The human mind is fickle. Therefore, when people leave an irreversible trail of information, they trade it for material purposes and goals (Murthy & Gopalkrishnan, 2022).
Figure 1. Adapted from: Digital Privacy: Fundamental Human Right & Win for Businesses. By Staff, W., 2020, https://wickr.com/digital-privacy-a-fundamental-human-right-and-a-win-for-businesses/，Staff，w. ，2020， https://wickr.com/Digital-Privacy-a-Fundamental-Human-Right-and-a-Win-for-Businesses/
In today’s rapidly evolving digital age, we have probably never felt more connected to the world around us. However, this increased connectivity comes with a price: personal information is more vulnerable than ever (Flew, 2021). With the rise of social media, e-commerce and online services, people are constantly sharing personal data online, sometimes without fully understanding the consequences: from personal preferences to health records, to financial information. Research shows that while most people are aware that their personal data is being collected, stored and analyzed in part by online organizations, often without realizing that most of this data is being done without their knowledge or consent (Auxier et al., 2019).
Statistically, identity theft has become one of the fastest-growing white-collar crimes in the world (Cassim, 2015). Despite the ongoing emphasis on protecting personal information online, cases beyond identity theft and financial fraud remain common. So, what can be done to ensure that personal information is used ethically and responsibly? What rights do people have when it comes to protecting digital privacy?
In this blog post, we will delve into the significance of privacy and digital rights, examining a case study that underscores the necessity of safeguarding personal information online. We will define digital privacy and digital rights, explore the current landscape surrounding these concepts, and offer guidance on how individuals can protect their personal information online. Additionally, we will critically analyze existing strategies for preserving personal information online and propose potential solutions to address the challenges in this domain.
“Do you really value digital privacy and digital rights.”
The recognition of digital rights has transformed how individuals interact with the virtual world, but it has also raised concerns about digital privacy. Digital rights refer to the entitlements of people to utilize, generate, and distribute digital content, as well as the permission to gain entry to the relevant computers, electronic tools, and communication networks required to exercise these rights (Gamber et al., 2020).
As a result of these rights, virtually every action people take in the virtual world can be tracked, including search history, social media posts, and every keystroke on a digital device. Digital privacy is often more of an ideal than a reality, as many individuals wrongly assume their online activities are private (Mulligan et al., 2016). According to Madden and Rainie’s (2015) research study, only a small percentage of Americans (9%) believe they have significant control over the collection and use of their personal information.Meanwhile, even in an environment where various high-profile data breaches, hacks, and data-sharing practices by tech companies have been revealed in recent years, many people may still prioritize convenience or social connection over privacy concerns and may be willing to trade their personal data for access to certain services or products. They may feel that they have nothing to hide and, thus, no reason to worry about digital privacy (Acquisti et al., 2012). For instance, a recent survey conducted by the Center for Data Innovation has revealed that a majority of Americans (58%) are willing to allow third parties to collect some of their sensitive personal information (Castro, 2019).与此同时，即使在近年来科技公司的各种高调数据泄露、黑客攻击和数据共享行为被曝光的环境中，许多人仍然可能将方便或社交联系置于隐私问题之上，并可能愿意用自己的个人数据换取某些服务或产品的访问权。他们可能觉得自己没有什么好隐瞒的，因此没有理由担心数字隐私问题。例如，数据创新中心(Center For Data Innovation)最近进行的一项调查显示，大多数美国人(58%)愿意允许第三方收集他们的一些敏感个人信息(Castro，2019)。
“Why the ‘I have nothing to hide’ mentality is a dangerous misconception about privacy.”
Unsurprisingly, when it comes to privacy and digital rights, the belief that “I’m not doing anything illegal or unethical, so I have nothing to hide” is a common refrain. However, the data security expert Bruce Schneier called it “the most common rebuttal to privacy advocates” (Solove, 2011). This assumption ignores the fact that everyone has some aspect of their personal life that they wish to keep private. Even innocent information can be used to harm or exploit individuals, especially when combined with other data. The ‘I have nothing to hide’ mentality normalizes invasive surveillance practices, making it harder to challenge their legitimacy and necessity, which erodes privacy and democratic principles.
Moreover, privacy is a fundamental human right that is essential to autonomy, dignity and individuality (Australian Law Reform Commission, 2010). The idea that only those who need to hide should care about privacy is a dangerous misconception that oversimplifies the complex nature of privacy and its broader societal implications. It is important to protect personal information regardless of what you are doing wrong and to recognize the importance of digital rights in protecting our fundamental freedoms.
Furthermore, the “I have nothing to hide” mentality ignores the broader social implications of data collection and surveillance. Widespread surveillance can have a chilling effect on free speech – blocking the notion of free speech and the right of association (Askin, 2009), that is, widespread surveillance can lead to self-censorship, where individuals avoid expressing their opinions publicly for fear of being monitored. This discourages open discussion and stifles the exchange of diverse viewpoints, which is essential to a vibrant democratic process.
