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Privacy Issues on the Internet

What Are The Current Issues Regarding Internet Privacy?

Which Is More Important Security Or Privacy?

What Are The Copyright Issues On The Internet?

What Are The International Legal Issues Regarding The Internet?

Should The Internet Be Censored?

Privacy is the freedom from unauthorised intrusion (Merriam-Webster). The modern world, based on the foundation of the Internet, and ever-advancing technology is different from all of the human history. Almost everything is instant now, always-connected  (Dentzel), and privacy is usually opt-in (Spivack, 2013) rather than an expected quality of any proceeding. What has happened is that in today's attention economy (MacMaster), data is the most valuable asset of businesses. This rush for data of a person (often exchanged free will for free services or products) is usually in conflict with the interests of the individual whose data is being collected, stored, and processed. Your attention and information are the ways how companies pay for the services. For example, Google can provide Gmail for free, and Facebook can provide its website, applications, messengers for free. The questions then become that how can people safeguard their privacy, security, and other related issues. These are the topics that this paper will attend. The paper will look into Internet privacy, compare the importance of security versus privacy, copyright issues, legal issues, and censorship on the Internet.

1.It is often said that in the contemporary society, privacy is a thing of past (Benson, 2016). Some people are indifferent, while others find themselves at the mercy of the businesses and societal trends (Hargittai & Marwick, 2016). As mentioned elsewhere in this paper, data about a person, especially the personally identifiable information, is a goldmine, from which economic benefits can regularly be reaped for an indefinite period. For example, if advertisers know that you lean towards animal welfare, the businesses will filter bubble the views, news, and articles you see online (Pariser, 2011). Moreover, then, they can sell you merchandise, and products which lean towards this ideology. This sort of targeted advertising and remarketing is a concern for most web users as it brings to light how a simple search on a favourite search engine can tag them, and they are hounded by products related to that search.

The concerns about privacy on the Internet revolve around the topics in which there is conflicts of interests between the businesses and the individual's right to control access to his information. These include tracking a user, and identifying him as he browses various sites on the Internet. The contact details like email and mobile numbers are scraped from public databases or requested for some legitimate task, but then repurposed for marketing unsolicitedly. Also, such databases are sold to third-party marketers without the knowledge or consent of the individual whose data is being exploited for unlawful commercial gains. Another risk is the stealing of credit card data (Chung & Paynter, 2002). A hidden tracker in the form a tiny transparent image may be used in email messages to track when the message was opened (and thus assumed to be read). This covert read receipt also goes against the spirit of privacy.

Security vs Privacy

2.Privacy and security have been against each other, and their conflict has only intensified after the 9/11 attacks on the American buildings (Doherty, 2013)  (Schneier, 2008). The tug-of-war between the two ideals has boiled down to finding the correct balance between the two (Noble, 2013). To begin, let us analyse the foundation of this conflict. Society and its caretakers (the government, military, etc.) want to curb people with malicious intents. If such people can communicate with one another in privacy, then that is a handicap for the powers and may lead to avoidable losses of human lives, and property. So, this is the argument for the motion of security, which means reducing the privacy of the population. On the other hand, the human psychology is such that power corrupts it, and absolute power corrupts absolutely (Martin, 2017). The fear is that with the God-like power to eavesdrop on any communication using any means of communication, of any individual, the chances of the officials becoming corrupt, and invading the privacy of individuals for their pleasure, or extortion becomes more possible. Also, the companies running the services would be more than willing to help the governments, as they will not be able to run their businesses without the powers' blessings. For example, Internet-based chatting, video-calling, and file-sharing service Skype have been routinely exposing to law enforcement authorities indiscriminate access to the conversations of Skype users (Kelley, 2012)  (Kelley M., 2013)  (Gallagher, 2013).

The opinion of the author is biased towards the security side. The world we live in allows for far deeper and far wider ways to wreak havoc of any individual, any group, any country, or any cause. In the earlier days, the only way to harm someone would be to grab a weapon and run towards him. Nowadays, in addition to government-authorised killings, terrorism is ever-increasing. Not only that, the ways to hurt now include the plethora of technology, and the always-on lifestyle makes harming easy - remotely, with the click of a button. So, what does an individual who has to attend to his work, family, and also keep his sanity by pursuing leisure activities to do? It is the opinion of the author to delegate the worries, and hand over the responsibilities to the powers of the government, and the military. Thus, primarily due to pragmatism, security is more important than privacy  (Sterner, 2014).

