Maintaining Your Privacy on the Internet

data privacyOne of the hardest things to do in the technological age is to keep your life private. It’s one thing to post an update about your latest shenanigans on Facebook, but it’s an entirely different thing for the details of your life to be sold to a random company without your consent. Some obscure sentence buried in a 10,000-word terms of use page that you’re forced to accept does not count as consent to me. It’s tricky and unethical. Companies should make it very clear that they’re selling your data or mining sensitive data.

Big Data

The business of big data is what’s driving the collapse of privacy world wide. There are hundreds of companies that are willing to pay top dollar for your private data. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that has turned into a big mess. Some of the companies people have grown to trust with their personal information are the biggest culprits. Think about which companies you trust the most. Whichever company it is, they’re probably selling your data. It’ impossible to live a normal life with giving in to at least a few companies that mine and sell your information.

Why is this information so valuable?

billion dollar industryCompanies pay a lot of money to learn everything about you because they’re lazy. That’s what it really comes down to. Back in the day, a company would have to court you and get to know you to get your business. At the very least, they would have to advertise in a way that speaks directly to you. But when they did that, their efforts were not targeted. This caused a lot of money to be wasted in a shotgun approach. What big data has done eliminates the need for shotgun advertising.

If a company knows everything about you, and you’re their ideal prototype, why would they waste their time advertising to Billy Jean down the street? This has given these companies an unfair advantage. I think this needs to be disclosed to users right next to the ad that’s preying on them. With the advantage of knowing your search history, sites you’ve visited, and even buying habits, it’s easy for this companies to push your buttons to get you to buy their product. It’s too easy, but is it ethical?

Ethical Issues

is it ethicalThere is an ongoing debate about the ethical issues surrounding the storing of unsuspecting people’s information and using it to display specifically targeted advertising. It is an established fact that hackers can gain access to this data too. The ethicalness of this practice is not just about advertising. It’s a big conversation that can go in many different directions. There aren’t any rulebooks to the internet. There are merely vaguely defined guidelines that are hidden from the public. We have never been educated on how to operate the internet and maintain our privacy.

In high school you probably took drivers ed. Even if you didn’t, you were still required to pass a driver’s test before getting your permit and driver’s license. Why? Because driving is dangerous and you could seriously harm your life or other people’s lives if you don’t know the rules of the road and how to operate your vehicle safely. The internet is the same way. If you don’t know the rules of the internet and how to operate it safely, you can find yourself knee deep in a pile of crap very fast. This is no laughing matter because it can seriously harm your life or the life of other people.

So, is it ethical that people’s data is being mined even though the internet doesn’t come with a rulebook or a test required to use it? How are people supposed to learn about what’s happening with their data if there’s nobody telling or educating them? We’re not born knowing that we need to research what tricks people are doing on the internet. What are we supposed to use to find that out anyway, the internet? So we need to use the internet to find out about keeping our privacy on the internet, leaving a trail of data to be mined in the process. Because of this, we’re all virtually sitting ducks for these big data companies. We’re defenseless and they know it. Sure there are things we can do to protect ourselves, but only a few people know about them. That leaves the vast majority of internet users unprotected in a world full of sharks that are hungry for their next meal, your data.