Defining Privacy in the Digital Age
Discuss about the Future of Privacy: Digital Life 2025.
Privacy was defined as the “right to be let alone” While users generally agree that privacy is mainly about human dignity as well as protection of private property, in the virtual world, this notion is narrowed. Specifically, information privacy is thought to exist if one can control the usage, circulation, as well as the release of personal information. With the rapid growth of the web space and progress of technology, concerns of users’ regarding personal privacy threats are growing, too (Walther, 2011). While many people sincerely believe that maintaining privacy while on the Internet and especially while visiting social networking sites is their basic right and the primary thing you need to do to protect your privacy is to merely adjust the privacy settings, other authors believe that privacy does not exist on the Internet (In Moore, 2016).
Internet privacy has become a very important issue over the past few years. All the data uploaded online, all transactions performed, every activity an individual does online is monitored. This monitoring and keeping records of everyone’s behaviour does violate an individual’s right to privacy. Especially in an arena like internet where a person would assume it is alright to perform activities without anyone knowing, it does become a sensitive matter. Another sensitive matter is that a person in most cases is not even aware of the fact that she/he is being watched (In Moore, 2016). Various intelligent software, bots and sensing devices follow everything from the mouse movement, to the clicking behaviour, to the websites visited to basically every activity performed. Usually this information is used for marketing purposes but more often than not this information goes to a database that has no right to store personal data. The basis of internet was a free agency, where everyone has access to all the information in the world. One would think that on the basis of what internet was formed it is against ethics to be constantly monitored.
Specifically, every search through Google, each blog post, and each photo posted online mean further losing the fight over privacy protection for users. This is because “anything you put on the Internet will be grabbed, indexed, cataloged, and out of your control before you know it” According to Engel, every kind of information online is digitized, with older information scanned and placed online, after which this mixture gets aggregated into unique databases sold to government agencies, marketers, and virtually anyone able to pay for it. Twitter, cell phones, taking photos by iPods, etc. are all tools to identify a person’s location; buying preferences and the same information is gathered by marketing databases that are purchased by the government. Thanks to using the information provided by consumer databases, people are tracked down by the police, the U.S. Marshall’s Service, and a range of collection agencies (Engel, 2013).
The Importance of Internet Privacy
Since 2015, the Australian parliament passed bills that would see over 21 government security agencies monitor digital information of Australian nationals. These agencies have access to private metadata which they claimed that they wanted vital information to deal with the menacing problem of terrorism. “Australian providers of email services will be required to keep records about each email sent and received by a subscriber, but popular overseas services like Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo are exempt. Call information, numbers dialed, rough location, dates and times of all SMS messages sent and received by a mobile phone subscriber must be retained. Internet service providers supplying Wi-Fi to cafes, hotels, motels, restaurants, public and private transport will have an obligation to retain data emanating from those services. Records of all unsuccessful or untariffed communications must be retained, including 1800 calls, missed or unanswered calls, emails or VoIP (voice over internet protocol like iiNet's Nodephone) sent to a non-existent or incomplete address” (Dempster, 2015)
The accompanying is a portion of the issues or threats that the buyers and organizations are confronting with regards to privacy and security online (Hoffman, 2015):
- Information and fraud
Fraud is a developing issue, particularly with regards to the cooperation between entrepreneurs and their customers or purchasers which can be connected to an infringement of privacy and security in favor of the shoppers (Loosen, 2011). Buyers are not very much aware of what occurs with the personal information they, for the most part, give amid business exchanges on occasion (Peter and Valkenburg, 2011).
- Online information accumulation which has prompted location disloyalty
Area information empowers one to be followed on each move he makes over the world. For instance, when one goes out to go to a companion's home, or even goes running an errand, and the geo-location is followed and recorded, it gives a ton of information about the individual. This information serves publicists further bolstering their good fortune since through it; they can send advancements to organizations, notwithstanding when the client is unwilling or had not marked for it. (Lewis, 2011)
- Proliferation of cookies
- Control over personal information
Some researchers recognize that privacy is under threat on the Internet while also suggesting the ways to protect it. Specifically, the researchers from Bryant University, USA found that consumers today are faced with a high privacy invasion level. Li and Zhang believe that privacy can be provided by organizations’ adopting strict privacy protection policies and raising consumers’ privacy awareness. While acknowledging that disclosing the information to the third parties is too profitable to refuse from, Li and Zhang assert that this is a viable way to ensure privacy in the future taking Fortune 100 companies as an example (Li & Zhang 2128).
Threats to Internet Privacy
Essentially, the challenge is to strike the right balance between the freedom of speech and right to privacy to build a peaceful and harmonious society. One of the fundamental legal principles is that the exercise of one’s freedom must not infringe on others’ rights. On personal level, I believe every individual must have the freedom to live their life the way they want within the broadly accepted legal and social parameters, and sharing private information online without the consent of the concerned person seriously intrudes upon this freedom.
Paul Schwartz, Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School, recognizes privacy threats and justifies privacy concerns expressed by many Internet users. At the same time, he asserts that privacy can be provided by the regulations of the State. According to Schwartz, privacy cannot be maintained through the bottom-up approach when users will protect their privacy through personalized Internet devices. He explains this will only lead to users’ broadcasting their data in new ways. Hence, “empowerment sometimes requires recourse to the State, which has a positive role to play in shaping the privacy market and privacy norms” (Schwartz, 2000).
There are some authors who recognize that it is not possible to maintain online privacy because of the specifics of the Internet and because of the benefits brought by interested parties’ privacy intrusion but assert that users need not worry since this process is normal and does not threaten anybody unless someone has done something wrong. For example, Ira Brodsky, President of Datacomm Research Co, claims that privacy is not a basic human right and privacy concerns only hinder the free flow of information and thus the development of the Internet. In his article “In Cyberspace, There’s No Right to Privacy,” (Inc, 1999). Brodsky says that demands to legally restrict the kind of information that websites may collect and sell about users are “unfair and unnecessary”. Interestingly, Brodsky suggests that if website owners are forbidden to record actions of the users, this will trample on their rights. Hence, users do not, as Brodsky asserts, “have the right to force Web sites to comply with those standards” (Inc, 1999)
In conclusion, three perspectives on the issue of internet privacy existence have been discussed. While the authors understand Internet privacy in quite similar ways, their ranking of privacy differs. For example, the second group of researchers is guided by the recognition that privacy is a human need and needs to be protected. The third group represented by Brodsky denies this and says privacy is not a fundamental human need and does not need to be legally protected. At the same time, the authors who support the idea that privacy can be defended on the Internet have different views as to how this may be achieved. For instance, Rodrigues believes everything depends on the social networking sites owners and their desire to respond to privacy protection concerns by their users. Others think that privacy may effectively be controlled through enhancing privacy settings and empowering the state to adopt legal measures to control privacy intrusion and abuse on the level of the state law. Interestingly, the first group represented by Engel does not believe privacy exists and can be maintained on the Internet at all.
Dempster, Q. (2015, August 28). Data retention and the end of Australians’ digital privacy. Retrieved May 9, 2018, from https://www.smh.com.au/technology/data-retention-and-the-end-of-australians-digital-privacy-20150827-gj96kq.html
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