Most students now entering college grew up as digital natives. Their middle school presentations required PowerPoint, their high school classes were equipped with Wi-Fi and their college application process was nearly paperless. Compared to previous generations, they have enjoyed unprecedented access to information networks and platforms for global collaboration.
Still, no matter how familiar American youth are with the Internet, there’s one aspect of digital living that might have escaped their expertise: privacy. Parents, frustrated with their children’s rampant sharing on social media, might think this obvious –You posted a picture of what last night?! Yet, indiscretion on social media is just the tip of the iceberg. Far more important is the relationship linking the Internet, information security and digital freedom.
For example, these days it’s customary for many to sit down at a coffee shop and use the available public Wi-Fi. The convenience makes it possible to check your email or shop online while finishing an afternoon latte. What many people – including tech-savvy teens – don’t know is that using public networks can expose your data to nearby snoopers. By latching onto your network activity, fraudsters can infiltrate your online accounts or use your credit cards.
Similarly, many computer and smartphone users often download new software without a second thought. Yet within some apps lurk the danger of “ransomware,” a malicious type of program that will lock down a device until the user pays a sum of money to a third party. People’s increased reliance on electronics has made them more than ready to pay up: The first three months of 2016 alone saw Americans make more than $209 million in ransomware payments.
Dealing with such security threats requires improving public education and awareness, and, while new legislation could help, it’s important to respect and protect the right we all have to privacy.
The ExpressVPN Future of Privacy Scholarship
As a company founded on the values of security, privacy and freedom, ExpressVPN wants to empower the next generation to think critically about how they use the Web. To that end, we’ve created The ExpressVPN Future of Privacy Scholarship. The scholarship will award $4,000 total in prizes to current U.S. high school, college and/or graduate school students.
Applicants simply need to answer, in 450-600 words, one of the following prompts:
- We Own the Future: Picture yourself in 2050. How will the evolution of the Internet affect our social structure and/or the authority governments have over citizens?
- Privacy Advocates: Discuss the logic of this famous quote by Edward Snowden: “Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”
- Privacy in Real Life: As you go about your life, think of three ways privacy, or a lack thereof, impacts you personally. Would you be better off or worse if the situation were reversed?
Winners of the scholarship will see their work featured on a variety of platforms.
As there are no application constraints in terms of major or intended career path, we hope students from a variety of fields will see the value of thinking deeply about the complex moral and social issues surrounding the Web. The Internet has rapidly become enmeshed in most industries. Everyone will be affected by how its networks are used and abused, managed and regulated. We hope that the ExpressVPN Future of Privacy Scholarship will add new voices to the conversation.
About the Author
David Lang is the communications manager at ExpressVPN, a leading VPN provider and privacy advocate whose core mission is to make it easy for everyone to use the Internet with security, privacy and freedom.