The global community is in the midst of an information revolution, with the increased nature of sharing internet information at its top gear since the beginning of the 21st Century. While the past few years have seen a dramatic transformation in the manner in which people shop, bank, and accomplish their daily businesses, the changes have come with enormous challenges in terms of managing the proliferation of data as well as records. In the past decades, small details of information were captured and stored on crappy pieces of paper, and human’s dim memories. Privacy has a wide network of connotation, which may include issues such as control over information, access to a person’s and property, and the right to be left alone without infringement. The political discourse, however, gives a different but interesting perspective on the use of the term “privacy”. In most cases, the term is used to refer to physical privacy at home or in the office, the freedom to make independent decisions without external interference, freedom from any form of surveillance, or simply the ability to keep all the conversations between different parties confidential (Sampson, 2013).
Many take personal privacy as a fundamental right that is tied to parameters such as autonomy, personal growth, and independence. Privacy is also viewed as a condition for separating personal from public life, fairness in individual treatment by both government and the public at large, and guarantee of individual freedom to choose what affects their lives without any form of interference. Today people’s wallets are stuffed with digital contents such as ARM cards, shopper loyalty cards, debit and credit cards, and many other computer compliant items. Due to the booming information streams that need sorting, rearranging and stored in a way that it can be retrieved whenever necessary. Digital technology enables the preservation of information. However, the rise in digital information flow has also given rise to another challenge of digital privacy that has continuously confronted many entities, from governments, agencies, corporations to individuals, as a result of either individual negligence, accidental or deliberate.
The concept of digital privacy has not made it easier for organizations or individual site owners to create an electronic collage that can cover an individual’s life, without some aspects of infringement. Digital privacy can be described as the efforts to protect the information about individuals making use of a digital medium. However, many refer to digital privacy as the relationship between internet users and the content provider. Although it is a popular concept, the obstacles facing this definition are based on the idea that digital information spread faster than anyone can control the limits for usage. Currently, the masses are facing the challenge brought about by issues surrounding “digital dossiers”, which can be described as a collection of detailed data about an individual (Nazario, 2004). For instance in Europe, a dossier can be used to assemble information for the courts so as to enhance the conclusion of a judgments. Today as persons use internet information, dossiers are constructed about each person in a way that allows the computers to digitize it into a binary numerical form, which enables its manipulation to an unprecedented efficiency.
Many companies have emerged that construct the huge amount of data related to the psychological profiles of individuals, and other intelligence information such as age, gender, hobbies, income, buying habits and much more. This kind of information is critical in the modern consumerism society, which allows the stakeholders to investigate or check backgrounds, check credit status, market products, and help make a wide variety of decisions affecting people’s lives in one way or another.
I.Internal Threats to Internet Users’ Privacy
The internet has changed the way people communicate across the globe, with its various applications such as the use of emails, social media chats, video conferencing and other forms of communications facilitated through various online applications. The internet also provides numerous opportunities for people to communicate around the world. Most operations including marketing, advertisement, storage, and transfer of information among and between companies and individuals are done over the internet nowadays. The internet can be described as a network of computers that constantly communicate messages, from texts to photos and moving pictures as well as sound. However, the use of the internet to communicate information that is confidential and personal has come under scrutiny as cases of hacking and phishing continue to dominate the use of internet (Pfleeger & Pfleeger, 2011, p. 34). To this end, many internet users have been left vulnerable because they mishandled personal information on the internet, either deliberately or neglect. As technology continues to infuse among people, more cases of insecurity to the information communicated through the medium are reported.
Considering that digital environment has made it easy for people to access the information they may need anytime. In other words, information stored in a database may be threatened as it can fall in the wrong hands. As such, the wrong person can use it to advance harmful activities or use it without owner’s consent. The question is whether it is possible to secure all the information left online. However, this comes with the costly internet crimes that have been on the rise in the recent years. The internet is a power meant for the good and benefits of millions of people across the world. It provides easy and cheap access to a large and varied reservoir of entertainment and information. It acts as a transformation in the nature of government and commerce.
