Free Essay Example: Internet Privacy and Ethical Challenges

Published: 2024-01-04
Free Essay Example: Internet Privacy and Ethical Challenges
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Economics Internet Technology Ethics
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1789 words
15 min read


Currently, the world is in an information age, where economic activities are solely based on information due to the development and extensive use of technology. The primary characteristics of this information age are that the world has attained open communication and internationalization that allows the flow of data across borders (Stahl et al., 2017). The changes have prompted new ethical and juridical issues related to the right of access to data. Similarly, the individuals’ right to privacy is under threat following the free flow of data and the protection of a person’s economic interest as a property owner. According to Stahl et al. (2017), ethical actions refer to the activities performed within a specific criterion regarded as acceptable. Ethics enables humans to behave honorably and attain the fundamental commodities that make them human. The privacy concept refers to a particular lifestyle where people exclude themselves from publicity (Brey, 2007). Following the increased demands for privacy, countries such as the United States developed privacy laws to protect the citizens. Brey (2007) asserted that confidentiality is one of the natural rights that form the foundation for legal privileges development. In democratic nations, the constitution demands the protection of an individual’s right to privacy. Notably, privacy is a fundamental right since it must exist for privileges such as autonomy and freedom to live. The advent of the internet and information technology systems has threatened the right of the people to privacy. Therefore, this study answers the following research question:

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  • How has the internet and information technology violated an individual’s privacy and moral rights?

Background of the Study

Privacy has been a subject of discussion for years, but only a few people understand what it entails. According to Brey (2007), privacy is a critical element for maintaining humanity and social responsibilities. Humans value the confidentiality and protection of private information. Individuals do not want anyone to access their data at any time they wish. However, technology development and the threat of competition among giant corporations have severely threatened people’s privacy. The 21st century has witnessed a rise of Big Data and advanced technologies that have provided a new atmosphere for data access and processing. The worries that previously threatened people’s privacy and security are real in the world today, where access to information and analysis of data in large quantities has been on the rise.

Notably, information technology has played a substantial role in allowing for the generation, storage, and processing of massive data quantities. The numerous search engines and sensor networks are processing large amounts of information on a day-to-day basis. Most democratic nations and cultures have restricted access to personal data in some way. Van Den Hoven (2008) stipulated that there are etiquettes, customs, laws, and technologies that prevent personal information dissemination. Regardless of these protective measures, there are privacy issues in different professional domains such as healthcare, social security, search engines, policing, and marketing (Van Den Hoven, 2008). The existing privacy issues related to information technology systems are concerned with camera surveillance, monitoring of internet conversations, retention of traffic data, disclosure of passenger lists to security agencies, presence of medical information on the public health system, and matching of databases in social security to detect fraud (Van Den Hoven, 2008).

Similarly, Stahl et al. (2017) indicated that privacy is one of the most discussed ethical issues of information technology. The emerging technologies exacerbate the current privacy problems in the world today and create new ones. The ubiquitous and highly pervasive information technology systems such as robotics, neurocomputing, and virtual reality create and collect information that invades an individual’s privacy. Emerging technologies provide novel ways of storing, processing, and interpreting large amounts of data on internet sites. Affective computing is one of the new techniques that involve the harvesting of data on the emotional states of the internet and social media users. Therefore, privacy is an expected issue that arises from the emergence of new technologies.

Privacy Implications of Using the Internet

Accordingly, Martin et al. (2019) indicated that the rise of information systems technology had aroused concerns with the rising claims that the IT industry holds an individual’s private data, an act that violates privacy in this technological world and digital age. Martin et al. (2019) further asserted that personal information and privacy are essential in a person’s life. Technology has become a critical aspect of life but has invaded privacy, a crucial element in society that allows for the formation of relationships by allowing people to understand themselves, friends, and family (Martin et al., 2019). In a study by Martin et al. (2019), the results showed that 91% of adults store their data on their mobile phones and laptops. The data is being increasingly used and continuously gathered around the world.

