest policy concerns surrounding online activities are most likely privacy and freedom of speech. Citizens around the world are fighting for their right to privacy and free speech on the net but also counterproductively, fighting to monitor and keep criminals out. So obviously, with these two opposing forces it seems like we're doing an endless dance back and forth. In good news, Standford students are designing a "Do-Not-Track" software for internet browsers. As it stands websites collect information about users which allows them to better advertise and market towards them. This software would stop third party websites from collecting this information, protecting internet users' privacy. Combined with legislation (which is in the works) to force companies to respect the "Do-Not-Track" software, this will be a great step forward in the pursuit of internet privacy.

Unfortunately, freedom of speech on the internet has been taking a hit in the last couple of weeks. As we watch individuals gaining more privacy we see the US government's privacy being violated with the latest WikiLeaks release of US diplomatic cables. Of course, I wholly support WikiLeaks in its quest for transparent international relations (provided that innocent names are redacted). The treatment which WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange are receiving in the international community is one which is sad for the state of freedom of speech on the internet. A year ago President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the freedom of information which the internet provides (in criticism of Chinese censorship) however now, faced with WikiLeaks' latest leak, they are condemning the very idea of freedom of information. Meanwhile, companies, like Amazon and Paypal are dropping their support of WikiLeaks supposedly because of violations of Terms of Services, however as the list grows it becomes reasonable to question what the motivation is and who gave the executive order. Whoever is behind the attacks on WikiLeaks, the outcome is the same, one step back.

On a similar story concerning freedom of speech on the internet, outshined by the stories on the leaked cables, the US government recently seized dozens of internet domains responsible for sale of counterfeit products as well as distribution of pirated material. In the list of websites shut down was bitTorrent's search engine as well as a number of websites which were dedicated to promotion of hip hop music. The law which was passed allowing the US government to take down these websites essentially allows the US government to block any website which hosts copyrighted material, ranging from piratebay, to youtube, even to Facebook and other websites which allow for the storage of information. Again, this appears to be another step back.

Hopefully, these latest developments will result in greater awareness for the cause of freedom of speech and privacy on the internet.

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