Digital Freedom In 2023: A Year of Challenges: As we near the close of 2023, the cybersecurity scene has witnessed major changes in digital freedom.

Surfshark’s Research Hub released an analysis, delving into the complex details of these changes. It covers GDPR issues in big tech, explores the global impacts of internet shutdowns, and spotlights government requests to Google as well as data protection challenges in autocratic nations.

“Exploring GDPR compliance and tech ethics, our 2023 digital freedom research underscores the need for a sophisticated approach to dominant technologies.

Challenges posed by Meta’s Threads and the “Pay or Okay” initiative necessitate a reevaluation of existing digital strategies.

Our commitment endures in cultivating an ethical digital landscape that prioritizes user privacy and responsible tech use — an innovation that respects everyone’s non-negotiable right to privacy,” says Agneska Sablovskaja, Lead Researcher at Surfshark.

Potential violations of users’ data privacy: In 2023, ChatGPT surged in popularity. At the same time, there were concerns over the AI giant’s questionable data collection practices and safety.

This worry resulted in Italy’s temporary ban on ChatGPT and the creation of ChatGPT task forces by the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) and the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, potentially used personal data without consent and lacked age verification tools for children.

Meta has also faced scrutiny for potential GDPR violations. Allegedly, Meta’s Threads platform collected sensitive information without clear legal justification, possibly sharing it within the Meta group and hindering users from exercising GDPR rights.

Finally, Meta’s decision to apply the so-called “Pay or Okay” approach in the EU raised further debates on legality, raising concerns about user data control and protection.

Addressing these issues is imperative to safeguard user trust, ensure compliance with data protection regulations, and foster responsible and ethical use of advanced technologies.

Digital governance landscape: Surfshark’s global Digital Quality of Life Index showcased that democracies took the lead in data safety efforts.

Autocratic countries, lacking robust data protection laws, fell behind in comparison. Hungary stood out as a notable exception, benefiting from its EU membership and adherence to GDPR compliance. This exception underscored the critical role of legislative frameworks.

The digital landscape faced another stark reality as 4.2 billion individuals grappled with Internet shutdowns in the first half of 2023. This number encapsulated the daily struggles of people in nations like China and the UAE, where internet restrictions have become an unfortunate norm. Globally, 42 new restrictions highlighted the pervasive impact of digital access.

Additionally, Surfshark’s Research Hub delved into the escalating trend of government content removal requests to Google.

The findings revealed an astounding global surge, with 91,000 requests in 2022 alone — nearly 13 times the number in 2013.

Russia claimed the top spot with 215,000 requests during this period, outstripping other nations significantly. In contrast, South Korea submitted a mere fraction of Russia’s requests.


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