Internet has changed our lives in many ways; the information technology has made modern, well-developed and advanced world where life gets easier than ever before. People use internet technology for attaining information in the most inexpensive and easiest way. The study suggests that around 900 million people in the world are using the internet (Masci 1998, 14). This is one of the best medium of communication. However, the question arises, are there any challenges associated with internet privacy or security or not? The internet privacy is defined as a status in which individual’s information is not being accessed without his/her consent. The internet consists of enormous information, which has given rise to the information privacy concept. It refers as controlling the information access over the internet. To control the access of one’s information has become a growing concern for the individuals. The national survey depicted that there are around 86% internet users who remove digital fingerprints from internet sites (Levmore & Nussbaum, 2010, 22). For instance, they clear browsing history and caches, their actions help their personal details protected from cookies, scammers, viruses and hackers. These users avoid using public computers or vitual networks, this act helps in hiding their IP address from hackers.
It has been proven that majority of the internet privacy issues occur because of stolen users’ personal information by the hackers or viruses. These details are being hacked or stolen from different mediums like email, social media accounts or credit card transactions. This essay highlights the role of the internet in today’s world and the ethical challenges over information privacy.
People living standards have been changed; they use internet sites for attaining worldwide information. This source of information has replaced print media like newspaper. Today, people can attain information by accessing e-newspaper. At present, the internet usage has been increased; on the other hand, numerous privacy and security issues have become a major concern. The internet has affected individual lives in a positive, as well as, negative way. This may increase the chances of data theft and information leakage against person’s consent. Today’s generation use numerous information technologies like computer, mobile phones, or laptop in order to stay connected with the world’s happenings. In this century, internet has become the addictions among all age groups. The 3G phones, Wi-Fi and mobile internet connections play an imminent role in making the internet as a necessity. People spend most of the time in surfing on the internet. Apart from its usage and addictions, there are certain disadvantages and threats towards information shared on the internet sites. People use the internet for searching and gleaning useful information by surfing on the internet. It has replaced books, physical library concept as people prefer to read e-books at anytime and anywhere they want. Different browsers are being used for searching and gleaning information as Yahoo search, Google chrome, Mozilla Firefox and others. These browsers make surfing on the internet faster that may result in making individual lives easier and convenient.
The people are connected by the internet all over the world. Through it, they can communicate with each other in a cost effective and easiest way. It provides an opportunity to people to share their personal information like biodata, private pictures and other information with their friends and families through social networking sites. Different messengers are used for communication purpose, these include, Yahoo messenger, MSN, Skype and other social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. People share their personal data on these messengers and sites. This reduces communication gap and stays in touch with people living in any part of the world (Carrollm 2006, 20).
The information technology era has transformed traditional business practices into e-business in that the internet plays an imminent role. It has brought numerous opportunities for the businesses. Small and big giants use the internet for selling their products and services. This minimizes costs of businesses and increases profits. The internet has transformed the traditional banking system into e-banking system, where customers do online transactions and access their accounts by just one click. Apart from the positive sides of the internet in today’s modern world, e-commerce or e-businesses confront numerous information privacy threats. In today’s world, the individual rights have been increasing subject to the power of groups. Due to advancement in information technology, the information privacy has become one of the major threats. If the technologies are gleaning people information for any purpose then it is imminent to keep information protected and confidential. If these technologies fail to keep information protected then the next generation will not have any privacy and their personal information will be misused. It is a fundamental right of every individual to maintain their privacy (Espejo, 2011, 15). Nobody wants that his or her personal information leaked out or misused. It is not desirable that somebody access the unauthorized information.
The information privacy concern arises whenever person’s information is stored via using the internet. Information available on the internet must be controlled in order to deal with the internet privacy. Every individual has his or her own right to privacy over internet. Unfortunately, there are certain ethical issues as third party access to the person’s private information when they enter their information on the internet. According to the human rights act, nobody is allowed to interfere in other’s personal life. However, in this competitive world, where businesses want to outstand, interfere in clients’ personal lives, mostly without their consent. They keep personal information of their clients with them and share this data with the government and other securities agencies. All the personal information and browsing history of an individual can be accessed by hackers. They enter a technology named as cookie, by that; they can access person’s information. This activity is not only unethical but also violates internet privacy
The internet privacy is now a serious challenging task that businesses, customers and individuals confronted the most. Hackers and viruses surpass the boundary formulated by government and private firms to control personal information. The question arises here is that the individual rights have been superseded by collective entities. The internet privacy ethics reveals that the point comes where individual rights must be sanctioned. The internet privacy has raised some ethical issues that are required to deal with. There is a need to implement and practice certain ethical practices while catering the internet users’ privacy needs. Private companies are involved in unethical activities as if they are actively involved in tracking client’s online movements. By the surveillance activities, they sell the attained information to other companies. Those companies share people’s data and information with government and law enforcement agencies. This act is unethical because it violates the privacy of an individual (Levmore & Nussbaum, 2010, 22).
