Internet Privacy – People need control over their data in 2020

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The World Wide Web plays a huge role in the lives of people around the globe in today’s living conditions. Treating the internet with the same respect you treat the road you drive on is a good way of handling this power. Although it feels like you are simply browsing from one website to another without a trace, you are being tracked! Research suggests that everyone should be concerned with their internet privacy because users should have control of their data, and users’ activity is being collected by companies.

Keywords:  internet privacy, privacy

Internet Privacy

Internet privacy can be defined in numerous ways. While Clarke (1999) says “privacy is often thought of as a moral right or legal right” (p. 60), researchers have concluded that privacy is one’s ability to control the data about oneself (Bélanger et al. 2002; Stone et al. 1983). However you define internet privacy though, it’s evident that there issues around the collection of users’ data on the internet, and how much control users have over their data.

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Data mining and “big data” (Tene, O, 2012) is how analytics works on the internet. Bots and Cookie trackers are on almost every website visited. This has increased not long computing power and data storage capacity for companies such as Google and Amazon, but also the demand for sorting and filtering users traffic. While it is possible to enable the “Do Not Track” cookie option in most popular internet browsers such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Internet Edge, it is established that a majority of users do not utilize this feature and is, therefore, being tracked.

Many people who use the internet every single day are completely unaware or lack knowledge of how much of their data is truly being stored. (Kang, R., 2015)  The internet is a vehicle for information, data transportation, and communication. A majority of users don’t understand how much of their activity is private or public. But some users do understand. One participant said, “Once something is online, it’s there forever.”.

Tracking Codes / Google Analytics & Matomo Tracking

In fact, there are companies created solely for the purpose of tracking users. Matomo, previously known as Piwik, is a tracking code company made as an alternative to Google Analytics. It is suggested that over 29 million websites have Google Analytics installed and tracking their users actively as of November 2019, including 8500 sites out of the top 10,000 sites. If a user visits a popular website, they are will be tracked in one shape or form. “Hundreds of thousands of tourism web owners worldwide have a web analyzer program available to them.” (Plaza, B. 2011). Even whitehouse.gov uses Google Analytics tracking. So, a majority of users are being tracked that browse the internet every day.

With that in mind, users should care who has their data. The Guardian in 2018 reported that 50 million Facebook profiles were harvested for Cambridge Analytica and were in a major data breach (Cadwalladr, C. 2018). This brings attention to the policies of collecting users’ data, how it’s stored, how secure is it, and how much control the users have over their personal data. Companies are subjected to hacks and exploits in software. However, users have a choice between using companies that track users for monetary gain and those who don’t. Instead of using a search engine such as Google, users have the choice of using DuckDuckGo (https://duckduckgo.com) an anonymous search engine. Google’s business model for its search engine is the Google Ads product. They tailor ads to the users’ personal preferences and searches. This includes Geolocation, past searches, demographic details, and even political views. DuckDuckGo does the opposite. They don’t store users’ search history. And therefore have nothing to sell to advertisers.

Data breaches 

Moreover, one of the biggest data breaches of the internet in 2015 was with a private adult website named Ashley Madison. (Greene, T. (2015). The site was designed for married people searching for other married people to commit affairs with. After the data breach occurred it lead to customer records being published. This caused embarrassment, job loss, heartache, ruined marriages, and possibly two suicides. The idea that users most used internet companies getting hacked and releasing your private information is one to be concerned about. The threat of hacking is a daily battle between data companies and hackers. Back in March 2014, researches found a critical vulnerability in OpenSSL. OpenSSL is the protocol for communication between internet browsers and website servers. It is the cryptographic technology behind the HTTPS symbol in the address bar. This vulnerability was named “Heartbleed”. (Durumeric, Z. 2014). This affected nearly 55% of the top 1 million websites in traffic at the time on the internet. Heartbleed allowed either end-point of the connection to read data following the payload message. Essentially allowing an attacker to read private memory and potentially including the transfer of data over secure channels and cryptographic secrets.

Finally, studies show big data is growing with the collection of more and more information about users. This is due to most of their daily life being stored on the internet. Poor handling of this data is happening every day. Millions of lives are affected by bad data policy in companies used today. The one who suffers from poor protection and data security policies is the end-user with his/her data. Therefore users should be concerned with their privacy, who collects it, and do they have control over it.

 

References

Bélanger, F., Hiller, J., and Smith, W. J. 2002. “Trustworthiness in Electronic Commerce: The Role of Privacy, Security, and Site Attributes,” Journal of Strategic Information Systems (11:3/4), pp. 245-270.

Cadwalladr, C., & Graham-Harrison, E. (2018). Revealed: 50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach. The Guardian, 17, 22.

Clarke, R. 1999. “Internet Privacy Concerns Confirm the Case for Intervention,” Communications of the ACM (42:2), pp. 60-67.

Durumeric, Z., Li, F., Kasten, J., Amann, J., Beekman, J., Payer, M., … & Halderman, J. A.

(2014, November). The matter of heartbleed. In Proceedings of the 2014 conference on internet measurement conference (pp. 475-488). ACM.

Greene, T. (2015). Biggest data breaches of 2015. Network World, 2015, 1-6.

Kang, R., Dabbish, L., Fruchter, N., & Kiesler, S. (2015). “My Data Just Goes Everywhere:”

User Mental Models of the Internet and Implications for Privacy and Security. In Eleventh Symposium On Usable Privacy and Security ({SOUPS} 2015) (pp. 39-52).

Plaza, B. (2011). Google Analytics for measuring website performance. Tourism Management, 32(3), 477-481.

Stone, E. F., Gardner, D. G., Gueutal, H. G., and McClure, S. 1983. “A Field Experiment

Comparing Information-Privacy Values, Beliefs, and Attitudes Across Several Types of Organizations,” Journal of Applied Psychology (68:3), pp. 459-468.

Tene, O., & Polonetsky, J. (2012). Big data for all: Privacy and user control in the age of

analytics. Nw. J. Tech. & Intell. Prop., 11, xxvii.