A Right to Privacy? What a Joke!
It has become a sad and upsetting fact that in todays society the truth is that the right to ones privacy in the I.T (information technological) world has become, simply a joke. In an electronic media article No place to hide, written by James Norman, two interesting and debatable questions were raised: Are we witnessing the erosion of the demarcation of public and private spaces brought on by the networked economy and new technology? Also, What roles do government, industry and citizens have in regard to censorship and privacy? These statements ultimately end with the fact that it is impossible for Net users to expect privacy online, because online privacy doesnt exist. However, one must ask, What will be done about the problem? while keeping in mind that yes, the thin line between public and private spaces has been severed as a result of new technology. It is vital that everyone as users of the internet, be it government, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), or individuals, need take the issue of internet privacy very seriously, while basing all actions towards the issue with the moral statement of, Rights arent free, theyre earned.
The issue of Internet privacy is not a new topic. Numerous articles displaying the urgency of the issue have been published time and time again. Yet no immediate action seems to have taken place. The issue of privacy over the Net can be in the form of personal privacy, privacy of details, and even physical privacy. The Sunday Mail published a special three-page report on June 4th 2000, outlining a variety of cases where individuals privacy, had been invaded over the Net through various chat sites. This report was based as a warning to parents, telling of how children, and young teenagers are having their personal privacy invaded by perverted older individuals, who seduce them. Another electronic media article was that of Internet privacy? What privacy! by James Norman. This article focused on the problems of Internet privacy, rather than the solutions, however it did come up with various interesting comments. Norman states, Given the number of entities that have access to our personal information through databases and list-swapping, it becomes impossible to know how our lives are being rifled through. Which is completely true, once youre information is on the Net, it free for the taking, ultimately leaving everyone in the situation of being unsure of how private their private lives are. Another interesting comment made by Norman on this occasion was We should not underestimate the impact that internet technology, with its various data-gathering tools and techniques, has had in terms of the magnitude of certain privacy concerns, once again reinforcing the seriousness of the matter.
Are we witnessing the erosion of the demarcation of public and private spaces brought on by the networked economy and new technology? Of course we are, yet we stand back and watch it fall apart. An example of this is in that of the case of Alexander Lunney. Alexander was subject to false accusations at the age of fifteen, of transmitting obscene, abusive, threatening and sexually explicit material.It was however revealed that Lunney was not even a member of the accusing company, and that an imposter had posted the material in his name. A step further than just anticipating the erosion on a worldwide basis is to begin NOW to re-form the barriers between the public and private sectors. The safety of individuals must be assured. It is true that there are numerous privacy acts and laws that exist to prevent the threat of privacy invasion on the Net, though they arent enough and theyre not working. So it would be fair in saying that at present, not enough is being done to protect personal privacy on the Net. To even start to think about improving privacy, a realistic approach must be taken. Protective action must start with the ISP, where it should there guarantee about 50% privacy protection at least. Then the Government should step in to guarantee a further percentage of privacy protection, by using its role of power in the country. Finally the individual must be sensible in what he/she does to assure no privacy is invaded, and that their personal details are not publicly displayed on the Net. By the time it has come to be the individual users responsibility, the lack of safety should be reduced and general security must be increased. The best advise that Hugh Martin, the senior media lecturer at La Trobe University, could give on the issue of securing internet privacy was to: modify techniques to protect privacy offline for online purposes. In other words dont fill in online personal information forms or questionnaires (and set your browser to reject cookies). Cookies are unique identifiers that a Web server places on your computer, to track your every move in a specific site.
So, when James Norman asked the question, What roles do government, industry and citizens have in regard to censorship and privacy? what was the obvious answer? Bingo, all have a very significant and vital role in the process of privacy protection. The Government will of course outline the Laws that apply to Internet privacy, and they have a duty to control information. However, they need to go a step further that just outlining the laws, they need to toughen the penalties which apply to the breaking of these laws or when someone is in breach of the privacy act. The government must publicly display that the matter of Internet privacy and privacy in general, is a major issue. If the laws, which apply to the issue, were increased, along with penalties that go with them, then were brought to national public awareness, an improvement would be seen in personal privacy. ISPs hold a vital role in enforcing that privacy is upheld, and that the culprits of breaking the privacy laws are uncovered. By new United States Law, ISPs must closely monitor the activities of users in order to prevent potential litigation. This is particularly the case when it comes to trademarked information or intellectual property. Then it comes down to the responsibility of the individual. How a single person goes about exploring the Net is a decision that should be both responsible and morally correct. Every person has the duty to abide by all laws, and be sensible and careful with all personal information. If everybody abided by the law, then the Right of Privacy would be both existent and would had been earned. If the Internet is going to be used as a business tool, the user must behave in a business-like manner.
The possibilities of having a 100% protected Internet, where users can feel safe that their personal and private details remain hidden is now, and always will be just a joke. The Net has got to a stage where, it would be near impossible to repair. Even so, on a worldwide scale, much more needs to be done than what is being done in the present situation, about Internet security and the protection of privacy. ISPs, industry groups, the public sector and humble Net surfers will have to wait and see how international laws and precedents filter down into new Australian copyright and privacy laws. There has been a vital wall that has been abolished which once separated the public side of the internet from the private side, that wall must be re-built. That can only be done by the users, with them realizing that Rights arent free, theyre earned. If everyone does what is morally right, the joke will become serious.
(2000). IT: No place to hide. (Online). Available at: http://www.it.fairfax.com.au/ecommerce.html
(2000). IT: Internet privacy? What privacy! (Online). Available at: http://www.it.fairfax.com.au/e-commerce.html
(2000). How Web Servers Cookies Threaten Your Privacy. (Online). Available at: http://www.junkbusters.com
(1999). PRIVACY TIMES.COM. (Online). Available at: http://www.privacytimes.com
(1997). Keep Out! Private. (Online). Available at: http://www.winmag.com
(2000). The Sunday-Mail, June 4th p.65