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article imageOp-Ed: What privacy rights do you have online?

By Alyssa Sellors     Oct 16, 2013 in Technology
Beginning November 11th, 2013, Google can use your user name, profile pictures, and “implied endorsement” in its display ads. Unless you are an actor looking for some exposure, this probably does not sit well with the average Google user.
This change in their Terms of Service is the first major change since 2011 when Google launched “Google Plus,” combining user data under one profile, says Seth Rosenblatt of CNET. While users have the option to “opt out” of what is referred to as “Shared Endorsements,” one can only speculate as to what Google is up to next.
These changes by Google are not in isolation. Social media giant Facebook has been under the same scrutiny for their privacy policy changes. InfoWorld reports that soon, everyone will be searchable on Facebook as a setting to prevent people from finding your Timeline will be removed for good. This setting Facebook will be removing allowed users to control who sees their content. For those who have never used this privacy setting, nothing new will change, other than the fact that you cannot make changes to those settings in a few weeks. According to Facebook, they are removing the setting because it was not useful nor being used by many users, but instead of trying to improve the tools that allow users to control who can see their profiles, they have chosen to remove them altogether.
In this age of sharing everything from what you had for lunch today to what kind of music you listen to while working, it is no surprise major internet companies think they have the right to use our information for their monetary gains. On one side, you could argue that we put the information out there, so why be concerned with who can use our information and for what purposes, but on the other side, when we share information about ourselves, shouldn’t it still be our information?
Internet privacy and internet privacy regulations have become more of a concern as our entire world moves to the internet. A Guide to Internet Privacy refers to internet privacy as the “personal privacy a person is entitled to when displaying, storing, and providing information regarding him or herself on the internet.” Internet users should have the right to keep certain information private as it allows for more control over the distribution of our personal information and protects us from online criminal activities. While there are federal and state regulations meant to ensure the safety of internet users, these regulations are no guarantee that you are protected from companies using your personal information.
California has been leading the way as far as internet safety is concerned. Politico reports that Democratic Governor Jerry Brown has “signed a litany of privacy-related legislation, including measures to create an “eraser button” for teens, outlaw online “revenge porn,” and make internet companies explain how they respond to consumer “Do Not Track” requests.” California is home to many of the world’s largest technology companies so it is only appropriate this state has been leading the way in internet safety reform. The new “eraser button” law offers teens the ability to delete social-media posts and block certain advertisements, the “revenge porn” law makes it a misdemeanor to post inappropriate photos or videos of exes online, and the “Do Not Track” law requires websites to detail how they respond to Do Not Track requests from users. These laws put more control in the hands of the dominant internet users, like teens and online shoppers. Unfortunately, some of us have more online freedoms than ever before but lack the knowledge of dangers these freedoms can invite.
Interestingly, Pacific Standard published an article discussing the digital divide, which is now leading to a privacy divide. Teens and “marginal internet users” face the same problem: they are unaware, unable, or simply unwilling to take the necessary steps to protect their information on the internet. A New American Foundation Study actually lays the blame on the tech industry. The study recommends these tech companies make security measures easier to understand and easier to use; basically, the study puts the command on these tech companies to teach digital literacy to internet users. But, is it their responsibility to teach us or is it our responsibility to be informed? With no clear answer, the future of our internet safety is a hazy one where the only remedy right now is to be informed and proactive.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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