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The Role of the Internet in Human Life

Question:

Discuss the role of internet in today’s world.
 

In the past few decades, use of Internet has brought a revolution in almost all aspects of Human Life. The increased usage and adoption of Internet has effect on all spheres of life, key being (but not limited to) education, health services, financial, communication, retail,  business model etc and thus has irreversible impact on growth and development of each individual whether directly or indirectly. 

Other areas that needs to be considered and surely will have long lasting impact are social and moral (values) impact.

the practice of Internet has bring in many advantages including highly competitive environment, faster reach, ease of Information access leading to more value proposition. 

But there is a great quote - "There are two sides of a coin" which is also reflecting in below saying: 

"Every truth has two sides; it is as well to look at both, before we commit ourselves to either" – (Aesop, n.d) 

Any advanced technology creates new threats as well as new potentials. The Internet offers enormous opportunities, which are being exploited by communities, and increasingly also by business enterprises. It also harbours risks to the privacy of personal data and communications, as marketers seek to profile their electronic customers, and governments seek to impose themselves on people they see as miscreants (Cyberspace Invades Personal Space, 1998). This paper describes the kinds of threats that exist and are emerging. On these lines this work will reflected on the disadvantages of Internet within the periphery of Information privacy. 

Internet today plays a key role in every walk of life. Let us try to articulate the role of Internet in everyday life: 

  • Business: with the evolution of Internet the business model (especially for retain) has changed drastically. Eg: Amazon, alibaba.com etc are online giants in retail segment which have leveraged the introduction of internet for their business model. 
  • Healthcare: The readily available healthcare based information has been a boon to this industry leading to efficiency in treatment and research in this segment.
  • Communication: with the rapid pace of Internet technology upgrade, this domain has seen a large growth and increased usage. Introduction of VOIP and online chatting app like whatsapp and telegram are examples to name a few. 
  • Education: With the aid of Internet, the self-paced computer assisted learning plays a key role in encouraging, motivating, developing and evaluating students. Computer based learning provides flexibility in skills acquisition and can meet the goal of lifelong learning. 
  • Geography: Internet has been key in breaking geographical barrier, with Internet offering ease of Information flow and connecting people across region, culture and various ethnic groups. 
  • Entertainment: Internet has significant impact on the entertainment industry especially with regard to games, movies and music. For games, through Internet individual across the globe can play and compete again one another. Movies segment has also gained pace with internet with online promotion and marketing going viral these days. Players like Netflix have business model for Internet based movies. Music reach has expended drastically with the introduction of online music stores like Apple’s iTunes Store, Amazon MP3, Napster and Rhapsody.

Briefly internet has been a revolutionizing phenomenon and part of play in every walk of life as represent in picture below highlighting the increased trend in Internet penetration.

Figure (a) – "Number of internet users 2005-2015 | Statistic", 2016

This graphical representation gives information on the total number of worldwide internet users from 2005 till 2015. As can be seen, the number of internet users worldwide has reached to 3.17 billion in 2015, up from around 1 billion in year 2005.

Another illustration of increased Internet trend is implied by the below statistics which shows that market capitalization of Internet based companies has increased from $16,752 (As of December 1995) to $2,415,867 (As of May, 2015).

Figure (b) – "Growth of Internet Companies | Morgan Stanley, Capital IQ, Bloomberg", 2015

The significance of privacy and usage of internet are co-related and have evolved time to time together in discussions around the topic. It is therefore not possible to accept or deny the notions about privacy without emphasizing Information security/ data protection considering the ways internet based applications, mobile penetration and online world has evolved. 

Personal information or data of an individual comes in the periphery of private information. Examples include (but not limited to...) Name, Origin, date of birth, address, and gender. Also details like IP address of computer used by an individual, financial data, card details, and passwords are part of private information (Privacy and Information Technology, 2014). 

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Internet

Every individual has Private space and wants to retain it. Key aspects for Privacy include: 

  • Privacy is practice that a person wishes to retain 'personal space' which is free from intervention from others, public and associations
  • Privacy has various flavours including privacy of personal information, privacy of communication, privacy of data.
  • Privacy is about giving an Individual right to exercise substantial degree of control over data and its use 

Below is a diagrammatic representation of the areas of privacy concern. 

