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India's Open Tech Communities Work to Increase Public Knowledge of Online Privacy

Mozilla L10N Hackathon in Pune, India. Photo by Subhashish Panigrahi via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Subhashish Panigrahi is the Asia Community Catalyzer for Mozilla Corporation, a volunteer Mozillian, and a Global Voices author and translator.

Issues relating to internet security and privacy affect netizens all over the world, but they are often especially acute in developing nations like India. It is estimated that 50 million people in India will begin using each year between now and 2020. And while the majority of online interactions happen in English, literacy in English still hovers somewhere between 10-30% in India, and there is a concerning dearth of content online in other dominant languages of India such as Hindi, Bengali and Tamil. These and other challenges leave Indians particularly vulnerable to the online security threats.

Over the past year, free and open source communities in India have built a campaign to increase public understanding of online privacy issues both with online and public outreach events.

This effort began in January 2016 with “January Privacy Month,” an extended celebration of Data Privacy Day, in which they organized an online campaign along with several city-level events intended people about security risks that they might be facing on the Internet, and how to protect themselves from vulnerabilities. Data Privacy Day has gained momentum in India and scores of other countries over the last few years, and plays a great role in educating both individuals and organizations about privacy laws.

Last year, the campaign shared one privacy tip per day for 31 days throughout the month. Mozilla campaign organizer Ankit Gadgil described Mozilla's 2017 efforts:

This year…we have made this campaign more open and global. Mozilla communities from Brazil, Italy and Czech Republic are actively participating….We are educating participants of offline events about marketing Firefox and other Mozilla products so that the users can have hands-on experience of using these tools that help protect their privacy. The third thing is, we are encouraging everyone that participate an offline event to blog about their learning. For instance, there was a Maker Fest in in the Indian state of Gujarat recently where they used Mozilla products to teach about privacy.

The campaign aso ran a hashtag #PrivacyAware post-campaign to engage with the participants. The campaign also sought to make users aware of browser-based security solutions, particularly those that are fully accessible to people with disabilities.

Stay safe while browsing! A few tools we recommend:

  • Adblock Plus is one of the most popular extensions that is used to block ads, disable visitor tracking and stop sites from spreading malware. The extension is available for most popular browsers, including Chrome and Opera.
  • Privacy Badger is another popular add-on for security, also developed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The extension is available for most popular browsers, including Chrome and Opera.

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