Humanism aims for the full development of all people. To that end, I think all Humanists should intensely value privacy and security, including internet security.
Privacy is the ability to keep things to yourself, like a journal, or only to people who should access it, like communication between you and your bank, or you and your spouse. Atheists should immediately see why this important. In some countries the government will punish people for being atheists. In other countries, people will be attacked, lose their jobs, or be effectively disqualified from public office. Raif Badawi was also targeted for speaking against the dominate religion in Saudi Arabia.
The ability to write down your thoughts can be an important part of the deconversion process. Being able to privately share them is also important. In modern times, this requires a private process that is secured.
Privacy means that any service that you use is built to keep communications private. Some companies work efficiently with governments to handover information to that government, like the WeChat from the Chinese company Tencent, which also makes their own social media websites. Google has shown itself to work hard within the law to prevent giving information to governments, but does comply when legally compelled. And they have a lot of information! All SMS text messages are also easily readable by hackers and government, and SMS histories are often kept in databases that may be hacked.
Privacy centric apps like Wire and Signal messengers are private by design. They have very little information on you because they encrypt everything. This means they cannot give much information to the government. Signal keeps the least amount of information on you. But Wire allows you to have an account without a cell phone number that is connected to your credit card and home address. (You must create the account through the website, however.)
Another key issue is security. It doesn’t matter if everyone keeps things private and is trustworthy if hackers (criminals or government) can get access to it. You need a strong password. Consider using a password manager, and second factor authentication (but not SMS). On top of all of that, the service you use needs to be secured. The company needs to have used proven encryption technology (not Telegram) and to take security seriously (not Facebook). SMS has no security, and is easily readable.
Wire and Signal also have an advantage here. They don’t store your messages on their server like Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, Telegram and Slack.
Why We Should Take Privacy and Security Seriously
We should all be moving to more secure and privacy focused services, especially for communication. Some ask ‘why? I have nothing to hide!’ Ahh, but you do!
- Keep your private data private. When you have to send sensitive data that could be used for identity theft, send it on something encrypted. When venting about co-workers or family, make it harder for hackers to blackmail you with it, in a reversal of the BitLocker ransom. Be able to express yourself without worrying if someone else will find out. This is everything from banking information to sexting.
- Keep other people’s data private. Wire has business account that competes with Slack, keeping trade secrets and customer data better protected. If your company is using email or Facebook to send personal information about customers around, this is a problem. And it could cause problems for you. Protect other people’s data and protect yourself from being held responsible for leaking that data to hackers or other random people.
- To make sure these private and secure services become more widespread for atheists and others who need this stuff to be easy to access. By using and advocating for privacy and security, we make it easier for people to get.
- And most importantly, what if in a few years you find yourself as the protagonist in an action movie where evil government agencies target you for being a thread, even if you aren’t one. You need to be able to communicate and organize in a way the antagonist characters wouldn’t be able to trace.
If we foster a culture of privacy and security, we will have it if we need. Or when we need it.
[Edit to point out SMS is also easy to compromise.]