Living in a Post-Snowden world: online searches and self-censorship on the rise

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 alt Photo by Matthias Zomer

The most prominent entity tracking you online is probably the United States government. As Edward Snowden famously revealed in 2013, not only is the NSA collecting tens of millions of phone records of US citizens, it’s also tracking online activity in a surveillance program called Prism. This program is plugged directly into the servers of nine internet firms, among which are Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and Microsoft.

A post-snowden world

All of us know, without doubt, that we’re being watched online. Is it altering our behavior at all? We still seem to use services like Google and Facebook, probably because the convenience outweighs the loss of privacy.

And yet, recent studies have shown that the revelation that the NSA is monitoring online activity has had a profound impact on some of our actions online. In particular, the pageviews on Wikipedia articles related to terrorism, such as “Al Qaeda” or “car bomb”, dropped drastically after the June 2013 release of Snowden’s leaked information.

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We may have accepted the trade-off of privacy for convenience, but it seems like online surveillance is still scaring us away from certain search terms and articles.

The internet doesn't have to be a dark, syringe-filled alley.

It could be the peaceful and private location that we want it to be. How many conversations, press articles, and flow of ideas and research will not happen anymore now that people fear that their online activity could put them at risk?

Take privacy into your own hands by supporting organizations and businesses that fight for your privacy, by raising awareness of the issue, and writing to our lawmakers. You deserve privacy, after all.