“The Dark Side of Pregnancy-Tracking Apps: How Companies Use Personal Data to Monitor and Control Women’s Lives”
Here’s a case study of how employers and health insurers are using menstruation and pregnancy tracking apps to monitor workers’ personal and private data in the name of corporate health.这里有一个关于雇主和健康保险公司如何利用月经和怀孕跟踪应用程序以企业健康的名义监控员工的个人和私人数据的案例研究。
Figure 3. Diana Diller and the Ovia app. (Philip Cheung/For The Washington Post)
With more than 10 million users of its tracking service since it launched in 2012, Ovia, one of the most popular medical applications in the U.S., claims to have gathered billions of data points, making it “one of the largest women’s health data sets in the world.” (Ovia Health, 2017). The app asks for a wealth of personal data, including details on sleep, diet, mood, weight, sexual activity, cervical fluid and pregnancy complications, in order to provide advice and feedback accordingly. It’s undoubtedly a fun, friendly companion for moms-to-be facing the daunting uncertainty of the labor and delivery process.
But Ovia has also developed into a potent monitoring tool for companies and health insurers who are vehemently lobbying for more information to be gathered about the lives of their employees under the guise of corporate wellness (Harwell, 2019). Employers who pay Ovia Health can offer employees a customised app that sends employee health information to an internal website that human resources professionals can view. These employers claim the program encourages employees to pay as much attention to their health as possible. They say the information can assist businesses in reducing health care costs, identifying medical issues, and developing better plans for the months to come. It can be said to play a key role in promoting women’s well-being and company profitability at the same time (Harwell, 2019).
Seeing this above will be unpleasant for many. Ovia’s use of data is part of a larger trend of “digitizing the vagina,” which not surprisingly raises concerns about privacy and workplace discrimination against pregnant women. It is hard to believe that when employers have access to these data, they may not discriminate against pregnant employees, such as by creating inequities in promotion, training, and treatment, which may affect their status and development in the workplace.
“Ovia’s response to the controversy”
Ovia claims that that it complies with all applicable data privacy laws, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which establishes guidelines for the dissemination of medical data. The company assures that it will remove any identifying information from women’s health data to make it anonymous and mandates that employers must have a certain minimum number of registered users to access aggregated results. However, experts in privacy and health caution that it is possible for malicious individuals to “re-identify” an individual by cross-referencing with other data. Additionally, the presence of such an application in a company with a small number of pregnant women could make the data vulnerable to misuse. Although the company believes it is compliant with data privacy laws, concerns about privacy and security risks remain (Harwell, 2019).
“What Ovia’s case should raise for people to think about”
– As enterprises
The case study highlights the potential consequences of sharing personal data online, even for apparently harmless purposes. Companies may use this data to monitor and control the lives of workers in the name of corporate wellness. While these apps may provide useful advice and feedback, it is important to consider the ethical implications of sharing this personal data with employers and health insurers.In this context, it is worth considering the role of informed consent in the collection and use of personal data. People may not fully understand the implications of sharing their personal data with apps, especially in the context of employment or insurance. Therefore, it is important for companies and developers to provide clear and concise information about the collection and use of personal data, as well as the potential consequences of sharing such data.
– As governments
The case study also highlights the potential consequences of a lack of regulation in collecting and using personal data. Many countries have enacted regulations governing the collection and use of personal data. However, there is still a long way to go in enforcing these regulations and ensuring their effective protection of individuals’ digital rights.Governments must develop regulations governing the collection and use of personal data and ensure that these regulations are effectively enforced.
– As digital platforms’ users
Additionally, raising awareness and providing education about privacy and digital rights is crucial to ensure that individuals are aware of the risks and can take steps to protect their personal data.As users of digital platforms, it is important to recognize the potential consequences of a lack of awareness and education about privacy and digital rights. Many people may prioritize convenience or social connections over privacy concerns and may be willing to trade their personal data in exchange for access to certain services or products. While it is important to recognize the benefits of sharing personal data in certain situations, it is equally important to consider the potential risks and take steps to protect personal data.
In conclusion, in today’s digital world, the protection of personal information online is a growingly significant concern. Digital rights have altered how we engage with the virtual world, but they have also caused privacy issues. Recognizing that privacy is a fundamental human right that is necessary for individuality, autonomy, and dignity is crucial. The dangerous fallacy that “I have nothing to hide” oversimplifies the complicated nature of privacy and its wider social ramifications. No matter what you do wrong, it is critical to secure personal information and to understand how crucial digital rights are to safeguarding our basic liberties.The case study of a pregnancy tracking app is a good example of how personal data can be used for corporate purposes, highlighting the need to raise awareness of digital privacy and the steps individuals need to take to protect their personal information online. As technology continues to advance, we must remain vigilant and take proactive steps to safeguard our digital privacy and digital rights.
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