The issue on privacy in the 21st century is a current dilemma for the public as everything can now be seen online and is on digital format. May it be simple personal profiles to highly sensitive data such as grades, credit card information, and security clearances can be accessed online. While automation and digitalized data is now common to improve a person’s daily need for information, privacy becomes a serious topic to consider since anyone can get the information they need and for some, they would take steps mimic a person’s identity and steal sensitive data for fraud and crime. Recorded cases of identity fraud, information theft and even blackmail had been prominent in the 21st century. Since everyone is now online and can access any information required, the question of privacy is now put into the frontlines. The question now remains on whether privacy is still possible. This paper will discuss if privacy in the 21st century is still possible in the current context.
Privacy in the 21st Century
The issue of privacy in the 21st century is a current dilemma users tend to worry about considering the availability of information online. May it be from simple social networking profiles to security data, everything can be viewed with just a click of a button or a website with any data requested. Although this availability of information is readily possible thanks to the internet and to the digitalization of information to fit online use, there are questions now if a user’s privacy is placed at risk with this available data. There have been cases wherein users have been falsely accused due to identity theft, and a few have been stolen from by users who stole their credit card data and other related security breach. Despite the growing cases of privacy-related cases online, privacy in the 21st century is still possible given the present privacy protection policies launched by the government and the available privacy protection strategies users could save their data from possible theft and false usage.
Privacy is considered a right that covers all aspects of life, may it be on legal, moral, ethical, and social standards. It addresses a person’s data – may it be regarding his body, personal information, communication identification, relationships, and even their secrets. Privacy protects an individual or a group, enabling secure transference of information, development of relationships, and establishment of policies to protect one’s person. Experts have argued and discussed as to how diverse privacy covers and what is to be done to ensure privacy is always sustained and protected. However, in recent years as the internet becomes diverse and open for the public, privacy now becomes an issue as technology now opens up personal and business data is now easily accessible online . Offline privacy is also placed at risk as marketers, who are often the source for several advertisements and spam messages online, are now using the availability of information online to invade a person’s privacy offline as they could get any information they need. Studies have already shown throughout the years that marketers are becoming more agile and sneaky when it comes to getting information regarding their clients, using the internet to collect consumer data and even reassemble them to create more personal profiles of clients .
Aside from protecting privacy in online activities and services, policies are also devised to protect users from maliciously written privacy policies. Pennsylvania (18 Pa. CSA No. 4107 (a)(10)) and Nebraska (Statute No. 87-302(14)) both requires websites for any use to publish only credible and truthful statements in their privacy policies as it may lead into intolerable and fraudulent information use. With regards to the control of ISPs over personal information, Nevada and Minnesota require all their Internet Service Providers to keep all private information regarding their customers unless the customer in question allows them to disclose the information. Any form of disclosing such information without permission is punishable by law. California (Civil Code Sections 1798.83-.84) and Utah (Code 13-37-101,-201,-202,-203) not only targets businesses but also nonfinancial businesses to disclose their privacy policies to their users through newsletter or electronic email to ensure that information is not sold to a third party .
In a federal aspect, several provisions and policies are now in effect to ensure privacy protection. While the US Constitution does not have a provision regarding the right to privacy, the Constitution’s amendments, namely the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and the Ninth Amendment supports an individual’s personal right to privacy and therefore, must be protected accordingly. Information such as personal data, health background, and security clearances must be only provided under the full permission of the individual in question. One of the most notable statutes applied throughout the United States in terms of privacy protection is the Electronic Communication Privacy Act of 1986, which amends all federal wiretapping laws to cover the internet or any form of electronic communication such as cellphones and computers. Under the Act, it prohibits any individual, group or institution to intercept any communications and disclose them to the public in any means as it is a direct violation of an individual’s right to privacy. Excluded in the Act are communications coming from devices that are furnished to subscribers of electronic communication providers as the information will be sustained by the provider for operational use . Aside from the ECPA, other acts such as the Federal Trade Commission Act, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, the Children’s Online Protection Act, and the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 are also created by the federal government to protect privacy in the 21st century. Under the Federal Trade Commission Act, the government orders the Federal Trade Commission to prevent all unfair methods of deception and information gathering by businesses which may cause problems on commerce and industry. The FTC is given the power to take action against all suspected groups to comply with privacy policies and ensure that consumers are protected accordingly from competition and from manhandled personal information transfers. For the GLBA Act, Section A of Title V of the Act convers privacy provisions regarding all consumers’ financial information such as credit card numbers, bills, and financial capabilities. The provisions also restrict financial institutions from disclosing their client’s information to nonaffiliated and authorized third parties as it may use the information for unauthorized solicitations and communications. This act also empowers users to give their financial institution of choice to provide their information upon request or opt-out from sharing their information. Institutions are also prohibited by the GLBA from disclosing account numbers, especially if it is to be used for marketing and other false pretenses.
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act enacted in 1998 is one of the foremost policies provided by the US Federal government pertaining to the issue of privacy. Under the COPPA, children under the age of 13 is protected under the law from any information gathering or sharing online. Operators of commercial sites directed to this age group are prohibited from collecting information and disclosing the child’s information without providing communication with the parent or guardian to share the child's information. Furthermore, operators must provide parents an access to their child’s personal information and ensure that further collection of information from the child is acceptable to parents. Finally, the Identity Theft Act of 1998 made unauthorized information sharing and use a federal crime, especially if the person’s information is to be used to commit unlawful activity. Federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, the Secret Service and even the Social Security Administration are given the authority to investigate on matters pertaining to such violations. Identity theft is one of the most common crimes committed online, which also breaks a person’s privacy .
As the 21st century continues to evolve and present new means of improving life, communication, and information gathering, privacy will always be placed at risk. Nonetheless, methods can be applied, as well as legislation and programs to ensure that privacy can be protected despite the vulnerabilities presented by the internet. Although these methods are seen as ineffective and incapable of protecting privacy by many considering the capacity of the internet to develop each day, these methods and policies are there to ensure that their rights are protected from any attack or privacy invasion may it be online or offline. One may not be able to escape the issues attached to privacy invasion but given the presence of these policies, precautions and methods, it is highly capable of aiding the protection of one’s confidentiality and privacy, without fearing for the possibility they would also be invaded from their homes.
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