Who moved my cheese? Who is responsible for the privacy breach?

What is the privacy leakage situation?
Did you find out? When you are watching a short video such as Tiktok, Youtube, when you click the “like” button, the platform will automatically recommend similar content to you. What’s even scarier is that sometimes you don’t even click the “like” button, you just search or accidentally read, and the platform will recommend similar content for you. And these recommendations are consistent and may include a lot of advertising. Now some websites are implementing real name system, intended to protect users’ personal privacy and security, but is it safe. Apple has been accused of collecting location data on iPhone and iPad without customers’ authorization and without notifying them (Guardian, 2011); Facebook was found to be collecting data from users’ profiles and passing that data on to advertising agencies and other companies (The Telegraph 2010). Of course, users do not actively disclose their privacy, but some mandatory behaviors of the platform, such as “accepting all cookies”, etc., if the user does not accept, you will not be able to use the website and platform normally. But do users really know what terms they accept, and do they really know that the act of clicking “accept” is likely to cause their privacy to leak? These data and cases all illustrate a problem, in the current development of the Internet, all our lives are inseparable from the Internet and algorithms, the Internet and algorithms brings us convenient life, but also infringes on our privacy.

What is privacy?

Privacy is a top concern for citizens in the digital age (Kokolakis, 2017). So, what is privacy? Privacy has a long history, it originated in ancient societies and there are even passages in the Bible where invasions of privacy appear in early forms, where invasions of someone’s private sphere are accompanied by shame and anger (Lukács, 2016). With the development of science and technology, privacy becomes more and more iconic. In the era of digital media, due to the development of science and technology, the flow of information becomes faster and faster, and people have higher and higher requirements for the protection of personal privacy. However, the current situation is that people’s privacy is not well protected on the Internet.

Why is our privacy leaking out?

The problem of information leakage caused by algorithm black box. Algorithms run behind the interface, tracking user activity and moderating the content available to the user without the user needing to know what the algorithm is or what it does (Dwivedi et al., 2021). The algorithm of the Internet is a complex and refined thing, and the people who really understand and develop the algorithm are only a small number of people with similar professional skills. For the average user, it is difficult or even impossible to understand the operation process of the algorithm. Ordinary users may not be aware that some of their unconscious actions are leaking their privacy. Of course, users will use some methods provided by the platform to protect their privacy as much as possible,Users address their concerns with a variety of privacy policies that range from simply untagging photos to more broadly removing content to blocking friend requests and managing default privacy Settings(Young & Quan-Haase, 2013). But these operations of users may not be able to avoid privacy leakage problems, but for users, this is the only way to protect personal privacy. It is because of the existence of “algorithmic black box” that users cannot understand the true purpose of uploaded information, don’t know how the uploaded information will be used. When the platform needs to analyze and understand the user’s preferences for specific recommendations, it will collect the user’s information and use the algorithm for analysis and, and algorithms need to use a large amount of data for training and learning, and this data may contain personal privacy information, such as identity information, health status, purchase history, and so on. If this data is improperly used or leaked, it may lead to the exposure of personal privacy and the risk of data breach. As the collector of user information, the platform has the most private information of users, and the platform has the responsibility and obligation to protect user information, but the reality is that there are unauthorized collection, sharing or selling of user personal information, resulting in the loss of user privacy In addition, with the development of technology, some platforms may track users’ online behaviors and habits through personal identification technology and tracking mechanism, which may violate users’ privacy and freedom. This is the privacy leakage problem brought by big data, A platform’s improper storage and/or sharing of data could result in people’s information being made public and subsequently stolen, apparently without their consent. In fact, by collecting user information to infer user preferences is the platform’s hope, because the platform may recommend corresponding preferences such as sales advertising or some implicit consumption content (Fast & Jago, 2020). These will bring some economic benefits to the platform, but it is a privacy and security issue for users. In addition, in some cases, due to the complexity of the algorithm itself, the platform is sometimes not the developer of the algorithm, and the platform itself may not understand the operation process of the algorithm. After the platform introduces the algorithm, the user’s data is entered into the algorithm for analysis, and the platform may not be very clear about the situation that may leak the user’s privacy. The government will introduce relevant laws to encourage platforms to manage users’ privacy. The law has evolved in response to threats to privacy posed by digital technology. However, in the absence of government supervision, online platforms may face compliance risks, such as arbitrarily publishing or even selling users’ privacy and personal information Compared with the platform, users have a high degree of trust in the government, and the authority of the government is higher than that of the general platform. Only the government can prevent privacy leakage from the root cause to ensure the privacy security of users.

