The Observer newspaper has teamed up with Amnesty International to highlight the repression individuals face by regimes that control access to the Internet. The campaign web site aims to raise awareness of the fact that significant numbers of people in countries such as China, Vietnam, Tunisia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria are repressed, imprisoned or tortured simply for using the Internet to criticise their government and for calling for the basic human rights that many of us take for granted. But more than this, IT companies in the so-called developed world such as Microsoft, Google and Yahoo are complicit with oppressive regimes by helping to build the infrastructure to help monitor individual freedom and suppress free information. You can support this campaign by displaying support via your own unrepressed web site or weblog and by signing the online pledge:

“I believe the Internet should be a force for political freedom, not repression. People have the right to seek and receive information and to express their peaceful beliefs online without fear or interference.

I call on governments to stop the unwarranted restriction of freedom of expression on the Internet and on companies to stop helping them do it.”

In an interesting parallel development that highlights the increasing use of the Internet as a tool for surveillance by own own supposedly non-repressive governments, today’s Observer also carries a piece about the UK National Identity Register. It doesn’t stop there, one of the UK largest retail outlests, the supermaket chain Tesco has created a database, called Crucible, that contains a mass of data not only about your shopping habits and lifestyle choices, harmless so you might think, but by tapping into other government sources of information it contains information on every household in the UK, whether they are a Tesco customer or not. While you may not be being repressed right now, you are being watched.