The Internet is the latest and the most powerful tool in the line of media that has successfully eliminated space and time as obstacles to accessing information and communication for numerous people in last half of a century. However, it poses morality issues and privacy concerns among individuals and different societies.
The SPLC Legal Brief defines the right to privacy as the right not to be intervened by third parties (Software Product Line Conference 1). Therefore, violating privacy is an intrusion into one’s personal life and gives the person with the invaded privacy the right to file a lawsuit for damages against the intruder, because it is morally wrong (Software Product Line Conference1).
Morality has to do with the principles of wrong and right that are accepted by a social group(Souryal 17), and this brings about a morality dilemma, especially when considering invasion or violation of privacy on the Internet. The invasion of privacy comprises lots of things from home spying and work place monitoring to unlawful data collection over the internet.
There are several types of privacy invasions including public disclosure, intrusion, false light and appropriation (Software Product Line Conference 2). In this paper, intrusion and public disclosure principles will be used in arguing that violating privacy on the internet is morally wrong.
Internet Public Disclosure and Morality
On the Internet, public disclosure occurs in several ways. This happens when an individual decides to publish wounding, hateful or embarrassing facts about an individual’s personal life (Software Product Line Conference 3). When media digs through personal life over the internet, especially a high-profile person, and makes the information pubic, it is extremely likely that this person will have his privacy violated and will sue the media for violating and invading his personal life.
The issue concerning morality arises when the privacy of the individual is violated by the media without his consent. In this case, the media is morally wrong for making information about an individual public without his knowledge. It has been documented numerous times that some Facebook applications gather private information about those using them for internet tracking and advertising companies without the knowledge of the user (Huffington Post 1).
The leakage occurs during the process of installing an application where the user is asked to accept particular terms, and once he clicks on “allow” his/her information becomes accessible to public. A number of Facebook applications such as Family Tree and Farmville leak these tokens to advertisers giving them access to personal data like photos and chat logs (Ionescu 2).
Nonetheless, there is no disclaimer displayed informing the user that data could be accessible to unauthorized persons. Hence, online safety and privacy of a user are violated. In this instance, moral dilemma presents itself. The first issue is that the application companies obtain personal data of users in a morally wrong manner.
A disclaimer should be provided to announce to the application user that his data will be used for advertising purposes by the third parties. This will be a morally right move of obtaining personal data from application users.
In some instances, it becomes challenging to distinguish morally right or wrong issues. For instance, the application obtaining data in a morally wrong manner may provide targeted advertisements to its users and may assist them in finding products they may need. In this case, even though the privacy of the user has been violated, the user gets to benefit.
Internet Intrusion and Morality
On the Internet, intrusion of privacy occurs in several ways. It occurs when an individual invades another person’s affairs by recoding or storing another person’s conversations without that person’s consent, taking a photo of a person or trespassing a person’s property without their knowledge (Software Product Line Conference 10).
The storing of another person’s conversation without that person’s consent is the focus of privacy in relation to morality. In the article written by ITProPortal, Skype 5 was accused of invasion of privacy, where users were concerned over the real reasons their chat messages were being stored and not erased as pervious Skype programs used to allow (ITProPortal 6).
Users want their chat messages to be erased when they delete them, which is not the case. Burt Reynolds voices his concern that he does not want his chat messages to be stored because he does not want conversation related to work remain on his Skype account (ITProPortal 7).
In this case, it is clear that privacy of Skype users is being violated and this raises the dilemma of morality. It is morally wrong for Skype to keep users chat conversations without their consent. The morally right thing to do will be for Skype to allow its users to delete chat conversations and assure them those conversations will not appear again.
This implies that Skype has a moral obligation to ensure that all the chat conversations, when deleted by the users, do not appear again in that users account to assure that owners are fulfilling their moral obligation to their clients. The same issue is right for the Facebook applications which use personal data for the third parties and advertising companies, Skype is speculated to be keeping users’ chats and conversations as required by the United States government (Savage, Wyatt and Baker 1). If this speculation is true, then, the United States government should be held responsible for Skype user privacy issues by asking Skype to erase deleted messages that users want to be kept private.
The internet, has eliminated boundaries and brought privacy issues that consequently led to moral dilemmas of what is wrong and right. While violation of privacy has been viewed as intruding into an individual’s life, morality has been viewed as examining whether this privacy issues arising from the use of internet are morally wrong or right.
The case of Facebook applications (such as Farmville and Family Tree) allowing advertisers to use information without the user’s consent has been perceived as morally wrong and has been considered as an infringement of the privacy of the user. This is morally wrong and unacceptable as we have concluded in this paper, because the users are not aware that their personal data is being used by third party companies.
Hence, the morally right way to tackle privacy issues is to ensure users are aware that their personal data is being used by third party companies for the purpose of advertising, among other reasons. To conclude, privacy will continue to be complex as the internet advances are making moral issues difficult to define.
Huffington. Facebook Privacy Breach: Users’ Info Leaked To Advertising, Tracking Firms, Report. 2010.
Lonescu, Daniel. “Facebook Privacy Fail: Apps Leak Private Info, Report“. PCWorld. 2010.
ITProPortal. Skype 5 accused of privacy invasion. 2010.
Savage, Charlie, Edward Wyatt and Peter Baker. “U.S Confirms That It Gathers Online Data Overseas“. The new York times. 2013.
Souryal, Sam. Ethics in Criminal Justice: In Search of the Truth, New York: Routledge, 2010. Print.
Software Product Line Conference. SPLC Legal Brief Invasion of Privacy Law.