“Hey, I was just looking that up.” This is a thought that occurs to many Americans today as they scroll through their device and an ad pops up for something they were just looking up. Some may be bothered more than others by the fact that someone or something is tracking their browsing history. According to Winston and Strawn, internet privacy can be defined as “the level of privacy [and] protection an individual has while connected to the internet (“What is the Definition of Online Privacy”). Internet privacy should be regulated and constantly updated in order to keep the personal information of consumers confidential. It is necessary because someone should not be able to see what others are doing on the internet, what their health is like based on the data on their devices, or what their interests are based on their browsing history.
To begin with, because of the increase of new technology today, internet privacy is needed now more than ever. With this, the amount of data that is being collected and stored is also increasing. A research study by Pew stated, “81% of Americans say they go online on a daily basis”(Perrin and Madhu). Consumers are using their devices and the internet for shopping, online banking, monitoring health care, connecting with friends and much more. This new technology that tracks our health information ranges from more advanced smartphones to watches that can track your heart rate, determine if you have had excessive noise exposure and even detect when you fall. An article about why privacy matters stated that as technology advances, we use our devices to track our health-related information on many levels. (Kovacs). As our society relies more heavily on technology to go about everyday tasks, the amount of private information shared or stored in these devices increases significantly. Because of this, without internet privacy, many people find they have less control over who can access their information. This information about shopping, finances, and health is private information that people should have the right to decide if and how much is shared.
Many people use the internet today and feel as if what they are doing online is constantly being tracked, but are unsure of what to do about it. In the book Online Privacy, the author Peggy Parks discusses how many people feel like they are out of control and powerless to do anything about the constant leaking of their personal information (Parks 6). So many Americans are oblivious to the effects of everyday tasks like logging in to websites or even simply browsing on the web. In the book she also discusses the “digital trail” that people leave, which consists of any information someone left behind, for example, whenever you shop online or search something, you leave clues that tell who you are and what your interests may be. Many do not know or realize the risks involved (Parks 9). Internet privacy can be seen as a lofty goal in today’s society for many reasons, including its remarkable complexity, as well as the vast amount of information that people put out on the sites they view. In an article about protecting privacy, the issue of the consumer’s decline in privacy was discussed. The article explained how because of the increase in more advanced devices, it is much harder to control the information that is now being transmitted through these devices. This means that with the increase in new technology, the amount of privacy that people today have is on the decline (Kerry).
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As of today, there are a few laws and regulations in place to protect the average American. The laws and regulations range from protecting consumers from companies’ deceptions to protecting them against fraud. One of the major players in internet privacy is the FTC or Federal Trade Commission. In an article that talks about different privacy laws, it is stated that the FTC “regulates unfair or deceptive commercial practices” (“Internet Privacy Laws Revealed- How Your Personal Information is Protected Online”). Another example that is discussed in an article written by the National Conference of State Legislatures from Nevada is that the law makes it necessary for the operators of websites or services online to inform consumers of what information is collected and who the information is shared with (Greenburg). While these may be important to set a guideline for what should be allowed, they hardly skim the surface of the vast amount of threats to private information that the general public wishes to be safe and secure.
On the other hand, some may say that internet privacy is unnecessary. As a Wired article discusses, many people believe that privacy is only for those that have something to hide (Sterling). This is not the case because, for one, the tracking of personal information can harm consumers if sensitive information is leaked. This information could lead to devastating consequences like identity theft. Also, even if no harm is done in the exposure of personal information, it is creepy to find that someone or something is tracking everything you do or look up online. Overall, internet privacy is necessary.
All things considered, internet privacy is vital for the protection of consumers’ information. Next time that ad pops up on the screen, think about the importance of internet privacy, even if it may seem trivial. The effects on consumers of the widespread disclosure of personal information are greater than most people realize. Even to those that say they have nothing to hide.