Privacy in the digital technology world

Posted on 06/4/2017 10:53 by Novi Sonko

Privacy in the digital world - thief entering a house

The use of social networks and the widespread sharing of personal information online have made people more tolerant of their private information being accessed by third-party without their knowledge. Since many people share a great amount of information about their personal lives online and they do not have means to check how and where this information is safeguarded, there has been a shift in attitude towards privacy in recent years.

There is a growing use of electronic devices to store and share all types of personal data in computer networks controlled by organisations that may be cooperating with state agencies. Internet users have come to realise that their personal information is exposed in so many ways that it is almost impossible to hide details about their personal lives from state agencies.

Data warehousing and data mining allows various organisations and state agencies to gather information about internet users from many sources and create a very accurate profile of people who use electronic devices and electronic services in their daily lives – which now means most people in industrialized countries.

The right to privacy is considered to be a basic human right and an essential aspect of a democratic society. In an Act Utilitarian worldview, increasing safety and reducing crime level to the detriment of privacy is viewed as beneficial and the mass surveillance of citizens is justified by the common good.

As more people share their personal information through electronic devices, less people expect to have complete privacy. It seems that the end of total privacy is a necessary evil of the information age and the Internet-of-things: personal data is collected by various electronic devices and shared on various platforms around the world. Data encryption may be the last protection of personal data against invasions of privacy, but state agencies have been demanding to have the power to decrypt all encrypted data as well.

Even if organisations do not have the legal power to break encryption keys, computers are becoming more powerful and the risk that any type of encryption may be compromised by brute force is increasing fast.

In the age of the Internet-of-things, personal information can be stored in a multitude of interconnected devices in various forms: heart rate data, Facebook likes, friends list, geolocation data, home address for shopping delivery, sexual orientation etc. It seems that real privacy is already impossible.