However, with almosto1 billion users globally accessing around seventy-five million websites, probability of occurrences of illegal or offensive practices online becomes high (Pfleeger & Pfleeger, 2011, p. 34). Undeniably, the internet has a dark side of it which has been identified and pinpointed by professional internet criminologists and other IT experts. Crime on the internet comprises of various undesirable practices such as cyber stalking, cyber bullying, internet suicide, internet homicide, hacking, industrial espionage, fraud, scams, cyber terrorism, and prostitution.
Cyber stalking is an attack technologically based on an individual who has been targeted for certain reasons such as anger, control and revenge. It may take several forms that include embarrassment, humiliation and harassment of the victim. It also takes the form of emptying bank accounts or other economic control methods such as ruining credit score of the victim. It also involves harassment to close relatives and friends of the victim in a bid to isolate the victim. For instance, it can involve harassment of the victim’s employer so that he or she can fire the victim for the benefit of the stalker. In addition, the term applies traditional stalkers who use technology in order to get the location of their victims as well as trace their movements more easily with the use of information such as Facebook notifications. This helps them know about the movement of the victims for instance where they are or where they intend to be, for instance, at the parties. Intention of true internet stalkers is harming their intended victims with the use of untraceable distance of technology or anonymity. In many occasions, the victims never come to the discovery of the identity of their stalkers who seriously cause hurt to them despite their lives being upended by their perpetrators.
The infringement of personal privacy of individuals can also lead to Cyber Bullying. Cyber Bullying involves an adult person deliberately harassing, threatening or harming a younger internet user (Wall, 2001). Cyber bullying is simplified as online bullying whereby an older person harasses, threatens or harms a younger person. Since it involves the use of technology, cyber bullying is a crime that can cause a lot of problems in its investigation and legal challenges. Sometimes it is very easy to spot or notice.
Other acts include online impersonation of a victim or posting of personal information videos, photos, designed to embarrass or hurt another person. There are also incidences in the internet when kids report the creation of WebPages, online persona, and fake accounts with the aim of harassing and bullying other internet users (Zeinab & Qasimi 148). It can also happen accidentally. Impersonal nature of IMs, text messages, as well as emails which makes it difficult to detect the tone of the sender. It is also common when jokes are made. A person’s hilarious joke may be another one’s hurtful insult. However, repeated patterns of text messages, emails, as well as online posts on sites like Facebook and Twitter are rarely accidental.
Scammers also have a way of getting to the internet users’ psychological mind and expose them to classified information that may seem very appropriate for their personal growth (Wall 73). For instance, certain websites are created with an aim of carrying out criminal activities online by using attractive names and domains to entice many viewers. Sites that advocate “Get Rich” pretends to ‘award’ individuals with payments or grants in return for bank account or credit card details and information. Another form of scam is phishing which is also referred to as carding. It involves deceiving customers so that they can disclose their bank account information, credit card numbers, passwords, social security numbers, and other related information (Wall, 2001).
II. External Threats
Advances in technology have impacted in almost all the areas of human life. One of the areas that have been greatly put in the spotlight is the security where biometric authentication systems are increasing becoming the talk in the security circles. From superstars to airports, biometric systems are finding applications at a greater level. The US government has invested heavily since 1900s in the development of biometric systems to secure some of the controlled areas in the country. It is also on the forefront of ensuring that international peace is maintained through sharing of biometric data, which will enhance the application of securing measures in different parts of the world. The area of law enforcement underwent tremendous transformation in the 20th century.
Several technological innovations brought about enhanced law enforcement systems in many countries around the world. As such, it is possible for governments and security agencies such as Interpol and Europol to coordinate security and law enforcement by using the internet (Hunton & Williams, 2012). Fingerprints and other biometric identification features have been sent across the world through the internet to prevent the occurrence of a crime of apprehend a suspected criminal before they carry out their heinous crimes. These transactions are based on the fact that law enforcement is enhanced through the use of internet applications which promote activities under review. However, incidences have emerged where hackers intercept information that security agencies put across the internet for state use. A case in point is the recent incidents where Wikileaks founder was accused of hacking data from the United States’ embassies about a country’s stand on diplomacy and international issues.
