Privacy in the digital age and how we can protect it from threats

What is privacy and how it transforms in digital age ?

Privacy is a fundamental human right, privacy is essential to ensure the dignity, information, security and self-determination of the individual. For example, no one shall be free to interfere with another’s privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attack another’s honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks. The right to privacy is also seen as an enabling right that contributes to the enjoyment of other human rights, such as freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and the right to non-discrimination. And as our lives become more and more digitized, our privacy is gradually digitized. Privacy in the digital age often refers to the personal information we store and share online. Personal information often includes your name, phone number, financial situation and medical records, and the content shared on the Internet can easily reveal your address and personal preferences. Privacy has evolved into a commodity in the digital age, and the data it reveals about users is a valuable asset for businesses. Companies can use these to accurately contact their target groups, “track” customers and deliver “relevant” advertisements to them. Or provide users with more personalized services, allowing them to achieve the purpose of attracting and maintaining user groups. The development of technology has expanded the rights and definitions of privacy, and at the same time has reduced our awareness of precautions to protect privacy. According to statistics, about 91% of Americans have not fully read the software company’s terms before creating an account, and most companies hide the user information they want to collect in the terms and services. The reason is that most privacy policies are very unfriendly to many users who have no legal basis, because it is very complicated and difficult to understand, and there are many words. Even if some companies try to make their privacy policies easier for users to understand, such as Facebook, they adjusted their privacy policies to rewrite them at the reading level of middle school, but their length has also increased to 12,000 words, and the huge amount of reading makes users give up spending money. Lots of time to read carefully. Unknowingly, we are used to using privacy as the price for our enjoyment of services.

How our privacy is threatened in the digital age ?

In this digital and technology-driven era, although digitalization promotes our work efficiency, it is prone to privacy breaches, putting our personal data and privacy at risk of exposure at any time. The mobile phone applications we use, social media and e-commerce are collecting our personal data at any time, and once it is leaked, it will bring us various threats. These privacy threats include digital analysis, network tracking, recommendation systems, etc. The leader will freely share sensitive data without the owner’s permission, thereby affecting the life of the victim, such as physical and mental health, economic loss, and reputation damage. 

(Figure: The privacy risk involved in different Application type)

As the amount of personal data collected and stored by various platforms continues to increase, individuals are increasingly concerned about the privacy and security of their personal information. In recent years, there have been frequent global network security information problems. For example, in 2019, Facebook repaired a vulnerability, which caused 533 million user information to be leaked, and was exposed by hackers on dark web forums, including Facebook founder Zuckerberg. Ge’s phone number was also leaked. This information leak has threatened the personal and property of users, because bad actors may use personal information to screen and analyze user characteristics, carry out precise crimes, and conduct fraud or phishing. In addition, bad actors will also analyze user data to coerce users’ thoughts. As early as 2015, Cambridge Analytica obtained the personal data of millions of Facebook users through a questionnaire “without the consent of “Facebook” users, and then analyzed the data and used it in political advertisements. Subtle influence on the majority of voters ideology, thereby further manipulating the US presidential election. For this reason, Facebook also faced huge fines and stock prices plummeted, and also lost the trust of a large number of users. From these cases, we can find that data leakage will have serious consequences for individuals, companies, and countries Therefore, how to effectively protect our privacy in this data age has become extremely important.

What are the challenges of protecting privacy, and how should we protect our privacy ?

We need to understand the challenges individuals and organizations face in protecting their digital privacy rights so we can take appropriate steps to protect ourselves. First, there is a lack of trust in governments and businesses for fear of their misuse, exploitation and unauthorized access to their data. These concerns stem from indiscriminate surveillance and regulation by governments and platforms. Although the Internet provides a platform for individuals to freely and openly express their ideas, this freedom hides threats from online censorship and surveillance. Governments may restrict an individual’s access to certain websites or social media platforms in the name of national security, especially for those who take steps to protect their privacy for additional surveillance, flagging them as suspicious or intimidating. Or the country will cooperate with the platform to monitor the online communication of users. On the other hand, some believe that current privacy laws and regulations do not provide adequate protection, that they are not enforced and enforced enough to ensure that individuals’ data privacy is not violated. This allows organizations to ignore their obligations without fearing that they will face serious consequences for not being able to afford it. In addition, most people now lack the awareness of protecting personal data and privacy. Many people don’t understand what their rights are in the digital age and what they can do to protect themselves. This may make it difficult for them to realize that their digital rights are being violated, and thus lack the ability to take protective measures. Lack of awareness of these aspects also makes it difficult for them to provide support for policies and organizations that protect these rights.