The most popular websites are now practicing user profiling, as it has become the standard. It is required for those who use the internet to provide personal facts and information regarding their names, contact numbers, personal interests and family background are required. Whenever, user browses the webpage or sign up for retrieving data from any specific website, their personal information there acts like a digital fingerprint. The positive aspect of this scenario is that, the information left can be helpful in evaluating users and companies use this information for providing them high level of customer services. Most of the people while entering their personal information on the website do not know that their information is being shared with online marketers. However, this practice is considered as unethical, because the profile sharing and information sharing to the third party are done without users’ informed consent. Information privacy violation is not limited to some websites but also many cases of identity theft have been reported. People share their bank account numbers and credit card numbers while doing online shopping or funds transfer may become a victim of identity theft. Their confidential information has been theft and big transactions have been made on false identity.
The databases can be misused without the consent of individuals. There are three scenarios where individual’s information has been used without their consent, apparently, these scenarios seem harmless but it violates individual’s privacy. The first scenario is: companies usually access their clients’ databases for determining their browsing habits. The scenario depicts those banks in loan approval process cross check clients’ previous history and transaction history. Although this is the requirement for identifying clients’ creditability, but it raises ethical concerns over information privacy. In the third scenario, service-providing company uses users’ profiles in order to find out their preference and websites’ surfing history. These activities although not directly affecting individuals but ethically this act are not justifiable.
Personal computers and the internet not only provide opportunity to the consumers to attain information but also their personal information are stored in different database for instance banks have clients’ database, social media sites and online shopping sites. Businesses have private and confidential data of their stakeholders and clients, which can be misused, theft, and stolen. The internet has increased the chances of data theft and misused. People personal information can be gleaned by hackers as they target companies on routine basis for stealing private and confidential information. People use the internet for visiting and keep posting their personal lives information in social networking sites, they use net for emailing and for searching material on different websites. The internet privacy issue has been highlighted when user’s personal details are shared on the internet sites. Users share their personal data while online shopping; they share their credit card or bank account details. When users do email correspondence, the chances of third party interference become a challenging task to control. The third party can access and misuse information present in individuals’ personal accounts without informed consent. The privacy concern is that whether or not third parties must be allowed to keep track on website’s visitors. The other concern is that the internet sites glean personal information from the users, not only this, this share and store in an unprotected way. Hackers and viruses find the unprotected information the easiest target (Masci 1998, 14).
Some internet users misuse information present in the social networking sites and theft their personal information and operate fake accounts, involve in chat forums with false identity and this hurts personal identity of a person. However, there are certain mediums where people without sharing their real identity involve in discussions like blogs, chat rooms etc. in that case; the ethical issues and privacy concern over the subject arise. As the internet is providing freedom of expression to every individual, but in this case, this advantage is more like a threat towards internet privacy. The internet is indirectly inviting people to become a part of open platform and share/discuss whatever they want. These fake people can foster fallacies and communicate false opinions on the sensitive issues. The internet is one of the sources of criminal activities, fraudulent people glean personal information from the innocent people and victims face severe financial losses in return.
Thus, internet has become our necessity and people despite of privacy issues; use it in their daily lives. The internet privacy existence is denied by one school of thought whereas; the other school of thought advocates the significance of internet privacy. The internet privacy does not intent as complete anonymity. Its aim is to control personal information disclosure. The internet information can be accessed or privacy violated via email, by using social networking sites, and by doing online transactions. The information can be accessed by entering personal information on the online forms. The internet is known as a network of the networks, whenever, a person uses it, he/she is identified by an address. The unique address is known as IP address, users’ IP addresses can be traced by the websites.
These websites do this for strengthening security controls. The internet websites also collect users’ non-personal identifiable information. The disclosure of such information is not restricted because that information does not uniquely identify a person. These websites just to control and cope up with the security concerns keep track of their users’ internet activities. Companies are involved in unethical activities as if they are actively involved in tracking client’s online surfing history. People share their bank account numbers and credit card numbers while doing online shopping or funds transfer may become a victim of identity theft. Their confidential information has been theft and big transactions have been made on false identity.
The databases can be misused without the consent of individuals. In order to maintain strong privacy, people should keep strong passwords, avoid using public internet cafes, delete history on regular basis, and security scans must be done on regular basis. These measures must be taken by individuals as well as companies to minimum affect with spam, data theft and other security concerns. Companies store their past as well as present client’s database. The data theft and loss may result in financial losses, and strong firewall must be implemented by customers as well as for companies. By using a firewall, they can be able to keep their data secure. Individuals must not provide their credit card numbers and other confidential information to any unreliable source.
Carroll, J. (2006). Privacy. Detroit: Greenhaven Press. Pp.1-20
Espejo, R. (2011). Privacy. Detroit: Greenhaven Press. Pp. 15-18
Levmore, S. X., & Nussbaum, M. C. (2010). The offensive Internet: speech, privacy, and reputation. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.Pp.22-33
Masci, D. (1998). Internet privacy. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.Pp.1-14