Some of the external threats to individual privacy are the increased use of biometric authentication systems. Although biometric authentication systems have been in use since the 14th century, the rapid advances in technology in the 20th Century saw the use of biometric authentication systems taken to a higher level. The use of biometric technology is common in modern security applications. Most likely the use of biometric gadgets will continue to grow as people continue to advance in technology. According to Nazario (2004), although biometric technology is can be very expensive and has several downfalls, the growing security concerns in a post 9/11 world and the increasing value information is likely to spur its growth. It has become the easiest means for accessing information, and is likely to progressively replace other forms of identification, especially where sensitive applications are used (Nazario, 2004). CCTV cameras have found wide application in the enhancement of law enforcement in shops, streets, airports, and almost all public and private places. The CCTV technology enables law enforcers to have recorded pictures of what happened in a place and thus can construct investigative processes and apprehend those who are involved in the crime (Connolly, 2003).
Apart from the government involvements with persons’ privacy, there are other forms of online privacy infringements that may be beyond an internet user’s control. For instance, internet fraud is one of the most dangerous forms of internet crimes. It's designed in a manner that tricks vulnerable users of some sites. Most of these sites are building societies and bank sites. The aim of the trick is to make the perpetrators disclose their password and/or any other private information that is needed to access their accounts easily. The most common type of this fraud is whereby a customer is emailed in order to advise him or her on the necessity of confirming or checking their passwords by clicking on a fake and realistic website, and inputting the secret or confidential information on the site. From this, it becomes easy to transfer money fraudulently from the individual’s accounts to the perpetrator’s account. An example of this practice was perpetrated against the UK’s Nat West’s, Citibank’s and Barclay’s customers (Reyes & O’Shea 24). Although this kind of fraud is external, people can control its damage by avoiding unwarranted requests that may seem to deal with their bank details.
Packet reading is another fraud method whereby hackers locate certain data patterns, for instance, credit card digits. They then intercept the patterns and copy them. However, packet reading is not rampant among the common fraud methods because of the expertness required. There is also another practice, which is referred to as cramming whereby clients are charged for services rendered to them on top of services that they are entitled to.
Viruses are meant to interfere with the normal operation of computers. They come in three main forms: Viruses, Trojan horse and worm. A virus is a code which attaches itself to a certain program in the computer and multiplies or replicates itself. It can lock up existing files on a computer or erase itself. The worm has a similarity to the virus but has no attachment characteristic in the computer programs. This feature leaves this virus free spread itself through a given network of its own. There are approximately more than twenty thousand viruses that have been created and are in existence in the internet to deliberately cause damage or confusion to the users. A virus has an effect of psychological torture and harassment to computer and internet users (Evans, Martin, & Poatsy, 2012). For instance, the existence of virus on a student’s laptop can be a threat to the academic information that is kept on the laptop. This may contribute to failure of the student in his or her exams, causing a lot of stress and worries.
The presence of digital technology makes it possible for people to copy exactly creative products like films and music. After copying, the internet aids in the transmission or spread of these pirated products across the world for free or minimal cost. It provides free and anonymous ways through which these products are spread. In this case, the copyright privacy is shunned, as the illegal seller has all the ingredients of the original product. The most applicable means of availing pirated material online is through the use of a file sharing method known as peer-to-peer method. The main Problem originally encountered with this problem was the sending or sharing of MP3 music files through certain sites like Napster (Internet Crime Complaint Center 12). Nevertheless, with the growing development and availability of broadband, sharing or provision of long movies can take place even within an hour or two.
iii. The idea of profiling and the potential implications
Profiling has been used by various institutions and agencies such as governments. Profiling can involve an individual person, or a group of persons, or animals, where classification criteria are used to describe and analyze what happened, which is not particularly new or problematic (Zeinab & Qasimi, 2010). Commonly known as a query, many cases of profiling permits a reorganization of what is already known about a person. Profiling can be used to cluster data so that information can be inferred, and predictions or expectations suggested. In a way, such profiling activity produces a certain type of knowledge discovery in databases. Profiling is thus important in understanding the probable state of affairs in the present and future.
