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Internet and Right to Privacy

Internet has become the most important media of communication today. It connects people with each other, and helps to share data, and information. Human life has become easy with the introduction of Internet to the mass. Unlike old days, when mails and messages used to take days to be received, we can instantly let other people know anything about us. The whole idea of interaction has changed, as Internet became popular around the globe. People spend more time in front of their personal computers, smartphones, and PDAs than catching up for a cup of tea or hanging out. Though it turns out to be the most useful invention today, it does not come without its cons. The biggest challenge is maintaining privacy, and being secure as individuals. It imposes a great threat to every individual’s right to privacy.

For every individual, his privacy is very important. It is important to protect what is private to him. However with the popularity of Internet, and social media, it is becoming difficult to maintain a private life. In Huffington Post, Michael Gregg states, “The right to privacy is one of the hallmarks of America’s civil liberties, but in today’s increasingly technological age, this right is failing to keep up with a growing number of online threats.” As we post our photographs, status messages about our where about, and what we are doing on social networking sites, we make our life accessible to anyone. The intentions might be to share with friends, and family, but as we sit more in front of the web world, we end up getting acquainted to strangers from any part of this world, who get access to our personal details. Out of those strangers, few might have wrong intentions of following people closely, and use their information for his or her own benefit. While the law protects the right to maintain privacy, however, it is also an individual’s own responsibility to safeguard his privacy.

Various social networking sites have their own privacy settings and rules, which claim to protect their users. However, at times it is also questionable that how safe is it to expose ourselves to the web world. Jamie Court, states in her article, “Invading our Privacy on the Internet,” “the law requires the consent of both parties before recording telephone calls and restricts official snooping in our private business. Yet some of California’s biggest companies, such as Google and Facebook, violate our privacy daily by tracking us online and collecting massive amounts of private information without our explicit consent.” Google, and Facebook tend to collect the data we put online for their commercial benefit. Gmail accounts are constantly monitored by Google to figure out its users’ commercial likes, and dislikes. The data is used to post ads and ad mails related to the keywords from the mails. Facebook takes it few steps further by keeping a tab on the trend users follow. It starts suggesting products, which might interest us. Moreover, the images or a content posted on the portal becomes Facebook’s property. Education New York, mentions in it’s website:

You technically own the content, but Facebook can do whatever it wants with it. Facebook states it does not possess your information after the deletion of your account, but that any personal information or pictures you’ve shared with other users remains the property of Facebook.

Facebook uses the user contents for advertisement, and other commercial purposes. As we post our contents on the social networking site, we lose any right on our own contents. Facebook and other social networking sites, thus, exploit the privacy rights of individuals, and institutions who use their portals.

“While most of the drama of Net privacy comes from crime, almost all the public debate has centered around Web companies collecting data for marketing purposes,” says Bob Sullivan, in his article “Online Privacy fears are Real,” on NBC News. It is true that the current Internet privacy protection debates revolve around how the web giants, and Internet companies are sneaking into our accounts. However, we forget that another threat to our privacy is the rise in cyber crime. Various criminal institutions or individuals hack our system, network, and accounts to get access to our information. The information collected helps them with their criminal activities. For example, crimes related to pedophilia have come to a rise in recent years. Often the teens or kids have unlimited access to the web, without any parental control, which leads them to interact with pedophiles online. Often these pedophiles pretend to be friendly or teens. Thus, they allure the juveniles, and sexually abuse them. Online stalkers even resort to use the information they steal to threaten the victims. Often they morph images of victims, and threaten to post online if the victim does not act, as the criminal wants him/her to. Other criminal institutions use the information to indulge into criminal activities, pretending to be the person whose data has got stolen. The rate of identity theft has increased as we started leaving Internet footprints behind. Hacking allows the criminals to get into the system of the victims to illegally get access to data, without the knowledge of the concerned person. Spywares and malwares are installed in systems as someone access various web links, or click oh phishing links, which turn up in front of them as lucrative offers. Thus the hackers attain data, which they use for their respective crimes.

As an individual enters the web world, it becomes hard for him/her to avoid situations, where personal data has not been compromised. However, many Internet users do ensure to remove their web footprints by deleting cookies and caches, not saving passwords on machines, using encrypted passwords, cleaning their computers, checking for spyware and malwares, etc. Lee Rainie, Sara Kiesler, Ruogo Kang and Mary Madeen, describe in Pew Research Centre’s website, “People would like control over their information, saying in many cases it is very important to them that only they or the people they authorize should be given access to such things,” People are aware that their personal information and content are floating all over the web. They do try to protect themselves as much as they can by using the security measures. Many users come online anonymously to avoid being traced or identified. The users enable highest level of security in their accounts to ensure that no one can get access to their private information. Adults use parental control measures while they give their kids access to the Internet.