So what laws and measures should individuals take to safeguard their rights? Various frameworks and laws exist in Australia and around the world that address digital rights, such as the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) – a set of principles governing how Australian government agencies and organizations process personal information; the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – European Union ( EU) introduced a regulation in 2018 to regulate how organizations process personal data, and a law introduced in California in 2018 – the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), etc., all stipulate that some organizations and enterprises must protect personal data measures and requirements. According to the regulations of APPs, when users find that their personal information or privacy has been violated, they have the right to contact relevant parties to delete or correct their personal information. Or lodge a complaint with the Australian Information Commission (OAIC). If the nature is very serious, users can consult lawyers or relevant legal institutions to understand their rights and legal channels to protect their rights. In addition to the protection of the law, we also need to make efforts to protect our privacy as individuals.

First of all, individuals need to correctly establish the awareness of protecting their personal privacy and safeguard their rights. We have control over our own digital data, and users have the right to view the database containing their personal information and decide where and how to use the data. Users have the right to ask the business to delete or change data about them if the business does not obtain the individual’s consent, or obtains the data without the individual’s knowledge. In addition to being clear about their rights, individuals need to take a number of other steps to protect themselves:

  1. Make sure your online communications are secure. When we send emails, search the Internet or use GPS services, we will exchange data with the server, so we need to ensure that we are safe when using mobile data. For example, WiFi provided in public places has a great security risk. In order to facilitate the login of customers, these public WiFi have also become the breach and target of hackers. Therefore, it is not recommended to use public WiFi for money transactions or other sensitive and private purposes. If you need to conduct some private transactions, it is recommended to use SSL/TSL browsers such as HTTPS to encrypt your communication to prevent others from ‘eavesdropping’ on your information.
  2. Protect yourself from being tracked online. One way we can prevent Google and other organizations from tracking your browser history is by using private browsing mode. Using private browsing mode means that personal login information and data will not be stored on the platform or device, but it is worth noting that Google’s servers may still retain personal search history, because Google wants to analyze personal search data Users are thus shown personalized ads, which is one of their sources of income. So individuals can also try to use other search engines to hide their online privacy. There are also effective ways to prevent your data from being tracked, such as downloading a browser extension to prevent your browser from tracking you using cookies, which will prevent websites from loading intrusive, targeted advertisements. Or log out the account information that you no longer use. Just deleting and closing the browser or application is not an effective method. Logging out of your account can delete the retained data and prevent your whereabouts from being tracked again.
  3. Selective Posting of Content on the Web. If the individual has information that he wants to hide, such as his address, physical condition, or personal hobbies, etc. Users can choose and filter what they want to post on the web, or think carefully about who they don’t want to see. Because the security issues on the Internet will also be mapped to the security issues in the real world, many criminals now track the content shared by victims on the Internet to obtain and lock their personal information in the real world and commit crimes. Therefore, individuals need to consider whether there are any security consequences for personal information placed on social media. For example, disclosing their contact information may be subject to some false information and advertisements. Some software will also disclose personal likes and favorites, or user action trajectories. At this time, users may need to adjust their privacy settings, such as hiding some of their own works, not linking their own address book, and choosing not to release some permissions to prevent others from paying too much attention.

Protecting privacy should be a joint effort of everyone.

All in all, protecting the right to privacy in the digital age is definitely not a matter of one party’s efforts, but requires everyone’s efforts. Privacy involves personal human rights issues, and it is our responsibility and obligation to respect and protect the privacy of others. When personal information is used in a way that conflicts with her original expectations in the context of sharing the information, the privacy of others has been violated. Therefore, individuals need to redefine the manifestation of privacy in the data age and where their own possessions go, understand what behaviors will make their privacy insecure and what threats they will face in the future, so as to take some effective ways to prevent themselves from private data has been leaked and used by others. Enterprises have the responsibility and obligation to protect the user data they collect, and should adopt more transparent and concise policies to let users know what personal data will be collected, how personal data will be used, and user What monitoring is done when using the Services. Enterprises should release more rights to let users have control over their own data, and let users know as much as possible what kind of norms are in the digital environment they live in, so as to decide whether they want to continue to enjoy the services provided by the enterprise. Finally, the government should formulate relevant policies and regulations in order to protect the basic rights of the people. Because of the virtual nature of the digital age, the speed of communication and the development of many advanced technologies, the government may need to adopt some new forms of monitoring and controlling network information. The government needs a solution that can balance the protection of personal data and monitoring. It is necessary to have a more detailed understanding of privacy to meet the protection needs of different individuals and communities. Especially for some marginalized communities, they may face more invisible surveillance and supervision. It may not be enough to have the same level of privacy protection policies as others, so the government should also adopt a more inclusive privacy approach to strengthen the privacy of different groups. Experience on privacy issues.


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