Privacy is known to be a fundamental right, although it is sometimes difficult to define the exact meaning of that right. Ideally, privacy can be considered to have dual aspect in that it concerns what information or side of our lives we can keep private, and that we can share with third parties who are also obliged to know what to hold or share. The understanding of privacy has long been determined by the technologies of the day. The early concerns about privacy surfaced with the need to address issues with the newspapers in the 19th Century (Solove, 2004). Then 1990s came with the rise in internet use, and subsequent change on privacy issues. The reshaping of privacy has thus initiated debate on matters internet privacy and security.
The right to privacy is part of other rights and freedoms such as freedom of expression, association and belief. It is also the individual’s ability to express themselves across the internet without any fear of reprisal, or to communicate anonymously without government phishing information. Historically, the freedom of expression online has improved political accountability, with many people having the gut to speak on matters that affect their lives without fear of being tracked by the government (Zeinab & Qasimi, 2010). However, the right to privacy has also been found to compete with the rights and freedoms of expression, and sometimes striking the balance becomes the most challenging act in the domain of privacy and security.
The 20th Century international legal standards define privacy as a human right. Still, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), 1948, contained the first attempt to protect privacy as a distinct human right (Mendel, 2013). As reflected in Article 12 of the UDHR, no one shall be put under any arbitrary interference as far as privacy is concerned. In other words, everyone has a right to the protection of the law against any form of interference or attacks. Although the UDHR is not legally binding, it was immensely authoritative in references as many laws emerged that were made with a similar concept. In addition to the broad international provisions, many countries include a right to privacy in their constitutions, in the specific clauses of their laws, or have had the courts of the land recognize the implicit violation of rights to privacy over the internet as has been witnessed in countries such as Canada, India, Germany among others (Mendel, 2013). These countries have had their census agencies develop privacy policies to ensure the protection of personal information that they collect.
Despite the extensiveness of the protections in both basic constitutions and law, the right to privacy still remains a nebulous concept. In this perspective, securing such a right depends on the circumstances of the individual cases; hence cases are handled depending on the circumstances under which the privacy was infringed. It is therefore understandable to hear cases where a state organ is unable to have an exhaustive definition of the idea of privacy (Sampson, 2013). Of more critical situations is the increased use of internet on a combination of numerous media such as mobiles and personal computers. The increased dissemination of content via various media such as mobiles has even increased challenges to the entire concept of internet privacy, with governments, businesses and institutions mining information about individuals for their own use (Sampson, 2013). This type of information acquisition is sometimes done without consent of the owner.
iv. Consumer Privacy Rights and Online Behavioral Advertising
Online behavioral marketing provides both raised assurance and remarkable concern. The size of information, which is gathered concerning clients’ Internet browsing activities in order to certainly focus advertisements on them enables for most of the free details, which clients need. However, the Internet browsing is also a basis of interest because clients can take most of the data as personal. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is in a strategic position to defend client privacy rights within the field of online behavioral advertising, since the position of its jurisdiction is so extensive. For that, the FTC is suggesting three points by which the sector must forge ahead with the assistance of the FTC to assist defend client privacy rights. According to FTC, there are some sector activities, which should be eliminated and some should be simplified to public client. Sector players should collaborate with FTC to create awareness to the enterprises and public on the dangers of collecting information client action as well as restrictions that collecting client data is acceptable (Frost, 2009). The FTC should stay supple in its mechanisms to online behavioral advertising; mainly focused rules should not rapidly turn to archaic and the FTC should be alert in evaluating fresh dangers to client privacy.
