Influence of Computer and Internet Technology on Privacy
Consider an incident where an individual waves their hand and without their consent, a high-resolution camera captures this action and the fingerprints. From a personal perspective, this action is a terrible breach of privacy and likely to lead to litigation (Shaw). However, another consideration would be if the government uses the fingerprint image to book the said individual in a specific activity, therefore, saving them time used in queuing for reservation. The second action is advantageous eliciting gratification as a resultant outcome as opposed to aggression towards the breach of privacy. Regarding new technologies, people’s discernment about this facet balances between resultant incremental advantages, which make life more accessible, and the threats posed to personal privacy within the same breath.
Without any repudiation, it is valid to state that with the highly proliferating technological age coupled with the increased digital ability to classify, collect, retrieve and store information in substantive quantities, the government compromises privacy as per the inconsideration to civil liberties (Shaw). A historical viewpoint considered the government’s capability to capture information through monitor devices, such as lampposts and strategically placed cameras, impossible. However, the advancement in technology has achieved these feats continuously on a daily basis, which is a furtherance of compromising individual privacy (Shaw). The study focuses on highlighting the impact technology through computers and Internet has imposed on confidentiality to determine the nature of its contribution to the overall proliferation of the global community from a holistic perspective.
Technological Characteristics that Impact Effect on Privacy
In developing an implicit understanding of the impact of Internet and technology on privacy, it is imperative to evaluate its fundamental characteristics that propagate this influence (Jones 288). With the manner in which technology is changing coupled with the lack of sociological data, appreciation directed towards these components allow for comprehension on the intricacies involved between technology and privacy. This relationship validates the claim that technology has played a significant role in affecting the actualization of privacy with consideration on its influence in changing the perception of this notion and the priority they place on it in their daily interactions.
The first constituent trait is permanence. It translates to the permanent recording of state and events considered transient (Shaw). It connotes familiarity with still photographs and writing which are traditionalistic forms of recording information. Recently, technology and Internet allow for recording of moving images and sound in a more permanent mode. It is also applicable in still pictures (Jones 290). The interpretive technology, which is in play offers capacities to create detailed images, captured in short periods. It has made it easier for people to search for pictures given their digitization through a large volume of videos or stills. It has also allowed conducting searches using phrases and concepts. For example, one can look for a painting of floral arrangements by merely typing “women arranging flowers.” The permanence of storage offered is observed as providing unlimited images and videos from different sources regardless of whether they are private.
The second trait is volume. The progressive growth of information technology has stimulated it (Jones 288). Transaction recording and spread of point contribute to this proliferation observed regarding volume size presented for data storage. It is evident that within this age, societies are aware that various automated systems within the governmental jurisdiction, such as national insurance offices, medical facilities, vehicle license bureau amongst others, store their information (Jones 289). People within these communities know these bodies also avail their transactions, such as credit card purchases. Therefore, with this in mind, it is evident technology contains the complete substantive data of an individual based on the automated recording. The existence of this massive recording system is significant as an entity regardless of the confidentiality of the information it contains. Therefore, further indicating the imminent dangers in the instance where someone disburses or accesses this information for the wrong motives.
Impact of Technology and Internet
- Miniaturization of the Global Community
With the evolution of technology, information has become more accessible based on the manner in which it is presented further leading to the invasiveness to personal privacy (Chen et al. 291). In a discussion about real estate homes in which the audience constituted alumni groups, for example, the speaker, in an attempt to highlight violation of privacy, selected a house whose location keyed into Google Earth View followed by the respective real estate website. From this point, the audience was able to see the valuation of the property with intricate details of the structure such as the number of bedrooms and its area in square feet. More information was available when they checked the Federal Election Commission Campaign contribution whereby when evaluating the same neighborhood from Google Earth, one was able to see the amount of money each house contributed to the presidential candidate at the time for campaign purposes (Shaw). From a rational standpoint, this case indicates the extent to which the world has become smaller whereby the access to information no more requires someone to go to a public office to acquire public records. Also, it is evident that anyone has this accessibility disregarding his or her location on the globe. With the miniaturization of the global community, privacy is no more a right as the need for information access further outweighs this civil liberty.
Concerning privacy, technology has facilitated a deliberate questioning on categories and their distinctions based on whether they are private or public. Three decades ago, people had a clear understanding of information and their distinctive allocations regarding their privacy (Shaw). However, technological proliferation observed recently fails to provide this distinction as an individual from any point in the world can access information from anywhere. For instance, some in Ghana can get the information about any real estate home in America without any restrictions. Such an exemplary elaboration has further reduced the privacy to a mere verbalized concept rather than a tangible notion exercised at different capacities. Hence, from this standpoint, it has become a legal issue. Scientists specialized in information technology has opined privacy concerns are indeed imminent and destructive. With establishments such as the Center for Research on Computation and Society, this authoritative body has developed a keen interest in addressing these vexing concerns through the application of an integrative approach directed towards heightening security and privacy.
