By Dr. Ramiro Zuniga
Should anyone have an expectation of Internet privacy? In a word: no. Incredibly, though, many people believe that privacy on the Internet is actually possible. It is for that reason I have written this post.
Unlike regular mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service, email is not federally protected. Email is typically routed through many servers before it reaches the recipient. As a result, email can be intercepted, read, and even duplicated while it is in transmission. All of this can take place without the knowledge of the sender and recipient and without any legal ramification to the offender.
As sinister as this may seem, not all interception of email is nefarious. Many companies use computer programs to scan employee emails for key phrases and image files in an attempt to protect their proprietary processes and information. In today’s world, scanning of employee email is quite common.
Privacy has been a recent hot topic on social networking sites. Although most sites claim to provide privacy settings, several sites have been recently criticized. In some instances, the criticism has been in response to privacy policies that were altered without disclosure to users. Sites have also been criticized for having inadequate security policies.
As they register on social networking sites, users should be fully versed on user agreements. User agreements vary. Some agreements include a nondisclosure clause or transfer ownership of all posts to the site, including photographs and personal information. They also should consider that employers and potential employers often seek and find social network profiles. Many companies will terminate employees or not hire individuals with questionable profiles.
Finally, users should be aware that many social sites will publish their current geographic location.
Search engine developers propose that collecting such data allows for faster and more refined search results. Although this may be true, it’s also true that collected data can also be used for targeting marketing ploys. Typically, users receive retail ads tailored to their habits and preferences as they navigate the Internet. Users should also be aware that data collected by search engine developers is often sold to third parties without the consent of the user.
Online mapping applications have become very sophisticated. These tools are very useful as they provide turn-by-turn directions, maps, satellite images, and street level photos of virtually any address. The danger is that these tools are also available to those with ominous intent.
Ultimately, there is no turning back. The Internet will continue to evolve and become a larger part of our lives. The key is to understand that everyone should be more vigilant in knowing how information can be used or misused. It is important to understand with whom information is shared so that users can be more selective on what to post online.