Threats to Online Privacy

I have a new article for Al Jazeera on threats to email privacy. (OK, it is not really that new, but I’ve been too busy arguing with the daughter of Uzbekistan’s dictator to update my website – read about it here and here.) I argue that the assumption that email is being monitored is dangerous in and of itself due to its deleterious impact on trust:

On social media networks, we have come to expect that what is private one day may be public the next, and that what we erased years ago may suddenly reappear in an archive. But this expectation did not hold, until recently, for email. Most people assume that the audience of their email is the person with whom they are emailing, and that once you delete the email, it is gone.

Security experts decry this viewpoint as hopelessly naïve. “Don’t put anything in an email that you wouldn’t send to your mother,” says cyber security expert Jeff Ahlerich, in a manner yet again reminiscent of an elder scolding a child.

But we are not children. We are adults who cannot possibly maintain the energy or fortitude to police our every online interaction. That doing so is viewed as common sense raises basic questions of how we want to live our lives. We should not be asking how to police our emails, but what it means that we expect our emails to be policed – and what this expectation does to our ability to interact, express ourselves and change.

Read the full article on Al Jazeera. And stay tuned for more updates on Gulnara.

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