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Violation of Privacy in the Digital Era

Discuss about the Individuals Desire Privacy.

Privacy is a hot topic for tech companies nowadays. With the reduction of data charges and increased proliferation of broadband in developing economies, privacy has gained significant attention over the years. Huge amount of information is stored online now and this marked the beginning of digital era.  Although the digital era has thrown up significant opportunities for the masses and also has significant contribution in changing their lifestyles but this has some side effects [6].  This revolution also has thrown opportunities to cyber criminal and also to government officials to spy on the life of normal citizens [7]. Celebrities are also not immune from the ravages that this technology era brings. Their personal life is being affected because of this. This essay will discuss privacy in general and will also provide an insight into privacy for celebrities.

Recently, there was uproar over leakage of data form millions of Facebook users and it was also argued that it was used for political purposes. There is also a need to know that just by driving down the street important privacy issues are also raised too. A smart phone user’s location is always tracked whether they want to or not. Recently, Google admitted that location of a particular user is tracked even when the location settings are turned off [9]. This particular case is classic example of violation of privacy rights but the sad thing is that there is nothing that a common citizen can do. It is true that many scholars contend the fact that privacy is not absolute since privacy in legal terms is defined as being amorphous as it constitutes everything from dignity, free movement, religion and liberty [2].  The next portion of this paragraph will talk about a browser’s stance on improving privacy of its users.  Users who normally do not pay attention to technology are also taking privacy on the internet seriously.  There is not a single user who would like to be watched without consent.  Popular companies that offer web browsers such as Microsoft and Google are often on the wrong foot. Business needs often triumph ethical issues for these companies. Often methods used in data collection by these companies are controversial and these companies are largely unapologetic about that fact [10]. Firefox which is a browser is developed by a non-profit organization Mozilla has no interest in collecting and distributing user data [8]. For example, when users try to install Google chrome a page is there asking them to enter account information. This should not be the case for installing a browser.  Both Microsoft and Google prompts user to sign up for accounts. This is where for getting free service, users end up paying with their digital freedom. Hoards of passwords, data and user history are tied up with Microsoft and Google.  For Mozilla, far less data is tied with Firefox and astonishingly most data can be easily exported and there are security extensions which work cross browser.  Google chrome which is the most widely used browser supports ‘do not track’ but the fact is that it is not easily accessible. This is hidden under advanced settings and upon clicking it will deliver long string of word stating that the feature may or may not change behavior of a website [1].  Legal enforcement of the idea is not there and it is just laughable to think that Google will implement the very feature for its own products and services.  The reason is very simple on why the rule is not being implemented.  Companies like Microsoft and Google make money by using user data for advertising.  

Tech Companies and Privacy


Mozilla does not have any interest in collecting user data since it does not sell advertising.  The company’s policy states that what it does with user data and how long it retains the data. They are far more transparent than giant conglomerates like Google.  Actually, there is no competitor that challenges the hegemony of conglomerates like Microsoft and Google. The final portion of this essay will talk about privacy in the life of celebrities and why it matters.  An online search for any celebrities will reveal images and stories from appearances in red carpet and what they eat for breakfast. It is clear that media has interest in publishing images and stories and they do it for money but with the ever expanding digital technology, professional and private lives of celebrities are scrutinized even more.  Everyone is guaranteed freedom of expression and right to privacy by human rights convention. As an example, let’s take the example of Kate Middleton. In the year 2012, a French magazine published topless photos of Duchess of Cambridge.  It seemed that the photo was taken with the help of long lens camera [3].  A statement released by the palace indicated that this was considered as an excess by the press and it reminded them about the excesses done by the media during the life of Princess of Wales. On the magazine part, they gave a lame excuse that it was done on basis of public interest.  This was by far the lamest excuse. Justice got served by the French court when the court decided in favor of the royal palace and awarded them compensation.  The court’s decision showed that distinction must be made between public interest and what actually is that interest.  Celebrities need media attention to promote their upcoming films or series. This very reason urges newspapers and people to question whether celebrities have the right to criticize media when they are the ones trying to garner more media attention.  An example would showcase the above stated fact. An actor couple (Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas) sold exclusive rights to a magazine for publishing their wedding photos [4]. However, a different magazine obtained their wedding photos secretly and published it.  This caused a tension when they tried to assert right to privacy before a court since they had already sold the rights for publishing photographs. The high court ruled that intrusion on the couple’s privacy cannot be justified.  However, there was a twist in the tale. In a major blow to privacy campaigners, court stressed that ruling was based on grounds of commercial confidentiality.  The ruling was not based on the grounds of right to privacy. Upon further research, it is established that the real problem lies with private individuals online and not the print version of newspapers. As an example, a popular case known as PJS, a warning was given by the court in order to prevent a story which provided detailed information about sexual encounters of a person married to someone in the entertainment industry.  There were several people to point out that warning put out by the court was not effective at all since the PJS has been doing the rounds online several times [5].  There is no clear remedy available for the celebrities when their privacies are infringed upon.  The million dollar question is how a balance can struck between free expression and privacy.  Social media has provided a huge platform for everyone to exercise rights however; there must be a clear consensus on what can be considered as a freedom of expression.

From the essay, it can be concluded that the right to privacy is not absolute as the concept itself is amorphous. It can also be noted from the essay that for big tech companies’ money is the biggest concern and privacy is sidelined.  For celebrities privacy is certainly a matter of right however, they must be able to differentiate between right to privacy and freedom of expression.  

References:

Compelling Reasons Why Firefox’s Stance On Privacy Is Worth Paying Attention To", MakeUseOf, 2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/3-compelling-reasons-firefoxs-stance-privacy-worth-paying-attention/. [Accessed: 25- Apr- 2018].

Right to privacy is not absolute, observes Supreme Court", https://www.asianage.com/, 2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.asianage.com/india/all-india/200717/right-to-privacy-is-not-absolute-observes-supreme-court.html. [Accessed: 25- Apr- 2018].

R. Jackson and C. Green, "Do Celebrities Have a Right to Privacy?", RightsInfo, 2018. [Online]. Available: https://rightsinfo.org/celebrities-right-privacy/. [Accessed: 25- Apr- 2018].

C. Byrne, "Zeta Jones wins high court battle", the Guardian, 2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2003/apr/11/pressandpublishing.film. [Accessed: 25- Apr- 2018].

PJS v News Group Newspapers Ltd (SC) - 5RB", 5RB, 2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.5rb.com/case/pjs-v-news-group-newspapers-ltd/. [Accessed: 25- Apr- 2018].

Marwick, A.E. and Boyd, D., ‘Networked privacy: How teenagers negotiate context in social media.’, New Media & Society, 16(7), 2014, pp.1051-1067.

Madden, M., Lenhart, A., Cortesi, S., Gasser, U., Duggan, M., Smith, A. and Beaton, M.,. Teens, social media, and privacy. Pew Research Center, 21, 2013, pp.2-86.

F. seriously, "Firefox Focus is a super-simple new browser that takes privacy seriously", Android Police, 2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.androidpolice.com/2017/06/20/firefox-focus-super-simple-new-browser-takes-privacy-seriously/. [Accessed: 25- Apr- 2018].

Google admits it tracked user location data even when the setting was turned off", The Verge, 2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.theverge.com/2017/11/21/16684818/google-location-tracking-cell-tower-data-android-os-firebase-privacy. [Accessed: 25- Apr- 2018].

4 ways Google is destroying privacy and collecting your data", Salon, 2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.salon.com/2014/02/05/4_ways_google_is_destroying_privacy_and_collecting_your_data_partner/. [Accessed: 25- Apr- 2018].

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