Twenty years ago, privacy was somewhat of an easy thing. All you had to do to stay out of someone’s personal business was to muster up enough self control to not go rifling through their stuff in the middle of the night.
But what happens when the Internet enters the picture? What happens when “stuff” starts to take on more than one definition? Over time, the web has turned into a virtual space where most of us spend hours and hours sending e-mails, writing projects, posting files, and talking to friends And since we’re alone in the room whenever we surf the web, many assume that this information is kept private. Spoiler alert. It isn’t.
The National Security Association is notorious for using spyware to tap into e-mail accounts, video conferences, and browsing activity. While they use “national security” to justify intruding on the private lives of thousands of individuals who have nothing to do with matters of national security, many Americans are outraged. They believe “spying” of any kind— even online— is a privacy breach, but past legislature aimed at curbing the spying powers of the NSA has died on the Senate floor. So, the government wins again. Or does it?
Enter Detekt. It’s a free, open-source app that checks your computer for spyware. Created by Amnesty International, a human rights organization that considers privacy a human right, the software “represents a strike back against governments who are using information obtained through surveillance to arbitrarily detain, illegally arrest, and even torture human rights defends and journalists.”
Detekt may have an even greater impact outside of the United States. In countries where Internet surveillance is used to squelch political expression and organized protests before they happen, Detekt has the power to secure the devices of Internet activists and, in doing so, prevent the arrest, detainment, or even death of individuals trying to enact social change.
While the app itself still has its kinks, and only runs on certain devices, Detekt and its creators send an important message to security forces worldwide. That is, the online presence of individuals is private to them, and using spyware to tap into it is no different than breaking into a residence. Like I said earlier, the Internet is just another public space. And we have rights there too.
To find out more about Detekt, visit https://resistsurveillance.org. If you run Windows on your computer, you can try it out too.