- Data Base Linkage
New technologies incorporated in governmental and private systems seeking to improve the quality of life have compromised protection of privacy and its related components (Shaw). Shaw observes an exemplary case of such technology in a database linking particularly in the health sector. Five-Digit zip code and birth date are adequate in providing the name of the individual associated with this information. Another terrifying aspect is that with details of the location of birth for individuals under 30, an IT expert is capable of predicting eight or nine digits contained in the social security number (Shaw). Based on this reality, it is evident that the affordability of technological devices, such as disc storage, has further led to the increasing privacy problems experienced by the global community. When reviewing history, the government lacked adequate information storage hence hindering the collection and accessibility of such data highlighted above. However, in the recent time, people collect more information and data. With the lack of clarification regarding data sharing policies, the data flow within the cyberspace allowing any individual or organization to access very private details.
Experiments conducted by Professor Sweeney have provided a practical elaboration on the evolution of privacy in the modern day setting where social media platforms facilitate the furtherance of privacy breaches and promote criminal activities such as identity theft (Shaw). One of the primary issues highlighted is the leakage of private information, such as birthplace or hometown and date of birth, which is usually necessary when opening a social media account on platforms, such as Facebook (Shaw). In the allocation of social security numbers, these two pieces of data are crucial and elemental. For instance, during the assigning proves, the first three digits are indicative of the state decode, the next two signify the regional location within the state. This assignment process is also available to the public on the Social Security Administration website (Chen et al. 295). Because the allocation of social numbers is not random, once a hacker or social identity thief accesses this personal information about an individual’s hometown and birthplace, it is possible to hack into their social security data and commit fraudulent activity.
The second concern about data linkage that has further led to the leakage of private and confidential information hence breaching the civil liberties to privacy is the ability to retrieve data such as names, residential address, and social security number enabling people to get tracked and located. According to Sweeney, medical data has posed this threat (Shaw). Despite the information presented in the surveys or medical research experiments depicting minimal demographic information such as birth date, gender, and zip code, this data can also help narrow down the participants through a technique applied in data linking. To validate this, she conducted a study using the birth date of William Weld, who was the Cambridge governor at the time without any additional information. From the report presented, she was able to narrow down three individuals who shared his birthday (Shaw). However, with consideration of the gender and zip code, the results flagged only one individual, the governor. From this experiment, it is evident that technology has propagated insecurity as it is easy and fast to track down people using minimal information. Therefore, it threatens their safety especially in instances where the people use this information for wrong purposes.
- Destruction of Anonymity
On discussing technology and privacy, it is imperative to approach this in a unified manner whereby the latter has collapsed all existing barriers in social, temporal, spatial, and financial contexts. With consideration of database anonymity and wiretapping, digital systems have wholly obliterated privacy. For instance, the manner in which an individual uses their credit card can completely affect any financial decision they make in the future (Chen et al. 296). A real-life demonstration of this effect is the Canadian credit card insurance company that realized that individual registered in their systems which used a specific pool hall was unreliable in making credit payments. An estimated 47% of this group failed to service up to four payments. Owing to the digitization of their computer, systems linked to their customer transaction activities; this company was more empowered in the allocation of credit. From this explanation, it is evident due to the lack of anonymity facilitated by digitization of existing systems, such information such as credit activity has been the basis of creditworthiness. This criterion differs from the financial systems used a decade ago, which applied more traditionalistic measures in allocating credit to applicants (Shaw). Therefore, from this case and its relation to the notion of anonymity, technology and Internet are responsible for the disruption of privacy in day-to-day activities, such as credit allocation and utilization. In addition to this, with the online systems, individuals are more conscious about how other entities are evaluating their records. This threat has increased dramatically with the technological advancement of the Internet, financial, and social systems.
Technology has also eliminated simplified privacy in the sense that individuals can no longer enjoy this civil right while conducting their day-to-day activities (Shaw). With the notion of security through obscurity, coined by the computer scientists, digital systems have allowed people to face security issues even within their lifestyle and related activities. An example presented is that it is easy to live a door unlocked and remain safe as the chances of someone trying to enter through the front door are minimal. However, with the digital systems incorporated in apartments, it is advisable for people to lock their doors. The rationale supporting this advice is the higher chance of someone prying and testing this system, which is often cheap to assess. Therefore, with this tool, the intruder can try unlocking more doors further threatening the privacy of the oblivious tenant.
