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Privacy Perspectives | The rise of encryption in Turkey is not just about tech Related reading: NIST Privacy Framework nearing completion





Turkey's digital literacy rate is arguably low, but every once in a while it takes a big leap forward.

More often than not, Turkey enters into a cycle where its public institutions try to cope up with the new norms of the digital age. It was precisely the case in 2014 when Twitter and YouTube were frequently censored amid allegations of massive corruption in the government. Back then, the enemy was social media.

That was the rise of anonymous browsing. It was then that people became experts of DNS, VPN, and TOR overnight.

Today, we are witnessing the rise of private communications.

In the aftermath of the coup attempt, Turkey has declared a state of emergency, and tens of thousands of people have been arrested since. Because of the atmosphere created by this rather unpredictable storm, people have started to care deeply about the tools they use for the purposes of communication. After all, observation does change behaviour.

Digital Rights, a platform where volunteers, including yours truly, review and summarize the privacy policies of technology services in Turkish language- had a 96-percent increase on its monthly traffic since July 15th, 2016. Unsurprisingly, WhatsApp and Telegram are by far the most viewed services.

That is not all.

People are also gradually abandoning the tools that depend on traditional network technologies (e.g. SMS, phone calls). Instead, secure messaging and voice-over-IP apps are now preferred for even daily communications. There is no empirical data on this yet but one would see this trend simply by looking around in Turkey.

The Rise of Encryption

The main instrument that lies at the heart of what is explained above is, obviously, encryption and that is indeed on the rise in Turkey. But it is important to remember that this rise is not in the technical sense, but rather in terms of "encryption literacy," if you will.

format_quote“... unless there are revolutionary conditions it is simply not possible to control mass interception with legislation and policy.”

“... even if the people have the best of intentions, it doesn’t matter. The architecture is the truth.”

Such is argued in Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet by Julian Assange and Jacob Appelbaum, which calls to mind the idea of code is law suggested by Lawrence Lessig. Encryption is slowly becoming the law in Turkey, and this is made possible by the very actions of those that were hoping for the opposite effect.

It is a long suggested argument that technology is a living organism which solves the very problems it creates. On one hand, the internet allowed surveillance in an unprecedented scale, but on the other, it was not long before technology struck back with the solution. Encryption enabled the citizens of the cyber world (i.e. netizens) to evade the prying eyes of third parties. Now, the same is adopted widely by the people of Turkey.

Truly, there is an evolutionary balance to the nature of technology. And it seems that this balance is not only achieved by technical advancements but also through social change.

photo credit: Istanbul via photopin (license)


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