Dude, Where's My Privacy?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Often times Internet users reveal personal data that they don’t intend to share. Whether signing up for an account online or clicking on an advertisement, people you may never meet in person have information about you. Whether it’s a company or search engine, people have demographic data and potential employers may have something on you as well. Is there real privacy on the Internet? Can personal information be protected as they once were before the digital age? These topics will be explored in this blog post.

Some websites seem to know your gender and possibly some products that may interest you. Visiting some websites where I have an account, like Facebook.com, I have noticed that advertisements are geared around media, female fashion, film schools, and student credit cards. The demographic information in my Facebook Profile give companies like Facebook that kind of information. If you are registered with an account on a magazine website, you may notice advertisements tailored to fit your interests. Companies can do this because of cookies, little text files created on your computer that contain information left there by the websites you visit and the advertisements you have clicked on their site in the past (“Internet Use Raises Privacy Concerns”). More information on how the Internet affects privacy concerns can be found here.

There are websites like The Anonymizer that allow a user to conceal personal information when visiting websites that track cookies and demographics. This website can help protect online shopping and protect your privacy even if you are using an iPhone. The Internet impacts privacy on a large scale. There are so many companies looking for user information and there are thieves that are trying to find personal information to steal. With so much activity taking place online, from shopping to socializing, there are so many aspects of protecting privacy to consider.

A case involving an autistic student in Italy will be observed here. The autistic student was bullied at school and a video of the incident was posted online. The video could be found through Google and there was a total of 5,500 hits in two months. There were advertisements on the site, which meant that Google was profiting off of the posting of a video where a student is bullied. Making profits where the video was published was what got Google in trouble with an Italian court. More information on this topic can be found here. In my opinion, Italy's prosecution of Google is fair. There is a line between protecting privacy and promoting the free exchange of information. This video contained information that was embarrassing and harmful to the victim. These kinds of videos where people are harmed or bullied does not need to be shared, not even on  unless it is used as a democratizing tool. Videos on protests and brutal police attacks can be shown on websites because they are showing the truth of what is happening and why it needs to be stopped. This video should have been screened and censored by Google.

Here is a video on Internet privacy and security:

Companies like Yahoo! and Google keep track of user searches in order to help maximize searches and provide niche advertising. Other companies like magazines may mine the internet for user information in order to make better profits and attract people to their sites. They may want to sell something or get more hits to their site for better chances of increased revenue. The only way to stop companies to getting our information is to avoid clicking on advertisements and have firewall software installed on our computers. We should also clear our cookies and our History on our Internet browser every one or two weeks to prevent information from being stolen, even by hackers. People don't have too much control over a Google search and what people obtain about them. As long as people don't allow too much information about them on the web and don't sign up for too much on unsecured websites (ones with "https" links), then their most private information can be protected. From my own personal experience, I have stopped using external links on Facebook, stopped with quizzes and games, and only use my private information on sites like banking.
I don't believe there is absolute privacy on the web. We never know if a clickjacker or a certain virus that logs everything we type has been transmitted to our computers before our AntiVirus software has had a chance to update itself. I never use my card information on the web unless I have heightened my firewall and am using only the https website. Future employers can use sites like LinkedIn and blogs under your name to find out more information about you. When I googled myself and did a search on the web for myself so I could see what a potential employer could find, these are the four links I found:


A few months ago, my Facebook account would appear in a Google search. I revised my privacy settings to avoid that from happening. People growing up in this generation may expect more privacy because almost every aspect of their life could be found on the Internet.  People nowadays use the Internet to store videos, pictures, conduct banking, play games and participate in social networking. With past generations, most activities were physical, and now almost everything can be done in cyberspace. More information on the privacy and the age demographics expectations on protection online can be found here.

All of the privacy issues affect the Long Tail of distribution because people can upload unlimited amounts of data and media on the Internet that can allow others to invade their privacy without permission. The Internet is a democratizing tool but someone's privacy is always invaded in the process. In the case of the autistic student in Italy, the privacy of the student was invaded. In the case of protests in Tehran, the government's privacy is invaded. With so much available online, users should always put their privacy first even when using social networking sites. Companies might use your information to target you with advertising, and search engines may track your searches. Thieves and marketing research companies keep track of your cookies and demographic data. The only way to protect ourselves and retain our privacy is to be careful with what we do online.

Works Cited:
All Images found via Creative Commons (in order of appearance):




All Videos found via Creative Commons.
Cleland, Scott. "Poll: Americans Strongly Oppose." The Precursor Blog. The Associated Press, 30 09 2009. Web. 17 Apr 2010. http://precursorblog.com/content/poll-americans-strongly-oppose-publicacy-expect-online-privacy-part-xvi-privacy-publicacy-series

Barry, Colleen. "Italian Judge Says Profit Behind Google Verdict ." Bloomberg Businessweek. The Associated Press, 29 04 2008. Web. 17 Apr 2010. http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9F1M8UG2.htm

"Internet Use Raises Privacy Concerns." VOA News. voanews/com, 29 04 2008. Web. 17 Apr 2010. http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/science-technology/a-13-2008-04-29-voa44.html

Lohr, Steve. "How Privacy Vanishes Online." Technology. The New York Times, 03 16 2010. Web. 17 Apr 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/17/technology/17privacy.html

Perez, Sarah. "Three Facebook Settings Every User Should Check Now." Technology. The New York Times, 20 01 2010. Web. 17 Apr 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/external/readwriteweb/2010/01/20/20readwriteweb-the-3-facebook-settings-every-user-should-c-29287.html?em


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