UK’s Internet Troll Policy: A threat to Freedom of Speech or a Better Protection for Individuals?

An image of a man's mouth sealed with 'freedom' note

Freedom of Speech is a serious matter. United Kingdom however are trying to, via new online laws, protect individuals who has felt threatened through social media. Will it violate Freedom of Speech?

The United Kingdom recently introduced new sentencing measures for Internet trolls found guilty of sending threatening or abusive messages online. However, many worry the new legislation may infringe on the civil liberties and freedom of speech of those simply expressing their opinions in an emphatic manner. The new legislation will allow serious offenses to be decided by the Crown Courts with a maximum sentence of 24 months, four times the previous standard sentence. Currently, these offenses are handled by local magistrates.

Why the Harsher Sentences?

The increase in penalties for internet trolls is directed at those who threaten to rape or kill through online communication. The threatening of celebrities and other high-profile figures has brought the issue to the forefront. For example, Chloe Madeley, the daughter of UK talk show host Judy Finnegan, recently received threatening tweets after she defended her mother’s comments about a rape case involving a footballer. Lawmakers feel the stiffer sentencing is warranted because “we would not permit such venom in person,” stated Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.

Concerns over Freedom of Speech

Although no one is defending online rape and death threats, experts warn that the new law could punish those that are simply expressing criticism. The legislation lacks balance in differentiating between abusers and those expressing their opinion. These concerns are not far-fetched. Even without the new maximum sentences, there have been cases where authorities have prosecuted people under the Public Order Act for questionable reasons.

For example, the 2012 case of Paul Chambers hinged on what he thought was a joke. After realizing the Robin Hood Airport was closed due to weather, he tweeted, “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your [expletive] together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!” He was convicted by a district judge and two judges upheld the conviction on appeal. A high court ultimately reversed his conviction, but not before he lost two jobs and spent the better part of two years engaged in his legal battle.

Many civil-liberties experts assert that true threats to an individual’s safety should be pursued through harassment laws, not communication legislation that can potentially infringe on the rights of those vehemently expressing their opinion or making what they think is a joke. Advocates for freedom of speech are concerned about comments from legislators like former Conservative MP Edwina Currie who stated that “people should learn to show restraint when making online comments.” While “showing restraint” may be an admirable goal, and direct threats should be taken seriously, who knows how slippery this slope is?

OrangeWebsite’s professionals closely monitor freedom of speech laws and cases around the world. We’ll closely watch the results of this legislation as it makes its way through Parliament. Contact us to learn more about our services.

How Safe are your Personal Data in Modern Online Society?

An image of hand writing 'online privacy' with black marker on transparent wipe board.

There is nothing wrong in being cautious when submitting your Personal Data on the Internet.

Facebook and Google are two of the biggest names on the internet today. What lots of people don’t know is how these websites who don’t sell anything can possibly make so much money.

The answer is advertising. But it goes a little bit deeper than that.

How Deep Does It Go?

The commodity that both Facebook and Google have in common is you, the users. These websites pay attention to the things that you like and dislike, which allows them to tailor ads to fit your taste and then to put those ads in bold colours right on your screen. That’s how these companies earn billions of dollars revenue annually: by working with companies to make sure you see the right ads that persuade you to go and buy their products.

Shouldn’t I Get Some Privacy on The Internet?

Lots of people wonder whether tracking their internet activity isn’t a violation of their privacy. The issue is that by using these services you’ve already given your consent for the sites to log and use most of your information.

You know those long, complicated user agreements that most of us just pass right over so we can finish setting up our accounts? If you read Facebook’s a little more carefully you find all sorts of things. For instance, if you don’t opt out of their advertising program then your name and profile image can be used to promote ads for pages you’ve liked. Additionally, information about your online activity can be sold, provided Facebook doesn’t give your name or other, more personal information out. What you like and the events that get your attention is all fair game.

While Facebook is a huge source of information, Google might be called the king of data mining. The search engine analyses what’s sent over Gmail and searched for on Google in order to determine what is trending at the moment. This information is then used to target ads and to try and get client products in front of a buying audience.

So What’s The Big Deal?

Data mining is primarily used for sales and advertising, but it can be used for more than that. Data mining can create a digital profile that makes it possible to assess job candidates, whether someone should be awarded custody of his or her children, or even (if some apps are to be believed) if someone is cheating on their spouse.

