Privacy What Happens to Privacy Essay

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As will be discussed, this has serious implications for security issues on both a personal, organizational and corporate level.

A central concern is that, as the number of users increase online so does the potential threat of invasion of privacy in many insidious forms. This can lead to serious ethical infringements of privacy, such as fraud and identity theft. As Miyazaki, and Fernandez ( 2001) emphasize;

This rapid growth (of the Internet) has been accompanied, however, by concerns regarding the collection and dissemination of consumer information by marketers who participate in online retailing. These concerns pertain to the privacy and security of accumulateaa with respect to these issues

(Miyazaki, and Fernandez 27)

3. Privacy and the Online Context

Data privacy is defined as follows: "Data privacy refers to the evolving relationship between technology and the legal right to, or public expectation of privacy in the collection and sharing of data about one's self ." (Hamdam et al. 2059) Privacy concern refers to the "expectation of privacy," whether this is legal or ethical that the individual or company requires when data is shared or collected. This can also refer to the issue of how the data is collected, who has access to it and whether the individual or group has legal ownership of that data.

Therefore, from the above it is clear that privacy is breached or intruded upon if information or data is collected or accessed in way that transgresses the privacy rights of the individual. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks." (the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) What this means in terms of the Internet and contemporary communications is that the right to privacy refers to having the ability to control what information is revealed about oneself online and being able to determine who can access and make use of this information. It therefore follows that the online world of communication and open networking presents a particular threat to the privacy of the individual and the company, in that there are many ways of gaining access to private information without the consent of the individual or the company or organization.

Another side to this issue is the aforementioned reference to the possibility of the Internet being used by government and other authorities to gain access and to use private information for various unsanctioned purposes. There are a number of commentators who are of the opinion that the access to information in the digital age will allow for the surveillance of citizens by government and corporations -- which will amount to a radical infringement of privacy.

4. Implications: Types of Privacy Threats

The invasion of privacy on the Internet can take as variety of forms, some more invasive and insidious than others. Identity theft is one of the most prevalent and alarming of these threats and has become common in the age of online networking and the unsecured sharing of information. Identity theft is usually defined as, "… the appropriation of someone else's identity to commit fraud or theft" (Milne 388) or "… when someone acquires your personal information and uses it without your knowledge to apply for credit cards, make unauthorized purchases, gain access to your bank accounts or apply for credit and obtain loans in your name." (Milne 388).

The pervasiveness of this type of intrusion can be seen in the fact that, "This 21st century fraud combines deception (aka social engineering), impersonation, and automation to steal authentication credentials such as passwords and account numbers from individuals over the Internet, and uses this information for ill gain" (Wetzel 46). Identity theft is one of the most common and serious breaches of privacy in the online world and a Federal Trade Commission survey has found that approximately 30 million people have fallen victim to some form of identity theft in the past seven years (Young 86). The costs associated with this form of theft and invasion of privacy are outlined in figure 1.

Figure 1.

( source:

Figure 2. The most common types of identity theft.

( Source:

This form of invasion of privacy not only impacts the individual who may find his integrity and credit rating adversely affected, but it also has a serious effect on commerce and business. (Bielski 37)

There are many other instances of the invasion of privacy using online and networking technologies that could be cited. A recent study refers to reports that approximately 1,500 employees of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service have been investigated or disciplined since 1989 for "…using government computers to browse through tax returns of friends, relatives, neighbors, enemies, and celebrities." (Brin 55)

As has already been briefly referred to, privacy can be compromised by employers who may monitor an employee's online activity without the consent of the individual. One survey found that thirty -- five percent of employers "…conducted one or more types of close electronic surveillance on their workers." (Brin 56)

Privacy is also compromised when our personal information is used for commercial and advertizing purposes. This may result in an individual being targeted on the basis of his or her personal information gleaned without their consent from their Facebook or other sites.

Simply clicking on a site on the World Wide Web may wind up creating a "biography" about you. After coming home from the hospital maternity ward, a new mother is besieged by baby magazines and advertisements for infant-care goods. The purchaser of a new home automatically receives coupons from hardware stores, interior designers, and contractors. (Brin 57)

A prime example of this concern is the privacy and security issues surrounding Facebook itself. As one report states, there is concern that privacy on Facebook and other social networking sites is not what it should be.

In the latest revelation in a seemingly never ending stream of privacy breaches by online companies, we now know that Facebook and MySpace have been sending consumers' personal information to advertisers despite promises that they don't share such data without consent. ( Simpson)

There have also been numerous warnings on the Web about Facebook's default privacy settings which "… make most of your content viewable by everyone." (Collins 42) Furthermore, in a study by Collins (2010 ) the author states that "Facebook offers conflicting privacy settings in two different areas. When this occurs, Facebook obeys the less restrictive setting…" (Collins 42)

In another query about the security and privacy of using sited like Facebook, the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) has filed a complaint stating that sites like Facebook do not adhere to of Canadian privacy law. The CIPPIC has termed Facebook as a "…minefield of privacy invasion." (Cheng) This emphasizes a very important aspect that is central to the issue of online privacy and its control. While there are rules and laws that protect privacy, they are not always adhered to online. Furthermore, it is extremely difficult to control and monitor privacy law and privacy infringements online. This aspect will be dealt with in more detail in the following section.

5. Summation and Conclusion

What all the above studies show is that the freedom of information that is such as a dominant characteristic of the age of Facebook and social networking can have a serious and negative impact on privacy issues for society and the individual. This in turn has led to an increasing emphasis in security and the implementation of security measures online.

There are many other effects and outcome of the potential invasion of privacy in the age of Facebook. As Lacey and Cuganesan, (2004) state, from a personal and individual perspective, "Identity theft threatens the very essence of an individual's sense of self and his or her capacity to participate in society" and for commerce the effects can exceed billions of dollars each year: (Lacey & Cuganesan 244). This problem is exacerbated by the fact that identity theft is becoming more common with the increase in social networking technologies, coupled with faster and more accessible internet connection. As Lacey and Cuganesan (2004) state, "In the United States… identity theft is described as growing at a rate of 30% per year, with its losses estimated at reaching $8 billion by 2005" (Lacey & Cuganesan 244).

As discussed above, it is not sufficient to rely on laws and regulations that protect privacy, as the online and networked world is one that is often not amendable to direct control. Many experts assert that protecting one's privacy is the responsibility of the user. This is especially the case with regard to consumer privacy which is considered by many to be "… largely the responsibility of individuals who are expected to guard their personal information and take steps to minimize the risk…[continue]

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