Have you ever given much thought to the information you share on the Internet?
The Internet influences our lives daily. It is being used for a wide variety of purposes; including talking to friends, getting information/recommendations, searching for prospective employees/employers, education, etc. Society has accepted the Internet as another of its members, and this acceptance is one of the main reasons for the Digital Revolution, which has been ongoing since (take out as early as) the 1980s.
Underlying the Digital Revolution was the development of technologies including computer networking, the Internet, social media, etc. The growth of the Internet provided continuous entertainment, communications, and online connectivity. We are today in the Information Age, where information can be freely distributed and instantly accessed without much difficulty thanks to the fast evolution of technology.
More Technology, Less Privacy
But as rapid global communications and networking are shaping the modern society, privacy is becoming a concern. One of the strengths of the Digital Revolution/Information Age has been the ability to store and utilize large amounts of diverse information. But with new technology tools, such information can track individuals’ activities and interests. Through this involuntarily-shared personal information, it is possible to monitor behaviors, discriminate in hiring and lending decisions, and many more negative impacts. The most surprising fact is that at every stage of browsing, you are sharing some information online. Some mediums by which you are sharing information include:
1. Cookies – When you visit websites, information is sent by the web server to your browser to store your preference and customize your experience next time you visit.
2. Social Networks – A famous place where connections are built with friends. Social websites store information about you and your interests, as well as other personal information. Some corporations use social networks to gather information about consumers. Some of the junk emails are the best examples of shared identity.
3. Google Search or any other search engine – Google Search is the most frequently used one. During web searches, your IP address, search terms, times of search and other information are saved by search companies to make your next search experience better.
4. Emails – When you send an email from your machine to another recipient, it flows through multiple servers before reaching its destination. This provides an ideal opportunity for a smart hacker or machine to read your personal data.
Though you might have been aware of the above scenarios, organizations that need online users’ data are becoming smarter. They are creating tools that invade your privacy without your knowledge. Privacy is something that is cherished by everybody. Unfortunately the words “privacy” and “right to privacy” do not appear in the U.S. Constitution, although the Fourth Amendment guarantees certain personal rights pertaining to privacy.
Though the right to privacy exists in several countries, the most effective privacy protection come in the form of constitutional articles. An appropriate bill for protecting online privacy is still being debated on multiple fronts in the U.S. Today more than 100 bills on privacy protection are pending in Congress, including laws on genetic and medical records, Internet privacy, children’s privacy, and other issues. However, the current position of the White House and the private sector is that self-regulation is sufficient and that no new laws should be enacted except for limited measures on children’s privacy and medical information. Hence, the onus is on us to use the Internet in a smart way without compromising our personal data.
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