That’s the big deal regarding data mining, and Google and Facebook are at the forefront of the practice. It’s why many people who have realized how exposed social networking makes them have opted to share less and less of their information with the online community as well as the corporations who run it. It’s hard to maintain their privacy, but one of the chief methods they use is by giving away as little as they possibly can.

Learn more about information on online privacy, and how you can make changes to take extra caution, contact us today!

Understanding the Right for Privacy on the Internet

An image of young girl working on laptop at home covering man's face with hand.
An image of young girl working on laptop at home covering man's face with hand.

Limiting the amount of personal information on the internet can help to minimize the possible risks.

It seems like every time you check your newsfeed, there’s another story about someone’s privacy being violated online. Whether it was the GamerGate movement handing out Felicia Day’s personal information, the NSA collecting aggregate data from people online, or the hacktivist group Anonymous handing out information users thought was secure, it seems that online privacy is an easily-breached fence.

Just because privacy is regularly breached however doesn’t answer the bigger, more important question, do you have a right to privacy on the Internet?

What is Right to Privacy?

For those looking for the right to privacy in the American Constitution, stop searching because it’s not in print. The idea of the right to privacy is something that the U.S. Supreme Court has said is implied by other amendments in it, including the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 9th. The court argues that people have a right to keep their private lives private from the government. They have a right to not consent to unreasonable, warrantless searches, and to remain silent when they’re being asked questions without a representative.

What does It Mean on the Internet?

Most western governments have some sort of privacy law – but whether they’ve caught up with modern technology is another matter. The main issue when it comes to privacy on the internet isn’t only about government spying – by large, people’s information is not even being stolen from them, rather most people’s personal information is already out there for anyone who knows how to find it.

Let’s take an obvious example, Facebook. When you join the social network you agreed to its terms of service. This includes collecting your information, keeping records of everything that you post and keeping things you’ve deleted on file for 90 days or more in many cases. It also means that your information as a user – what you like, what you follow, your age, gender, pretty much of everything including your name and other personal details – can be sold to the highest bidder. This is called data mining and advertisers are typically use it to figure out what target audience likes, so they can create the best possible ads to entice those groups. Anyone who has ever seen an ad in their feed obviously targeted to them has probably figured this out by now.

That’s not all that is going on in a social network. For instance, you may have your privacy settings so that only friends can see your contents. But if just one of your friends likes or shared a post, then the control is out of your hand and now anyone in that friend’s network can see what happened. This was a major issue of a teacher whose pictures of herself at a brewery cost her job, even though she was certain none of her students could access her Facebook page or photos because of her privacy settings. They couldn’t, but it was a parent who found her page.

One Great Big Modern Mess

Just as British children today might not see why Brave New World is a terrifying book – since there are cameras everywhere and invasion of privacy is commonplace. It is often difficult for people to understand what they’re giving up in the age of the Internet. As soon as a picture, status or piece of personal information is put up somewhere on the web, it is actually been logged, archived and stored. If someone can legitimately find that information without violating any user agreements, that is not a violation of your privacy on the internet because you are the one who put it out there in the first place – it is also why law enforcement can use your Facebook feed to track you down and apprehend you. Same goes for corporate data mining – nothing you put up on a social network hosted by someone else is truly belongs to you anymore.

No Data Online is 100% Secure

An important thing for internet users is to understand that no data that is connected to world-wide-web is 100% secure. No matter if the service where the information is submitted, is using the latest security software and patches, hackers may still have their way to break in – and it has happened before numerous times with well-known internet services. If you have highly classified data, including pictures or documents you don’t want ANYONE to see, keeping those on offline storage is the only completely secure solution.

So What Can I Do?

For starters what you can do is limiting or stop putting your information out there if you don’t want the world to see it. Most of us are not willing to do that, so at the very least you should know how your information is being used and make sure you know what you’re actually agreeing to.

Finally, there are examples where invasion of privacy on the internet contributes a real crime. For instance, finding someone’s home address by checking public records is not illegal. Indiscriminately dispersing that information along with associated threat had constituted several crimes, like the rape and death threats faced by many online feminist activists. At a minimum level, threats like this should get the user banned and the individual may also be brought on charges like reckless endangerment, libel, or defamation of character, depending on the circumstances.

