Internet usage has gained popularity particularly in the United States due to its flexibility and dynaminism. Internet is defined as the global chain that connects thousands of computer networks thereby allowing billions of people to share and access information. The most popular ways of accessing the internet is through the mobile phones and mobile internet devices. E-commerce and personalized services like mailing services and social networking sites have continued shaping internet usage particularly in the last two decades. However, the interconnectivity has brought the issue of privacy in these networks. Internet privacy refers to the ability of the users to control the data they intend to share and with whom. This essay will look into the protection of privacy in the internet.
Issues on internet privacy
Internet privacy depicts that the users must be provided with some degree of privacy when accessing the internet. There are several risks to internet privacy which include cookies, flash cookies, photograph sharing, internet service providers and data logging. These risks may cause ranging harms to the users. Cookies are excerpts that are retained in the computer which are used to track information on the login names and WebPages visited by the user. Cookies have generally gained usefulness with advertisers who utilize them to track down their clients in a manner that may lead to privacy issues. Flash cookies are also referred to as local shared objects they allow the storage of information in the clients’ computer and retrieval at a later date they function and pose the same risk to internet privacy as normal cookies (Kostin u.n). The digital revolution has improvements in photography with mobile phones and miniature cameras being used to take pictures which can then be transmitted online. This creates privacy issues particularly if the subject was consulted when the photos were being taken.
The internet service providers (ISPs) pose the greatest risk due to the users since they have access to the unencrypted data. Privacy issues arise when the providers pick the information and do not tell the consumer what they intend to do with it. The fact that the ISPs can share the information with other parties such as the government raises situations where the users’ privacy may be contravened (McWilliams, 2000). Data logging involves tracking the users computer with an aim of knowing the websites they frequent which in itself is contravention of users privacy other potential privacy risks include spy ware and malicious proxy servers which are meant to collect information on the user without his/her knowledge.
Several cases that involved privacy have presented themselves in the last few decades with the most notable one being the Jason Fortuny and craigslist. Jason was a network administrator who decided to post an advertisement pretending to be a woman who was seeking attention from men from Seattle. He infringed on the privacy of the respondents by uploading the details which included personal information like email addresses and photo to the wiki. The craigslist experiment was challenged in court by the respondents who lost their jobs. The respondents argued that Fortuny had exposed them which was tantamount to invasion of their privacy. After several years of litigation, Fortuny was found guilty for contravening the privacy of the respondents and hence after ordered to pay compensation and cover the litigation costs.
Legislations on privacy protection
Due to the rise of internet usage in the US, it has become of great importance to protect the users from contravention of their privacy and prevent legal tussles. However, in the US only partial laws exist that protect individuals either from acquisition, use of personal data or the storage. Access to private data can be gained especially when looking for employment, seeking medical care or making purchases on credit cards. This has been brought about by the rise in search engines on the internet and data mining which has enabled individual data to be retrieved from various sources, collected and combined. Various approaches have been employed in tackling this issue like informing the internet users whenever access to their information is being gathered and protecting personal information from being given out without seeking a written consent from the owner.
According to ReedSmith (1999), several Bills have been proposed in various states on internet privacy. Among them are; the Social Security On-line Protection Act of 1999 which protects personal information from being given out without consent of the owner. The Can Spam Act which ensures that electronic mail service provider equipments are not used to pass commercial e-mails that have not been negotiated. The Online Privacy Protection Act of 1999 gives authority for regulations to be installed on website operators to ensure privacy, integrity and security of information on any person. Finally, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 provided for regulations against use, collection or disclosure of children’s personal information on the internet (COPPA, 1998).
Protecting internet privacy
To ensure privacy for internet users, the following steps have been proposed; you should always limit the intake on the cookie through regularly deleting your cookies and cache. As stated by Miller (2006), there are freewares that help to monitor and at times block cookies from Google search tool. When cookies are stored on the hard drive various software programs are installed which locate and delete any malware, spyware or adware. Firewalls which come together with antivirus softwares and operating systems, prevents access to information or alteration of the hard drive by computer worms, hackers or various viruses. Finally it is important to remain updated on any changes on privacy regulations so as to take precautions as need may arise. You should realize that even with the much care taken, some minute details may be accessible in our archives that may be stored on desktops or hard drives. Thus, it is important to remain on the look out for any leakage of information and to always read the privacy policies of the websites that you intend to be using frequently.
Internet has gained importance in the present times as more information is being stored online and readily accessible via various internet search tools. The increased usage of internet in the US has led to challenges of ensuring personal information is not accessed and used maliciously by several parties. Thus, internet privacy has gained importance. Several risks to internet privacy include cookies, flash cookies; photograph sharing, internet service providers and data logging. In the last few decades, several cases on privacy have risen with the most notable one being the Jason Fortuny and craigslist. In an effort to protect internet users’ privacy several Bills and laws have been enacted with the notable one being the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998. Many measures have been used to protect privacy, some of which are; limiting the cookie intake, use of firewalls and remaining updated on changes of privacy policies. As a user of internet, you should always ensure you protect your information from other users and keep monitoring saved information to establish any person trying to unlawfully access your information.
Children Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998. Web.
Kostin, Philip. Flash Cookies: Local Shared Objects. 2010. Web.
Mcwilliams, Brian. Internet service providers Thursday are being warned to batten down their network access servers against a familiar type of privacy attack that’s making a comeback. ISPs Battle Privacy Loophole. 2010. Web.
Miller, Annie. The Searches: Privacy Protection Tips for Internet Users. Business First. 2006. Web.
ReedSmith. Protection of Privacy on the Internet. 1999. Web.