2014 / 27 July

Digital Privacy: Are We Pulling Our Own Plugs?


Do we have ourselves to blame, at least in part, for the death of privacy in the digital age?

While this was not the first question I asked myself after watching the 2013 documentary Terms and Conditions May Apply (TACMA) it is a question worth asking.

The documentary is a shocking exposure of the information that websites, corporations, and governments know about you from online activities that may seem innocent and private under the protection of an IP address, delete button, and passwords.

And it came just before the Snowden revelations.

Here’s the takeaway – the biggest source of wealth for a company like Facebook or Google is their network of users.

It’s easy to think of Googling, “liking” and tweeting as free services. They’re not.

More specifically, it’s the personal information, searches, clicks, and other forms of data you knowingly and unknowingly give these companies.

So how is this our fault?

Well, for starters, when you fill out your Facebook profile, “like” pages, and click links you are willingly giving your information to Facebook.

Should the company have some kind of responsibility to protect your data? Yes!

But that data is also your form of payment for use of the service that Facebook supplies.

It’s easy to think of Googling, “liking” and tweeting as free services. They’re not.

We have to remember that Google, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr (Yahoo), and almost all other services we use online are provided by for-profit corporations.

Most people lack an understanding of how the Internet really works and what personal information they are making available online.

While I agree along with most Americans that corporations and the government often abuse their access to our digital information, we also have the responsibility to understand what information they put online.

User-friendly terms and conditions can help with this, but who is really going to read them? The larger issue is that most people lack an understanding of how the Internet really works and what personal information they are making available online.

Yes, authorities and corporations overstep massive moral boundaries (see News Corp hacking and PRISM) to access data from our phones and emails.

However, a large problem that we can do something about is learning to become aware of the vast amount of information we emit in our everyday use of the Internet.

While I was born into the Digital Age and am relatively liberal with the information I share online, I understand what I am sharing (most of the time) and accept that for the greater benefit of access to information and social sharing.

Still, I can’t even begin to visualize all the information companies and the government have collected on me from my everyday use of the Internet — think Google searches, video history, purchases, and banking for starters. That is alarming and, if I’m really honest with myself, the death of privacy is terrifying.

While the Snowden revelations have since roused the population with truths of digital spying, we need to have more general knowledge of how daily use of the Web erodes any facade of privacy in the Digital Age.

At the end of the day we cannot simply trust the corporations that control the websites we use each day.

We need to have a better understanding of what each click and Web search means for our digital profile – and that requires learning about the Internet and how it works.

Don’t Keep Your Voice Private:

Agree? Disagree? Have thoughts on how or when to educate people on these basics? I want to hear your thoughts below. I also highly recommend watching Terms and Conditions May Apply if you have the chance. Trailer below:
 

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