                Figure (c) – "Area of privacy concern | CSI", 2016

Under this head we will analyse the impact of internet on Information Privacy.

  1. Data Leakage:

Data transmitted over Internet is subject to various risks like:

  • It does not reach the intended recipients
  • It reaches to unintended recipients
  • It is accessed by unauthorised person
  • It may be interpreted and modified during transfer so as to defeat

the purpose of transfer

  • It may be vulnerable to virus attack and threats
  • The sender may deny about sending the message
  • The receiver may deny about receiving the message
  • The data leakage might lead to security threat as well as may

lead to financial or legal impact

Under all these circumstances of cases of data leakage or data theft over Internet, most important is the access to content to unauthorised authority which leads to an opportunity to intercept the message and thus leading to security breach and hence exposes the sender to risk.

Approach to deal with this threat can be that the message transmission may be based on sender/receiver confirmation. Also the data can be encrypted and then encrypted data can be passed over Internet. Decryption logic at receiver end can be used to get the actual message. This minimises the risk of data theft.

Internet has played role of double edged sword for Education domain. though it provides information and easy access to knowledge articles and subject area, in other way it also hampers the main purpose of Education to bring overall development in student so that they become responsible and qualified citizens for tomorrow. 

With Internet around children expects instant reposes and gratification. The knowledge is easily available and Internet provides results instantly with no waiting or minimal effort (Lynch, 2008). In this situation as the know-how is easily obtained via Internet, children do not value the importance of concepts and thus their problem solving skills are not developed in long term. This is in concurrence with a great saying given below which implies that if something is achieved easily (without hard work) then the achievement is not valued. 

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… “(Roosevelt, n.d) 

Internet has eroded the traditional classroom culture and thus the Guru based methodology has been converted to a model where a there is no Guru (Teacher), rather an instructor who just server his clients (students). This vast variation in teaching pedagogy to Internet penetration has drastically reduced effectiveness of Education system.    

Other negative impact of Internet on Education can be seen that the average attention span of teens today has reduced. the constant supply of information , entertainment leads to lost focus of student and thus they do lack the capability to do in-depth analysis of work problems. Internet also hampers by facilitating the wrong modes of assignments, work as children these days can easily access test, assignments over Internet thus defeating the purpose of education system. 

Identity theft is a scenario where the information on the basis of which an individual is identified is acquired by an unauthorised person and is used in a way that the unauthorised person can act or operate as though they are same person. This is equivalent to steal a wallet or valuable item of a person. Internet has been a medium of this type of identity theft. Examples include Phishing websites, mail theft, getting details from online loan and application form etc.

The Relationship between the Growth of the Internet and Education

Online transaction details of an Individual can be obtained via use of cookies [refer Appendix(b)], (or the application of powerful client-side programming languages), such as the relatively well-behaved Java, and the Active-X control which exposes risk to personal data or transaction details.

Some internet based control can provide location details of an individual, which may be annoying and unpleasant for some who do not want to be social.

Other risks that Internet poses are like Spam [refer Appendix (c)], tracking IP address of a machine connected to internet and thus hacking to gain undue advantage of someone’s personal space or information.

Businesses have been impacted by Internet in invariable fashion in which key issues has been illegal file sharing through which one acquires individual copyright data. Additionally this violates the business ethics and these practises have been raised as concern in one or other form example copyright media such as music/ movies shared, illegal software downloaded from Internet etc 

Below is an articulation of the negative impact of Internet in business: 

