Internet privacy refers to the mandate or right of individual confidentiality with regard to the storage, provision to third parties, unwarranted exposure of information concerning an individual, and the repurposing of data or information (Pogue, 2011). It can refer to either Personally Identifying Information (PPI) or non-PPI. Information, for instance, how one behaves when one visits a site on a given website. PPI refers to the information that is unique to a certain individual. For instance, when one discloses his or her age and residential address, it is possible to pinpoint who that individual is. This is because such information is specific to that individual. Internet privacy continues to raise a number of fundamental issues. Some argue that there is no need for internet privacy since the purpose of the internet is to display personal information intentionally. Others argue that privacy offers protection from abuse by those in a position of responsibility and power. Internet privacy is, therefore, an emotive issue that continues to elicit debate and controversy among computer users worldwide.
Society faces a serious problem with internet privacy. Many users of the internet wish to conceal their identities especially when discussing taboo or private issues. This also applies when they are discussing sensitive matters. Yet others engage in careless banter in chartrooms, oblivious to the fact that someone could be snooping on them. Other individuals make use of the internet to slander other users or public figures. These individuals use anonymous servers to hide their malicious intentions, and some have been known to abuse children sexually. Scammers and fraudsters also use the internet to propagate their machinations. All these groups of people pose a formidable challenge to the enforcement of privacy laws. Some users are concerned about the propagation of information on the internet. For instance, it is now possible to access all court records at the click of a button. This information is free; it can be accessed at one’s discretion. There is not a single effective law that governs cyberspace. The available laws are still in their formative stages and cannot deal with this complex issue effectively.
In this digital age, commercial enterprises are in possession of a huge amount of information on every user. Some private companies are in constant surveillance of users’ movements online. This information can easily be traded should the government and law enforcers demand it. The most worrying thing is that these companies are using rapidly advancing technology that the average user cannot keep abreast. The average user lacks the wherewithal to detect that he or she is being spied upon, or to devise mechanisms to put a stop to this spying. However, the levels, reasons, and motivation for spying defers significantly. Some spies do it for mere misplaced reasons, while others do it for malicious and criminal reasons.
There are people who use the internet casually, and these need not worry about absolute anonymity. It is possible to protect privacy through controlled disclosure of individual information. Other uses demand absolute anonymity, in which case they may use the internet without giving any unauthorized party access to their PII. This helps the user to avoid unwarranted communication (spam) and advertisements. When dealing with investments, several ways have been devised to eliminate chances of no loss of investment. This can be achieved by declining to disclose any private information that may be used to the investor’s disadvantage. It is advisable to give such information only if the broker and the company are of the highest integrity (Naylor, Woods, & White, 2009). Putting all correspondence and agreements in writing shows a considerable level of honesty, and is admissible in a court of law in the event of litigation.
The government has implemented adequate measures to guarantee that individual users are protected. For instance, there is established the Federal Trade Commission, whose mandate is to ensure that the social security number is under tight protection. It is, therefore, crucial to keep track of all correspondence received from the internet. It is through such junk mail that hackers are able to access vital information. It is prudent for one to verify the sources of the information to ascertain its authenticity. The government has established the Internet Crime Complaint Center, commonly called the IC3. Together with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and the National White Collar Crime Center, they receive and act on complaints related to the internet. The US Department of State deals with other frauds that happen on the international scale. These agencies and other government departments work in harmony to bring a semblance of order in the murky waters of internet privacy.
Internet users must be aware that anything posted on the internet remains there permanently. This includes comments posted on blogs, internet sites, and pictures. Immediately the information is posted on the net, it is riveted into cyberspace, from where any interested party can gain access. In some cases, such information has been used for vindictive purposes. A job seeker can be scanned on the net, from where his or her potential employers have adequate information about him or her. This is injurious to the party concerned. Before posting any comment, picture, or any correspondence, it is beneficial for one to question his or her motivation.
This brings us to the risks inherent in internet privacy. With the rapid technological advancement, a great number of people are susceptible to privacy concerns. Some companies are paid to observe what individuals do when they visit the net. Some even go as far as infiltrating the information and sending unsolicited advertisements based on an individual’s browsing history. People with a genuine concern for internet privacy repeatedly name a number of risks met during the use of the internet. These issues can compromise users’ privacy. This compromise consists of gathering statistical data on users, facilitating the spread of spyware, and bugging software (Schafer, 2010). Most social networking sites provide measures against this unwarranted affront on users’ privacy. The greatest impediment to full utilization of these protection measures is ignorance. Most users have no idea how to go round installing these protective measures. Most computer users worldwide have limited knowledge of their computer settings. They therefore have no idea on how to run their own network security. Most find it an arduous task and resolve to hiring professionals to assist them, effectively increasing operation costs.
In conclusion, it is paramount for the issue of internet privacy to be handled expeditiously. In as much as internet users yearn for more privacy, it is important to remember that many other users continue to suffer at the hands of fraudsters. Vulnerable children and other ignorant people continue to lose out at the hands of internet conmen who hide behind secrecy laws. However, it is also vital that honest users of the internet be protected from unnecessary disclosure of private information. Companies that spy on internet users should be held accountable, and ne made to compensate. Posting of any libelous material on the internet should be criminalized, and those found contravening this law punished severely. However, if all internet users were civil enough to observe the rules and regulations governing its use, there would be little need for monitoring and spying on people.