Hackernoon logoOnline Privacy is Not an Option: It's a Necessity by@reputio

Online Privacy is Not an Option: It's a Necessity

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Most Americans believe that the security of their online information should not be a trade-off for using the Internet. As technology expert Gary Kovacs said, “Privacy is not an option, and it shouldn’t be the price we accept for just getting on the Internet.”

Despite this, many Americans have little confidence in online privacy, and believe that the corporate sector and the government track their online and offline activities regularly. In fact, six out of ten adults in the U.S. believe that, in their daily lives, their personal data is constantly being collected, in some way, by companies and the government.

As Internet security experts say, online privacy is not so much what a person does online, but more who the person is, and then, what he or she does online. Who a person is, is categorized as Personally Identifiable Information (PII), which includes name, address, date of birth, Social Security Number, phone numbers, email and other vital information. What people do online is defined as the searches they engage in, while online. Apart from this, companies and governments also have access to people’s private and sensitive information, such as medical records, their sexual orientation or political views.

Thus, spurred by individual needs, people engage in all kinds of online searches, like news, work-related and personal research, vacation spots, different types of purchases, and social interactions. What is more, people hardly give a thought to the fact that every search leaves an extensive digital paper trail of personal information.

In fact, most Internet users forget that there is a price for everything in some way. Downloading an app, or using a company’s “free” email service or social media platforms, always come with a price tag in the form of valuable data that the online user leaves behind.

On the other hand, companies are always on the watch for such treasures, to steal, collect, analyze and profit from information, after profiling people.  Big tech companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook have netted enormous profits from data gathering of the “data economy,”  by targeting products and advertisements.

This situation led the European Court of Justice to rule against Google in a high-profile online privacy case in 2014, escalating the debate on the “right to be forgotten” focused on the ability to keep online users’ personal information from being searchable. Adding to this effort of protecting personal information online, is the critical strategy of best vpn for torrenting.

However, the ominous nature of corporate intrusion into personal data is seen everywhere, such as when a young girl made some innocuous purchases online, such as vitamins, unscented lotion and cotton balls.  Corporate information gatherers already had vital information about her, and these purchases led them to correctly guess she was pregnant. Then they began targeting her with coupons for baby items.

Yet, even as the public express fears of losing online privacy, they also admit that they are mostly careless in paying attention to privacy policies and terms of service of various websites they visit. 97% of Americans acknowledge they are regularly required to read and approve privacy policies, but only about 9% always read these policies before accepting, while 13% often read the policies before accepting. What is worse, 36% accept the privacy policies without even bothering to read them.

Nevertheless, after the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was added to the law on data protection and privacy in the European Union and the European Economic Area, and implemented in May 2018, the state of California in the U.S. followed suit, with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). The CCPA, which went into effect on January 1, 2020, became the first defining data privacy laws in the country.

Moreover, the CCPA strengthens the ability of individuals to actively monitor and protect their personal information in five important ways. For instance, businesses are legally bound to inform consumers of their intention to collect personal information. On the flip side, consumers have the right to know what personal data a company collects, the source of the data, with whom the data is shared, and how it will be used.

In addition, the CCPA gives consumers the right to prevent businesses from selling their personal information to third parties, and they can request businesses to remove their personal information from the company’s database. The CCPA also prevents businesses from punishing consumers for exercising their privacy rights and forbids companies to charge different prices or refuse service.

Meanwhile, the Dutch search engine company Startpage, which stands out for its focus on privacy, found, in a recent survey, that pervasive “privacy inertia” prevents people from protecting themselves from privacy assaults online, although they are very much aware of these attacks.

For instance, younger Internet users are so hooked on surfing, they consider it easier to break up with a romantic partner, than restrict using the Internet.

However, experts offer critical guidance to overcome this self-defeating attitude.  Dr. Timothy A. Pychyl, Associate Professor of Psychology at Carleton University, said, “Making specific implementation intentions for action is effective, particularly in the form of the conditional ‘if . . . then.’ For example, ‘if I’m about to look up a term with a search engine, then I will take five minutes and choose a private search tool.’ This approach provides a clear cue for action which makes it more likely that we’ll remember our intention and act.”

CEO of Startpage, Robert E.G. Beens believes it is vital that the public follow Dr. Pychyl’s approach.

“If millions of consumers each took one quick, motivated action to protect their privacy in 2021, we’d go a long way collectively to regaining our online freedom.”

American businesswoman, Marissa Mayer, echoes this view. “For me, the core principles of privacy online are transparency, choice, and control.”

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