Instant connectivity has transformed our lives for the better, but this comes at a perennial cost: personal privacy. Internet privacy, also known as online privacy, is the privacy and security of personal data that is published on the internet. Internet privacy is a fundamental human right today. But it is also a growing concern as traditional notions of privacy are being challenged by advancements in digital technology. Companies track online behavior for targeted advertising, governments monitor online behavior to control the citizens and cybercriminals steal data for their nefarious activities.
The common issues surrounding online privacy are tracking, surveillance and theft. Tracking refers to the tracking of online movement by websites and advertisers through cookie profiling and other techniques. Governments are conducting surveillance on the internet usage of their citizens, with the help of internet service providers, for the ostensible purpose of maintaining law and order. And almost a staggering 20 million Americans were affected by identity theft in 2017 as cybercriminals used malware and other phishing techniques to break into online accounts and steal personal information.
Internet behavior has a huge impact on personal privacy. Using the same credentials for multiple accounts can leave a person totally vulnerable to cybercrime, as access into one account can lead the cybercriminals into other accounts. Remaining logged into websites may sound convenient, but can leave the online accounts susceptible to hacking. Opening suspicious attachments and downloading malicious files is wrought with danger as these can contain malware and viruses.
Thankfully, there are ways to ensure internet privacy and security. The browser is the main program that is used for going online and securing it would be the first step to pre-empt an invasion of privacy. Using a VPN service would go a long way in protecting internet privacy as a VPN changes the IP address and protects both incoming and outgoing traffic with military-grade encryption. Constant software updating is crucial to internet security as software vulnerabilities can be easily exploited by the bad guys. An anti-virus program is a handy tool in the fight against online attacks as it keeps the digital devices free from malware. One should look out for a padlock in the web browser address window as it is an indicator of safety. A two-factor authentication can also go a long way in preventing hacking.
Some words of caution: Many social media sites and search engines may be free to use, but do carry an immense cost in terms of internet privacy. Private browsing prevents the browser from recording private information, but does not protect privacy as an individual’s online activities can still be monitored. The ISP saves and archives every online activity for posterity.
It is a fallacy to suggest that the Facebook generation is indifferent about privacy. If there is one issue that unites everyone who goes online, it is privacy. We need to do our best to protect online privacy and ensure that personal information does not fall into the wrong hands.