The governments of the world to protect their citizen’s privacy pass various bills. Right to Privacy is brought up on various tables repeatedly, to ensure that the topic as an act gets properly amended for the security of common man. The United States of America, has special provision on it’s right to privacy act for Internet. The act ensures a proper national legislation on privacy, where it imposes laws to protect private data, and violation of privacy. It further includes privacy policies, and settings on various social and commercial platforms on the web. Protection of virtual personality is another important aspect. An individual’s identity on the web, like passwords, PIN, and TAN codes should not be infringed. Cyber and civil law enforces strict rules against personal identification infringement. Every individual has the right to use encrypted technology, so that he secures himself from any form of cyber attack. Internet privacy also includes freedom from surveillance, and defamation. With the increase in various social networking sites, and chat clients, it is noticed that people often indulge into stalking others over the web, taking note of personal information, using the same data for criminal activities like, online robbery, identity theft, kidnaping, etc. Another horrible web culture is to defame people or institutions. The legal system has provision under right to privacy act to protect the individuals or institutions from unlawful attacks on reputation, and honor in the Internet.

It is not just the Internet giants, and individuals who invade our web privacy, but various governments of the world are also involved in such acts. “The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008,” states Barton Gellman in Washington post. NSA has been constantly keeping a tab on the web users, and various other government online communications. Barack Obama, as a presidential candidate in 2008 pledged to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. However he reversed his stance after he won the election. This act allows the federal government to collect information about foreign individuals or American citizens, and residents as a security measure. As per law, federal government is required to document phone wiretapping. However, no requirements are set for the Internet vigilance. In year 2013, Edward Snowden, a government contractor, working with NSA, left his job, and flew to Hong Kong with several classified NSA documents. The documents contained details of the security agency’ spying on other countries’ confidential data, and communication. NSA, and other security agencies worldwide are the major violators of Internet privacy rights. They justify the vigilance as a necessary element for the security of their respective nations, the citizens.

The citizens of various nations are collectively fighting against laws which give such agencies power to spy on individuals. The dissatisfaction of one’s privacy being violated by government agencies, is constantly demonstrated by electronic media, print media, and mass rallies. The citizens of various nations are coming up together to fight against their privacy being invaded. On October 26th, 2013, thousands gathered by the Reflective pool in Washington DC, on a rally known as “Stop Watching Us,” to protest against the NSA surveillance. Groups like American Civil Liberties Union, Color of Change, Freedom Works, and Young Americans Liberty sponsored the rally. Such public demonstrations are much needed for both awareness, and to secure every individual or institution’s right to privacy over the Internet.

Internet Privacy infringements might not be permanently eradicated, but certain strong international laws should be enforced to protect individuals, and institutions from privacy violators. Nations of the world should come to a consensus and harsh penalties or punishments should be inflicted on corporate giants or government agencies, which indulge into privacy infringement. While it is the responsibility of the nations’ legal systems to protect right to one’s privacy, it is also important for each individual to ensure that he secures himself by following some basic internet safety guidelines like, keeping strong passwords, regularly updating the antivirus and anti malware software with the latest security patches, avoiding public wireless connections for transmitting sensitive data, avoiding contact with unknown individuals on social networking sites, etc. Though the Internet world is not secure, it is much needed in today’s world to sustain a normal daily life. As there is no escape from the web world, the safety of every individual’s privacy is mostly in his own hands. He can chose to display his life on the web or limit it to secure his private life from unwanted attentions.


Work Cited:

Court, Jamie. “Invading Our Privacy on the Internet.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 27 Dec. 2010. Web. 17 June 2015.

Gellman, Barton. “NSA Broke Privacy Rules Thousands of times per Year, Audit Finds. ” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 15 Aug. 2013. Web. 14 June 2015.

Gregg, Michael. “Do You Have a Right to Privacy… From Google?” The Huffington Post., Inc, 23 May 2014. Web. 17 June 2015.

Rainie, Lee, Sara Kiesler, Ruogo Kang, and Mary Madden. “Anonymity, Privacy, and Security Online.” Pew Research Center Internet Science Tech RSS. Pew Research Center, 05 Sept. 2013. Web. 17 June 2015.

“Social Networking, Your Privacy Rights Explained.” Social Networking, Your Privacy Rights Explained (n.d.). Education New York. ACLU-MN. Web. 14 June 2015.

Sullivan, Bob. “Online Privacy Fears Are Real.” NBC News., 17 Nov. Web. 17 June 2015.

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