Internet Privacy Overview

Internet privacy comprises confidentiality over the internet. Internet users have a right to privacy and the information they post over the internet should be protected. This paper will focus on the issues related to privacy and internet policy and apply the issues to my use of the internet.

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The issue of privacy has gained attention in the literature concerning privacy in technology. The issues of privacy on the internet were “introduced by the information and communications technologies that predate the internet” (Plasencia, p. 260). The concept of privacy is not easy to define because many view it differently. Some say that privacy is better viewed as “either a presumed or stipulated interest that individuals have concerning protecting personal information, personal property or personal space than to think about privacy as a moral or legal right” (Plasencia, p. 260). Others suggest that privacy can be viewed in economical aspects in that personal information can be bought or sold. “Moreover, others think of privacy as a personal space that an individual has and it should be free from interference by others” (“Online privacy: Using the Internet Safely”, p. 1). Many nations in Western Europe approach privacy issues related to individuals as data protection for the individuals. “However, the US approach to privacy is as a legal right rooted in the legal as well as philosophical argumentation and included in the debate of both the tort and constitutional law” (Plasencia, p. 260). On the other hand, policy concerning internet privacy remains largely unregulated unlike the laws that protect privacy in the physical world (“Online privacy”: Using the Internet Safely”, p. 1). The government has not come up with comprehensive laws concerning internet privacy. Therefore, it is upon an individual to ensure that they maintain their privacy while online.

There are various issues in privacy and internet policy. The issues concern risks to the privacy of internet users. There are various ways of interfering with a user’s privacy such as data collection and spreading viruses.

Cookies are one of the issues. Cookies are tools that are used for tracking users. They become an issue in privacy because the information collected can be sold to others and the users can end up receiving spam. Cookies may not directly link to internet privacy but it touches on computer privacy. This is because the cookies store information about the sites a user visits. This can be used for web profiling. Through profiling information about a specific user is collected regarding all their web activities. Some people use cookies to collect information of the URLs visited and this profiling can make it possible to identify the user behind the information collected.

Proponents of internets privacy tracking and archiving the websites a user visits is an infringement of privacy and this is exactly what cookies do and “downloading that information onto a user’s computer system” (Plasencia, p. 266). On the other hand, defenders of cookies say that the information is only collected with an honest intention of providing repeat visitors with relevant information.

Internet search engines are also a concern in privacy. Search engines are used to pass information about other people. Through internet search engines, it is very easy to find information about an individual. The search engines can be used to search for various topics and individual information is one of them. It is easy to retrieve information about an individual if they have any information on the internet by typing their names in a search engine. The individuals or users may not be aware of the search engines and therefore their privacy may be violated. The search engine can retrieve information from archives on web pages and individual’s information stored when they send emails or post the information over the internet thus the search engines can provide considerable information about an individual.

Internet Service Provider (ISP) enables users to access the internet. Some ISP may store information concerning a user’s unencrypted surfing habits. Although the ISPs are not allowed to do so due to, legal and ethical issues some may choose to share this information. The information may include an IP address or other contact information. Thus, sharing this information may compromise users’ privacy.

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The issue of privacy is real and it concerns internet users. This is because internet use has become so important that we use it for almost all aspects of our everyday lives. For instance, we use the internet to buy goods and services online. Pay bills; communicate with friends, jobs application, and entertainment purposes among others. Personally, the issue of privacy affects me because I use the internet and I am concerned about sharing my information over the internet with people who may use that information maliciously against me.

The internet has become very important in interactive use. “This is made possible by the use of social networks and Instant messages (IM)” (“Online privacy: Using the Internet Safely1). The social networks seem informal, people feel at ease using them, and this may lead one to share somewhat sensitive information because one may assume that the information is safe. However, this is not the case because the information can be stored and archived. This also includes e-mails. This means that even if one deletes a message it is not actually ‘deleted’ because the IM programs can archive the conversations. The IM is also an easy target by spammers and I remember one time that I received an IM from an unknown sender and this installed spyware into my computer. On the other hand, information posted by users on social networks can be stored remotely and the networks can sell such information to advertisers. Some malicious people may also befriend someone the social networks to spy or get information about them. This is easy because they will have access to the information a user posts online. Many people have found themselves in trouble for posting information online.

There is a policy vacuum in computer technology and this makes it hard to regulate the things that people can do over the internet (Moor 269). Thus, there is a need to come up with laws that can regulate and protect users’ privacy. This is because it is also difficult to control junk mail. After all, it is costly for the users trying to control the influx of junk in their mailboxes. Some of the spam has links to adult sites (Smith and Kutais, p. 3).

The policies on internet privacy need to be upgraded because it is clear that the privacy of internet users is in peril. The users need to be protected from malicious people who will try to steal information, which they might use to harm the users. The government must do more than it is doing to ensure that its citizens have protection and unscrupulous people do not infringe upon their privacy. On the other hand, users must protect themselves when online and avoid posting sensitive information over the internet.

Works Cited

  1. Moor, James. “What Is Computer Ethics?” Metaphilosophy, 16.4 (1985): 266-75. Print.
  2. Online Privacy: Using the Internet Safely.1995.
  3. Plasencia, Mercedes. Privacy and the Constitution, Volume 2.New York: Routledge, 1999. Print.
  4. Smith, Marcia and Kutais, Brown. Spam and Internet Privacy. New York: Nova Publishers, 2007. Print.
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