Hacking has also become usual from an ethical standpoint. Such activities involve unauthorized access, or ‘break-ins,’ to computers (Spafford 41). Computer scientists opine that personal computers running on Windows XP first version are more vulnerable allowing for hacking to occur within four minutes after discovery (Chen et al. 298). After the illegal infiltration, the perpetrator can access the system and private information on the computer without the knowledge or consent of its owner. From an economic standpoint, hacking is a grossly unethical and expensive activity. Spafford argues that computer break-ins, which are never harmless, are unethical. But he also claims that in some — albeit highly unusual — cases, breaking into a computer might be “the right thing to do.” How can Spafford provide such an argument that some might find contradictory — sometimes it could be the right to do something that is unethical? Spafford himself explains the possibility of such a scenario in which a hacker needs vital medical information that resides on a computer in an emergency to save someone’s life. Here, Spafford suggests that breaking into that computer system would be the right thing to do, even if break-ins are unethical. Based on the lack of disclosure requirements and effective infrastructure that can quantify these losses appropriately, the use of technology and Internet has contributed to fraudulent and illegal activities, such as hacking that has implicated even high costs in litigation and compensation when privacy issues arise.
- Changes in the Societal Framework
The evolving social perceptions and attitude towards technology have also been responsible for the impact it has had on this facet. According to computer scientists, people are incredibly willing to provide their information when conducting their activities such as purchasing an item online (Shaw). It means that there is lack of a clear and definitive understanding of what the society requires for privacy and security. One significant aspect about the change in social attitudes is the generational shift from the more conservative millennial to the X and Y generation who are willing to post everything personal on social media despite their potential in affecting them at a later date. According to a New York Magazine, this younger generation fails to prioritize the importance of privacy (Shaw). With the increased installation of surveillance cameras on the streets and transaction tracking systems which offer information for activities as simple as taking a bus, this generation perceives privacy as an illusion therefore further propagating its invasion.
It is evident that technology and the computer use have changed the manner in which people perceive privacy, particularly in the current generation. Firstly, the modern-day bloggers and vloggers have highlighted on the unusual aspect of such privacy citing the hunter-gatherer ancestors that lived within public settings (Shaw). According to their understanding, privacy is an abstract concept which complicates human interactions, and they want to abolish it based on the positive aspects of technology in building communities. However, the current explanation of privacy facilitated the development of individual rights as a means of empowerment to the people especially in cases where the government acted in breach of their privacy (Shaw). Therefore, the right to privacy can be a hybrid approach to a modernized world. And the proliferation of the Internet and technology and their use by the government prompt the implementation of that strategy. With this in mind, it is evident that the global community has become more lenient regarding their privacy validating the changes in the societal mindset on the importance of this concept in human interactions on financial, social, personal and professional contexts.
On discussing the ease in which the younger generation fails to regard their privacy, an explanative answer is that their “home has never been a private place” (Shaw). Historically, people believed the home was a private space whereby all individuals within this confined unit could enjoy its liberties. However, with the changes in society’s mindset, this notion is no longer in play as younger people feel they lack control of their lives. Social platforms offer a remedy to this issue, as they can organize their action as opposed to the home environment. Through availing this option, technology and Internet allow this generation to post very private matters despite their understanding that they have more control of their lives (Chen et al. 301). The extremity of this instance is whereby some share their password to their social accounts with friends as a form of intimacy or trust. In comparison to history, the understanding of physical space was in the sense where people can determine the selected group of individuals to interact within a social setting. This comprehension was more natural and allowed for intimate conversation and meaningful interaction depending on an individual’s preference. However, the generational difference coupled with variability in age promotes privacy breach even further whereby technology is presenting more privacy as opposed to the traditional home setting.
Technology and the Internet use are attributed to the overall dissemination and distribution of personal information observed in the modern day. An active mode of change proposed by scholars in dealing with privacy concerns is through establishing transparency affording policymakers and individuals with a better comprehension of the associated risks concerning their willingness to provide personal information. It is imperative to understand there is a limited need for placing heavily restrictive measures on information sharing partly because people offer it willingly and voluntary, and it is beneficial from a holistic point of view. The decision to promote privacy even in the face of technological advancement solely relies on the perception of the security and its need to prioritize this civil liberty. Failure to offer support is likely to lead to a massive loss as people and communities will have trouble in establishing individual identities. The continued exposure of young people at a tender age to social pressure stemming from existing aberrant behaviors is likely to force them into social conformity. With the dismissal of privacy concerns imparts a reactionary force to the younger generation is expected to follow on this course as the human spirit is grounded on social experimentation establishing norms or normalization of particular notions.
Chen, Hongliang, Christopher E. Beaudoin and Traci Hong. “Securing Online Privacy: An Empirical Test on Internet Scam Victimization, Online Privacy Concerns, and Privacy Protection Behaviors.” Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 70, 2017, pp. 291-302.
Jones, Karen S. “Privacy: What’s Different Now?” Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, vol. 28, no. 4, 2003, pp. 287-292.
Shaw, Jonathan. “Exposed: The Erosion of Privacy in the Internet Era.” Harvard Magazine, 21 Oct. 2016,
harvardmagazine.com/2009/09/privacy-erosion-in-internet-era. Accessed 15 Apr. 2018
Spafford, Eugene H. “Are Computer Hacker Break-Ins Ethical?” Journal of Systems and Software, vol. 17, no. 1, 1992, pp. 41-47.
The verb of a sentence must agree with the subject in number and in person.
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