So even if you don’t always have a right to privacy on the internet, you do still have a right to safety. Many believed that is just not enough and numerous questions remain about digital law enforcement, at least it’s a good awareness to start with.

Find out more information about improving your privacy on the internet, please contact us. We will be happy to answer your questions and help you any way we can with this process.

The Risks of Being a Whistleblower

An image of a whistleblower with his co-workers in black and white.
An image of a whistleblower with his co-workers in black and white.

Being a whistleblower can also be very difficult in terms of the stress and anxiety associated with standing up to powerful corporate or government interests.

We all like to think that we would do the right thing if we knew about an illegal or harmful act taking place in our midst. But when we discover our employers doing something wrong, whether it’s ignoring safety regulations, stealing wages, or committing other crimes, it can be extremely difficult to blow the whistle. That’s because there are often some significant risks involved in becoming a whistleblower. These risks include;

Employer Retaliation

For someone who’s considering blowing the whistle on their employer, a primary fear is that said employer will retaliate against them. While there are laws in place meant to protect whistleblowers, they are often not enough. This means that those who point out wrong doing might be faced with a hostile work environment, scheduling upsets and demotion, or termination on a false pretence — or even outright termination in a place without strong employee-protection laws. For those with a family to support, this can be a very daunting risk.

Industry Blacklisting

So what if one employer gives you the boot, there’s a whole industry out there, right? Maybe, but if you’re known as a whistleblower then even companies who don’t have anything to hide may be reluctant to hire you. It may be necessary for you to leave your field entirely, or it might mean that the only job you can get is an entry-level position from which you won’t be promoted. In extreme circumstances whistleblowers simply won’t be able to get a new job, period.

Legal Consequences

While speaking up about illegal activity is a noble thing to do, it’s also possible for whistleblowers to be caught up in the punishment that comes with the crime. Often, they’ll have to face charges of their own for being part of the crime in the first place, which can make them even more reluctant to stand up and say something (even though blowing the whistle may result in a lighter sentence).

Professional Violations

In many cases being a whistleblower may violate a contract or a professional obligation. In these instances, there may be additional penalties such as civil suits for breaching agreements and confidences.

But Whistleblowers Get Paid, Right?

It’s true that whistleblowers are entitled to a percentage of the settlement of any case in which they are involved. The problem is that even though there may be large sums of money involved, it can take years (sometimes decades) for these cases to be completely settled. In the meantime, a whistleblower has to deal with the negative consequences of the decision while waiting for that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

At the end of the day, being a whistleblower is a very risky endeavour. We can certainly help you to remain anonymous with your website. Contact us, in case you have any questions regarding our services or your privacy online.

Privacy on the Internet: Your Selfie is a Gold Mine for Marketers

An image of smiling friends taking selfie photo from nightclub with billiard.
An image of smiling friends taking selfie photo from nightclub with billiard.

The self-portrait you thought was private, could be used without your permission for marketing purposes.

We all love selfies. You constantly see the ones your friends take in your newsfeed and you post yours on Facebook and Twitter every chance you get. You take your self-portraits anywhere: at stores, restaurants, work, school, or the gym. You even love when your kids put their photos online, so you always press the ‘Like’ button.

There’s just one small catch, says an article from the Wall Street Journal. Several companies are now using your self-portraits for marketing purposes. They look for ones where you’re holding a clearly identifiable product, such as a Starbucks cup, or wearing a noticeable logo. And they prefer photos where you’re smiling, because it implies that you feel good about the things you’re wearing, holding, or consuming. Even the background is useful, since it shows these companies where and how you like to use their products.

Basically, this pictorial information is a treasure trove for market researchers. They can base new campaigns on the context in which their products are being used, and even send targeted ads to you specifically. Your selfie isn’t just a form of self-expression — it’s a promotion.

The privacy controls on Facebook generally prevent picture mining companies from using the images you post there. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, or Pinterest. Pictures on those sites become grist for the marketing mill.

There are no clear laws to protect you against misuse of your photos, so about all you can do is write to the offending sites to express your displeasure. In the meantime, putting your selfies only on Facebook can offer you some measure of privacy. You can also encourage your kids, friends, and relatives to do the same.

Find out more information about improving your privacy on the Internet, please contact us. We will be happy to answer your questions and help you any way we can with this process.