3.If you do not want your writing to be edited mercilessly and redistributed at will", is how Wikipedia's policy informs editors contributing to the publicly-editable encyclopedia (Wikipedia, 2005). This statement sums up the state of publishing on the Internet. The Internet is a cheap, convenient, and an instant medium, where most of the effort in stealing some one else's can be automated to scripts, and software applications. Ensuring copyright on the Internet is a difficult task. It is not a surprise that the Internet is considered the largest threat to copyright ever since its inception (Copyright Website).

Copyright Issues on the Internet

The copyright issues on the Internet begin from the moment the data is sent from the web server to the client machine. The first concern is that at least four separate copies of the content are created in the underlying process of visiting a website. This dilemma has been resolved as acceptable as when an author publishes a website on the Internet, he expects people to visit it, and the copies created in the memory, disk, browser cache, etc. are considered essential technical aspects of this process. This consideration gives us an idea of the depth of the issue. On a more practical note, the issues include peer-to-peer file sharing, illegal download sites, software cracks and keys, scraping content from some one else's web sites, and similar stealing.

4.The Internet is a technology that levels the playing field for the big businesses, and the common man alike. Self-publishing is virtually free, instant, and knows no geography or time zone limitations  (Capling & Nossal, 2010). This nature of the Internet gives birth to issues which transcend international borders. One category of legal matters deal with free speech and the restrictions on that. The problems are defamation, breach of contract, tortious interference with business, and securities fraud (Raccine). Another issue is the transmission of data. The Internet is a packet-based technology  (Rouse, 2007), and thus the individual packets of a message from the sender to the recipient may traverse independent paths to allow for congestion handling, accounting for broken or new paths, etc. Now, for data which is to be sent and received with the same country, there is a little political need for it to leave the international borders of the country, and laws can be enacted to enforce this technology wise. Money laundering is an activity that covers multiple countries and uses the Internet as its latest medium. Such money is often earned illegally and is routed for antisocial, and illegal activities like terrorism. To cleanse this money, unsuspecting greedy people are offered a fee to route the money from the victim's bank account. Another issue is the dissemination of prohibited content like child pornography, peer-to-peer files database (for example torrents) from areas where the laws are lax, and the victim countries will have difficulty in directly handling the miscreants.

Before beginning any discussion on censorship on the Internet, we should distil down what the Internet fundamentally is. Internet is a communication medium, serving in all of the one-to-one (for example, email, chat, voice call), one-to-many (for example, posting a message in a restricted group) capacity, and as a broadcast medium (like advertising on television, or radio by posting on public blogs, social media sites). What makes the Internet different from the traditional media is the relative inexpensiveness, near-instant publication, preserving the history indefinitely at multiple places, and reliable search among the oceans of information (for example using search engines like Google). The Internet and the commercial interests of big businesses have enabled free self-publishing, in various forms (text, audio, video) for every person anywhere in the world.

International Legal Issues Regarding the Internet

Now, this poses problems for the powers that are to govern and keep the large population of people in check, for example, China (Congressional-Executive Commission on China). Traditionally, authorities have relied on restricting physical movement of individuals, in addition to limiting or banning media like newspaper, radio, television, shutting off the telephone, mobile services. Censorship, to stop the flow of ideas from one to another. In some cases, such acts are for the benefit of the nation. On the other hand, similar to the theme of power corrupting the few who hold it, such bans aid in maintaining power, even if the national interests are being subverted by those who are supposed to protect them. In such instances, any censorship will amount to withholding basic human rights. Specifically, the Article 19 (International Council on Human Rights Policy) lays the right to seek, receive, and impart information with no regards to media, and no regards to borders. Such a definition includes all forms of communication, as existing today, and any in future.

The author of this paper strongly aligns with the human rights stance, and advocates against the censorship of the Internet for the reason that governments are installed to serve the people, and general information flow should not be a concern for authorities which are discharging their fiduciary responsibilities well.


The average Internet user's habit of free things - which cost real money to develop, and provide - has resulted in a tacit system of exchange in which the individual's data and attention is taken, and a (useful in itself) service is provided. This one transaction underlies most of the issues at hand in the tug-of-war between user privacy, and the businesses. Also, governments have their axes to grind and use their powers to snoop on their citizens. Overall, privacy is a feature that appears to be inconsequential to the masses, with opportunities for businesses to capitalise upon


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