Information technology provides people with new opportunities related to data storage and management. Since technical mechanisms are becoming more complicated, many people expect modern technology to provide maximum privacy and prevent the unauthorized use of their personal information. Confidentiality no longer exists because of new ways to collect data without the user’s permission, companies’ dishonesty, frequency of data breaches, and users’ irresponsible attitudes to privacy protocols.
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Privacy in the Age of Information
Nowadays, many people are active users of the Internet despite a large number of privacy concerns associated with the traceability of personal information. Importantly, the evidence proving that absolute privacy has never been possible can be found in modern literature (Eastin et al. 214). Information privacy and personal data protection used to be regarded as basic rights, but today, there are multiple opportunities for human recognition (Eastin et al. 214). Digital consumers can never be fully anonymous because almost any form of online activity, including communication and data search, creates data “that can be collected, aggregated, and analyzed” (Eastin et al. 215). In some instances, it becomes possible to retrieve the seemingly de-identified information and use it for unauthorized purposes.
In discussing the issues of privacy in the twenty-first century, attention is to be paid to the decreasing difference between private and identifiable data. This problem is recognized at the governmental level, which proves that expecting privacy is naïve. In its report published nine years ago, the Federal Trade Commission raised concerns about “the diminishing distinction” between de-identified and personally identifiable information (Eastin et al. 215). Therefore, the problem of “dead” privacy goes far beyond conspiracy theories.
Today’s industry giants can compromise people’s privacy both by mistake and intentionally. Concerning costly data management errors, despite the increasing law enforcement pressure on large companies, data breach cases still take place. The said revolution in data protection does not prevent personal data thieves from committing more and more devastating crimes (Amending). For instance, only in the Marriot International case, personal information (passport numbers, contacts, credit card numbers, etc.) of 500 million users got into the wrong hands (Amending). Some companies are not above sharing such information with third parties without clients’ permission. In 2018, it was revealed that Facebook had provided Cambridge Analytica, a consulting company, with identifiable data of more than 80 million users (Isaak and Hanna 56). The fact that the company earns millions of dollars even after the scandal confirms that privacy is dead.
Internet users’ attitudes to data protection also contribute to the situation with privacy. The study by Obar and Oeldorf-Hirsch explains it as the privacy paradox (15). The majority of active social media users list information privacy among their key values but fail to get acquainted with the details of privacy policies prior to signing agreements (Obar and Oeldorf-Hirsch 15). Apart from playing on average Internet users’ lack of knowledge, large companies, including Microsoft and Facebook actively transform heuristics into effective strategies of misleading (Albright). As a result, users give away their right to privacy, thinking that they make informed and well-considered decisions.
To sum it up, there is no privacy due to the emergence of new technological solutions, such as cookies and canvas fingerprinting. Other factors are Internet users’ irresponsible attitudes and biases when it comes to making privacy choices, frequent data breach cases, and companies’ willingness to profit from sharing data. Taking that into consideration, modern Internet users should not regard privacy as a guaranteed and protected right.
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Acar, Gunes, et al. “The Web Never Forgets: Persistent Tracking Mechanisms in the Wild.” Proceedings of the 2014 ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security. Scottsdale: ACM, 2014. pp. 674-689. Web.
Albright, Dann. “How Tech Companies Mislead You into Making Bad Privacy Choices.” MUO. 2018, Web.
Armending, Taylor. “The 18 Biggest Data Breaches of the 21st Century.” CSO. 2018, Web.
Eastin, Matthew S., et al. “Living in a Big Data World: Predicting Mobile Commerce Activity through Privacy Concerns.” Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 58, 2016, pp. 214-220.
Isaak, Jim, and Mina J. Hanna. “User Data Privacy: Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, and Privacy Protection.” Computer, vol. 51, no. 8, 2018, pp. 56-59.
Obar, Jonathan A., and Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch. “The Biggest Lie on the Internet: Ignoring the Privacy Policies and Terms of Service Policies of Social Networking Services.” Information, Communication & Society, 2018, pp. 1-20.