The use of the internet in recruiting people is one technique employed to harness private and personal data on the internet. The increased penetration of the internet and the overwhelming use of social media sites create avenues for research recruitment in healthcare. Specifically, social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook allow recruiters to reach a large population. The sites provide sharing features that researchers can employ to engage the public and increase information sharing on a research project (Bender et al., 2017). Bender et al. (2017) stipulated that internet sites are flexible, and the available content can be changed over time hence allowing a researcher to control and evaluate the recruitment efforts. However, using the Internet to recruit participants willing to be involved in health research projects has some ethical issues. During the recruitment process, personal and sensitive information is gathered. The act of clicking a recruitment notice allows for data provision to online advertising corporations, hence leaving an identifiable track (Bender et al., 2017).

Additionally, Online Behavioural Advertising (OBA) describes some practices where companies track online activities over time. OBA’s primary objective is to allow for advertisements based on customers’ preferred interests. Primarily, the problem results since most people are unaware of the privacy risks resulting from their online activities. The study by Bender et al. (2017) provided an example of a situation where a man with sleep apnea was followed by ads for similar devices when he visited internet sites unrelated to the condition. The man’s concern prompted an investigation that led to the revelation that Google’s online advertising service used personal and sensitive information on people’s online activities to deliver health-related advertisements that violated the privacy law in most democratic nations (Bender et al., 2017). Thus, people’s online activities are unknowingly leading to the sharing and harnessing of personal data for advertisements.

The social networking sites are other avenues used to violate a person’s privacy. Presently, creating a social media profile does not require any effort and the required information is a functional e-mail address. Upon registration, an individual confirms their e-mail address hence leading to the successful formation of a profile. Marsoof (2011) indicated that social media does not provide a means of verifying an applicant’s details. With this in mind, the names of famous personalities and celebrities could be used to create fake profiles leading to defamation, exploitation, and blackmail, among other adverse consequences (Marsoof, 2011). Creating a social media profile acts as a portal for people to connect with a user. Notably, a social networking profile is a depot of data that often contains personal information. The users can provide some personal data; many of them provide their data since social media is highly provocative (Walsh et al., 2015).

One of the characteristics of social networking sites is that they can post personal data in a person’s profile and other user-created content based on a person’s interests and private life. Social media allows for personalized and socially focused interactions based on an individual’s profile. Social networking sites are a tool for defining a person’s social connection, thus determining a person who accesses data present on the sites. Therefore, social media allows for massive personal data (Walsh et al., 2015). The data is vulnerable to privacy and identity risks. The user profiles contain a large amount of private information, as previously indicated. Some information, such as the date of birth and unauthorized access to information, is prone to severe threats. A user can set their privacy setting based on their preferences. However, failing to do so makes the information available to the public. Such data is mostly accessible, and cyberbullies use it to damage an individual’s reputation by embarrassing them. According to Marsoof (2011), some people have claimed to have lost their jobs, and others have reported blackmail due to social media sites’ information.

Secondary data obtained through the likes and dislikes of social media users are used for spam and target advertising or OBA. Specialized spamming software such as FriendBot37 is employed to automate friend invitations and comment posting to gather commercially viable information sold to advertisers (Walsh et al., 2015). Most social networking sites such as Instagram and Facebook allow a user to tag images and photographs to other users. Such actions further contribute to unwanted linkage to one’s private data. Regardless of the caution undertaken by people over the images they associate with, their privacy is at risk from the photos uploaded by others and tagged to them (Walsh et al., 2015).

Artificial intelligence is another technique showing a violation of an individual’s private and personal data. Grover (2015) defined artificial intelligence as data mining processes and the combining of various sources and databases for predictive purposes such as assessment of patterns, profiling, recognition of speech, robotics, and social machines. One example of artificial intelligence is where a social device interacts with a human to discuss an issue. In such an instance, a human may perceive robotics as credible and unbiased. The artificial intelligence records every example of an individual’s activity hence describing another example of privacy violation via the internet sites. According to Grover (2015), a person’s privacy is the illegal interference of an individual’s actions, illicit intrusions, and undesired surveillance. Artificial intelligence violates an individual’s privacy in all three instances described.

In this digital era, the internet has been used as a surveillance tool. Surveillance entails monitoring human activity to detect patterns and frequency of target advertising, marketing safety, anti-terrorism operations, and enhanced security, to mention a few (Grover, 2015). Such monitoring acts can detect the contents of individuals’ e-mails and security techniques such as pins and passwords. From Grover’s (2015) perspective, internet surveillance is harmful since it transcends public-private demarcation, and remote management is illegal.

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