Internet Privacy

A thing of the past

Online privacy is a thing of the past in the current day and age. Information is stored on massive databases, location tracking knows exactly where you are, and can see where and when you have checked into places. Data mining or “big data” is on the rise with hidden profiles of almost all citizens are being created. Privacy is hard to come by in the online world and laws are being passed to monitor internet activity. Targeted advertising is on the rise, with websites tracking movements and whereabouts of customers, to send future advertisements.

The Australian government is selling our online privacy, to overseas corporations, in order to catch a few people breaking the rules, so they can make billions more dollars than they already have. The online privacy of citizens shouldn't be a thing that can be bartered and traded to the highest bidder. Internet history, websites visited from people, purchases made are all being tracked by the internet service provider, and being pawned off to the big corporations to issue out massive fines to the few that break the law. This could easily lead to targeted advertising from large corporations, who can see your internet history and where you have been online. Even after all this, there is still the risk of privacy being breached by an outside party, and leaking personal documents online, or taking advantage of such things.

Data-mining is also an issue of privacy as well, where dossiers are being silently created for people around the world, to send them targeted advertising. This could go as in-depth as sending you coupons for hotels you are planning on visiting, discounts on items you didn’t yet realise you needed and can in some cases know you better than the people close to you. Although individually these pieces of data may seem harmless, we have no ideas what the companies actually do with this data after it is pieced together to form our digital profile. Credit reporting companies are required to let customers see the picture they have built after they have gathered all the data, however data companies keep this information as a closely guarded secret. Without anyway to look at the profiles built up of us, people have no idea what interested parties see, nor how they are judging us.

Most people using modern communications have access to a smartphone, and virtually act as a beacon that transmits their location at all times. Their phone registers to a nearby tower as the owner moves around. This phone company can then collect the data in real time to find out the location of the phone within varying degrees of accuracy. Phones with GPS enabled give far more precise locations. As these devices become cheaper, smaller law enforcement agencies can easily attach trackers into people’s GPS and smartphones to provide a constant surveillance, from inside their precinct. Location based services can collect this data as part of their privacy agreement, and use it for advertising. These service providers can palm off this information to other companies, or the police without consent of the user.

Cloud storage has major issues with privacy, Microsoft’s SkyDrive and Apple’s iCloud reserve the right to scan your files for illegal or malicious content at any time. Popular cloud storages such as Dropbox, Google, and Amazon say they will dig into your files if someone tips them off to illegal or malicious content. Even though they insist on seeing a court order before investigation, or turning over data to authorities, there is still some measure of due process involved, nor will they shutter your account because of something they didn’t like. The data you store in the cloud can be accessed by your service provider, and can be distributed to other companies and authorities if it says so in their privacy agreement, which most blindly adhere to.

Although it is legal for a workplace to monitor your email activity, it doesn’t necessarily make it right to do so. If all movement was monitored, and all conversations were monitored, it would feel much more like a prison, than an actual humane workplace. The NSA in the US is monitoring what is to be estimated as 2 billion emails per day, without permission from any service providers. They have stated that some of the largest internet companies are involved, such as Google, Yahoo, Apple and Microsoft. Some US citizens would say this goes against the 4th amendment, which is unreasonable search, however this doesn’t apply to any countries outside the US, which have been included in the massive project known as Prism. This project is said to help counter terrorism, but monitoring all emails is an invasion of privacy.

Online privacy is definitely a thing of the past, from the NSA storing all emails to data mining, governments and companies are finding out more and more about consumers, and making mass digital profiles of people. Location tracking lets companies know when and where you are, to send targeted advertisements to you, and can know more information about you than most people realise. The data retention law allows overseas companies fine Australian citizens for large amounts of money, and essentially see their entire online history through their internet service provider. Online privacy is a thing of the past, and there are no laws to prevent the abuse of consumers by the companies that essentially run the internet.

Bibliography:

Arthur, Charles. 'NSA Scandal: What Data Is Being Monitored And How Does It Work?'. the Guardian. N.p., 2013. Web. 1 May 2015.

Electronic Frontier Foundation,. 'Locational Privacy'. N.p., 2015. Web. 1 May 2015.

Henry, Alan. 'The Best Cloud Storage Services That Protect Your Privacy'. Lifehacker. N.p., 2013. Web. 1 May 2015.

Khadem, Nassim. '‘Creepy’ Targeted Ads Spooking Australians Worried About Loss Of Privacy'. BRW. N.p., 2013. Web. 1 May 2015.

Scu.edu,. 'Little Brother Is Watching You: Employee Monitoring'. N.p., 2015. Web. 1 May 2015.

White, Martha. 'Big Data Knows What You're Doing Right Now'. TIME.com. N.p., 2012. Web. 1 May 2015.

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