  • Small business cannot survive as they do not have resources and technology to compete with giants like Amazon which are bigger online retail store. thus these small scale brick and mortar retail store end up going out of business. 
  • Some times when a customer goes for online shopping, the product image depiction vis-a-vis actual delivered product varies and thus customer ends up complaining about inferior product quality 
  • Online companies sometimes follow deceptive sales practices to gain targets which leverages on Internet based automated system 
  • Internet provisions invasion of privacy through questionable data collection practices associated with advertising 
  • Business relationships are impacted with use of online chats and Skype. Personal aspects of doing business are getting ruled out with the increasing use of Internet 
  • Internet being quick and easy way to access information is one of the key factors for decline in print news usage and thus Newspaper publishing companies are finding difficult to stay afloat 
  • Music, Movies, Videos and Television serials are freely available on internet and can be illegally downloaded from internet. This effect the economic interest as artistic material or product is downloaded for free and thus the royalties of the work is not paid. 
  • One of the major problems with Businesses based on internet is that unavailability of Internet impacts business negatively. Business that is build up with internet as fundamental part of operations will move out of business in case internet unavailability is frequent. 
  • With internet it gives capability to hackers to interrupt operation of a business. It open doors for hackers and one lone hacker can completely shut down the whole company. Investors and stakeholders risks of losing the money invested in such business in a single shot. 
  • Oversupply of information leads to less productivity. Studies [refer Appendix (a)] show that excessive information results in poor and risky decision making. With lots of data to analyse employees sometimes, in order to save time, ignores data and stick to the first data set and thus interpreting results wrongly and taking wrong decision. Thus although the belief is that Internet provides huge data is a plus factor whereas actually it is opposite. 

Social relations are badly impacted by the use of gadgets based on internet. Today, social gathering have reduced drastically as Internet has taken up place for major mode of connections and communications. Children do not sit with Parents as they are most of the time hooked to gadgets and prefer to be involved in activities like connecting with friends on facebook, text messaging, chatting etc. Rarely they meet manually and get bonded to people around them, thus people these days are connected only virtually in virtual world. Below is a diagrammatic representation of statistics which reflects how teens are increasingly getting engaged in internet social networking sites.

 

Figure (d) – "Teen and adult use of social networking sites— change over time| The Pew Research Centre", 2013

This is one of the biggest problems created by growing usage of Internet. Internet is a curse because of which moral values are getting thin day by day in culture. Teens, instead of using Internet in productive manner are using it as source to discover adult content. Below is a diagrammatic presentation of the concerns from parents for online activity using internet:

Figure (e) – "Parental concern over child's online presence | Pew Research Centre”, 2013

Other factor that reflects the deterioration of moral values is that across all socioeconomic groups and geographic locations, teens are equally as likely to report lying about their age to gain access to websites and online accounts. This has been shown below with increasing children lying over Internet.

Figure (f) – "Lying about age, by age | Pew Internet Parent/Teen Privacy Survey" 2012 

This loss in moral values due to Internet is irreparable and far more as compared to economic loss (which can be quantified in monetary terms).

Conclusion and Assessment 

Respecting a person's privacy is to acknowledge such a person's right to freedom and to recognize that individual as an autonomous human being. 

The Internet provides a whole new set of specific ways in which people's privacy may be intruded upon, and adds new dimensions to existing problems. It necessitates the negotiation of a whole new set of balances among the various interests (). Internet based administrative practices, aided and abetted by information technologies, have dramatically increased the incidence of dataveillance [refer Appendix (d)], and created enormous threats to information privacy. 

Privacy remains a critical element for individuals doing business or engaging online. While it is understandable there are distinctions between industry sectors and their privacy practices but still the gaps highlighted under the section "Impact Analysis on Privacy" can be catered by creating and adopting policies that covers the risks and issues identified. Individuals and consumers also have strong expectations in relation to areas of data breach notification and it is time that Regulations and policies resulting in control and responsibility are designed and put in practice, particularly in the area of social networking. 

References 

Aesop, Greek writer Aesop (620-564 BCE) in the fable “The Mule”.  

Cyberspace Invades Personal Space by Roger Clarke, Visiting Fellow, Department of Computer Science, Australian National University.May/June 1998. 

Number of internet users 2005-2015 | Statistic. (2016). Statista. Retrieved 5 June 2016June 2016. 

Privacy and Information Technology by van den Hoven, Jeroen, Blaauw, Martijn, Pieters, Wolter and Warnier, Martijn, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2016 Edition), Edward N.

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[Accessed 26 February 2024].

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