All clients freely surf the web and offers channels for the Web’s vast development through online advertisement. Most the online advertisement is also found in newspapers and magazines where they focus on end-users from the perspective of their surfing skills. The detail of a visited web page of a search request proposes to advertisers that likely clients can be concerned in a given advertisement. Behavioral advertisement is a modern type of Internet advertising, which has depicted performance at aiming advertisement to clients and, therefore, more profitable. Online behavioral advertising is the trailing of a client’s actions online – encompassing the searches the client has carried out, the web pages frequented, as well as details looked at to deliver campaign on aimed person’s interests. The FTC should be informed that technological advancement implies that there will unquestionably be fresh and future highly intrusive privacy interest (Muris, 2002).
Two approaches may be applied in reaction to client privacy interests. First firms that operate with sensitive client information can monitor themselves to given scope. This is referred to as self-regulation and is carried out through unions of firms, which are endowed in online advertisement like the Network Advertisement Initiative (NAI). The other approach, mainly focused rules may be passed to make sure some given minimum measures are being observed and that advertisers are responsible for misappropriation or abusing clients’ private information (Frost, 2009).
v. Present concerns and planning for the future of client privacy
The Internet is a challenging field for imposing of regulations pertaining privacy partially, since it is not linked to any given geographic area. The affected and offenders of privacy dangers are geographically spread. Local regulators do not anticipate using sizeable amount of capital to defend clients from other geographical places. In addition, local regulators lack adequate resources to fight the privacy risks, which storm their clients’ Internet operation. FTC is better placed in relation to local regulators to give solution to privacy dangers over clients. They have extensive powers of mitigation, comprising capacity to collaborate successfully with international federal representatives (Hunton& Williams, 2012).
vi. FTC’s proposed regulations on self-regulation
The applicant should be armed to ensure privacy decisions for them while browsing the Internet. Clients usually have an insignificant understanding of Web advertising, but it is less precise that they know the approaches of advertising. Firms like NAI have been remarkable in unionizing behavioral advertisers and proposing least measures by which all players should observe.
Least measures for protection are essential for client privacy rights. Proposed regulations include firms, which collect information should be accountable in relation to data collecting activities and those activities should be accessible by the clients (Frost, 2009). There should be considerable security and scarce information retention for all collected client details. Clients should provide assenting direct accord for items alteration to present privacy agreement developed by data collectors, and lastly clients should provide assenting accord for any crucial information collected.
The technological advancements in 20th century impacted the law enforcement capacity of governments and other law enforcement agencies. Technology has become part of the law enforcement process until it is difficult to imagine how the law was enforced without these technological applications. Today, every personal computer is in a database starting from the hard disk to the mail contents. A computer can contain large and dynamic database, which can be information about millions of people across the globe. Some of the drivers of this change in the idea of privacy are technological changes, societal shifts, and discontinuities in circumstances. The changes in the technology form major differences in the technological environment today than it did two decades ago. These changes have had enormous influence on legal and social regimes governing rights and privacy. Other emerging technologies such as sensor networks that is able to capture and relay real time data so that the entire world can consume. It is increasingly becoming more common to realize that every day; more data are online than they are offline, exposing the importance of the internet. The end result is a collection of large quantities of data being collected and stored in vast amount and over long duration of time. Of more puzzles is that fact that the ease of access in increasing everyday makes such data vulnerable. Protecting such data is becoming quite difficult, even as new technologies are made available for organizations, governments and individuals to collect information. It is this means that policies managing this data must be updated accordingly.
Similarly, society has also shifted an evolutionary change in various institutions that define activities and practices. To a certain degree, collecting data about individual has become even easier with many of the behaviors such as social media participation becoming the everyday life of individuals. These new innovations have also transformed the dimensions of the debate, especially on the issue of privacy.
The governments and its agencies have continued to collect data from individuals for the purposes of curtailing crime incidences. For example, intelligence agencies use individual profiles to monitor a person suspected of being a member of a terrorist group. Corporations can collect the data to customize their marketing strategies. However, the concept normally generates intense debates as people have complained of being subjected to unwarranted search or their data stolen by the organizations. That is, although organizations write privacy information on their websites, it is logical to understand that most of these privacy policies have limits, and may not guarantee information safety. Although there are external threats to external privacy, it has become important to note that internal threats are equally dangerous and one should be in a position to expressly manage his own personal information without being dependent on the third parties.