Justine EC Privacy0001

Accepting the internet’s loss of privacy

It’s disconcerting — to say the least — how little privacy we really have in today’s world because of technology. If you wanted to have a moment of actual privacy, you’d have to turn off all of your electronic devices. Anything you do online can be tracked by technology companies. In fact, you would have to stay far away from anything connected to the internet. Nevertheless, a loss of privacy is just as integral to our lives as the technology we use on an everyday basis.

Although the internet is a blessing to the developed country that we live in, as it opens us to unprecedented access to communication, information and entertainment, it also comes at a cost. Every action you take when you are logged onto social media can be (and probably is) stored. There has even been controversy surrounding Facebook user information and how it has been posted online or leaked to third party sources. This “user information” is not just the posts you like: there are many algorithms that calculate your age group, entertainment preferences and political tendencies just by accounting for your website activity.

Consider Instagram’s recently installed anti-bullying features, for example. Whenever you’re creating a caption for a post or commenting on someone else’s, the application tracks your message as you type it and warns you if it “detects offensive content.” It’s a chilling reminder that everything you input online is recorded.

Even when you think you’re alone, surfing on a browser’s private or incognito mode, there can be corporations watching. Whenever you open an incognito tab in Google Chrome, it provides you with the following: “Now you can browse privately, and other people who use this device won’t see your activity.” The key phrase is “this device.” Although the internet attempts to establish a sense of privacy, it is just an attempt to comfort a concerned consumer base.

However, it’s important to realize that a loss of privacy is a necessary consequence of using the internet. Even something as simple as internet cookies — “footprints” you leave on the websites you visit — are used to increase site accessibility. This includes the information Facebook uses to provide relevant suggestions and advertisements to its users. For the most part, websites and companies use information to customize and enhance the user experience. This includes Instagram, whose anti-bullying features are just that: established to help prevent bullying.

When hearing about how little privacy people have on the internet, they can be led to the conclusion that no one is safe when online. However, this isn’t true. Today, we have the ability to contact someone on the opposite side of the world in a matter of seconds. Instead of searching through the library for an encyclopedia, we can find useful answers with just one search. Anyone can become a news-informed citizen with just a few clicks. This more than compensates for the decrease in privacy. It’s a beneficial trade that, at its core, encourages safety and convenience.

In order to continue enjoying the benefits of the internet, we must realize a change in mindset. Instead of locking ourselves away in layers of supposed security or advocating that our information stop being stored altogether, we should focus on shedding light on the extent of privacy we have online and accepting it as a new way of life. Although companies should be transparent with our information, it’s up to us — not the website or application — to be responsible when spreading our personal information online.

By Ethan Park, Opinion editor
Editorial cartoon by Justine Constantino