Explaining Black-Box Models for Better Insights

How to protect privacy

As the user of the network platform, users can take some measures to ensure that their privacy is not infringed, such as not publishing their information on the network, and not disclosing their location or information when uploading photos on social media. Users should try to protect their privacy as far as they can. In addition, when using Internet platforms such as social networking networks, users should have the corresponding legal awareness to protect privacy and not disclose their privacy at will. Or being able to use the law to protect your rights when your privacy is compromised. Over the past few years, we’ve seen an explosion of new laws (including federal laws), the development of new business practices, new efforts by regulators, new international mandates, and mandates, and more sensitive.

judicial decisions on privacy (DeVries, 2003). This is a good start for privacy protection, giving users the right to protect their personal privacy while also regulating platform and algorithm developers. However, in many cases, although users have done the best to protect their privacy, but because of algorithmic black boxes, it’s not clear that what people seem to be doing to protect their privacy is protecting the privacy of individual users. The platform is mainly responsible for protecting user privacy. Before collecting customer privacy, the platform must let users know the purpose of collecting privacy, and the collection and storage process of user privacy must be open and transparent. It is absolutely not allowed to use the collected user privacy to exchange benefits with other platforms or rely on the sale of user privacy for profit, And when using the algorithm to analyze the user data, it is necessary to clearly understand the operation process of the algorithm to prevent the leakage of the user’s privacy. in addition, the role of the law is very important, only with perfect laws, some behaviors and platforms that leak user privacy can have a basis to punish them. At present, some countries in the world have introduced some privacy protection laws, but these laws are not perfect, for example, the information privacy law in the United States has become more and more fragmented and inconsistent (Strahilevitz, 2010). Due to the lack and incompleteness of the law on user privacy, there is no corresponding law to deal with and punish when user privacy leaks are violated, which gives the platform and individuals who leak user networks an opportunity. Only under strict and comprehensive legal governance can the privacy of users be protected to the greatest extent. And when the user’s privacy is violated, the user can also use the law to protect their privacy. Users’ lack of understanding of the algorithm is also the main reason for privacy leakage. Due to the complexity of the algorithm itself, the specific operation process of the algorithm is only understood by the algorithm developer, and even the platform using the algorithm to collect user privacy may not fully understand the operation process of the algorithm. Therefore, the developer of the algorithm needs to bear the responsibility, that is, it needs to explain the operation process of the algorithm to the user and the platform as much as possible, and ensure that the algorithm will not be leaked when collecting and saving user information, and the operation of the algorithm should be open and transparent to increase the persuasion of the algorithm. To ensure that the platform, algorithm and users maintain a normal relationship, protect the privacy of users, and ensure the effective implementation of laws, the government’s supervision is very important. As a power institution, the government has the responsibility and obligation of supervision and management. Regulation can be not only mandatory or restrictive (i.e. a red light for dealing with undesirable behaviour or forms of action), but also enabling or facilitating (i.e. a green light for the orderly development of specific opportunities) ( Flew, 2021). When it finds that the platform infringes on users’ privacy, it should stop it in time and punish it by law. When the user’s privacy is violated, it is necessary to help the user minimize the consequences of privacy disclosure. In the process of law implementation, we must ensure that the law is open, fair and just.


The leakage of user privacy is a complex process, which includes many factors such as users themselves, platforms, algorithms and so on. Under the combined action of these factors, the user’s privacy is eventually leaked and used for seeking profits and other illegal ways. This will not only bring great harm to users, but also have a certain impact on the credibility and reputation of the platform or developers themselves. But the biggest factor in user privacy leakage is the existence of algorithmic black boxes. At present, users’ privacy is frequently leaked on the Internet and platform. While the development of network technology brings us convenience and enriches users’ life, it also relies on these algorithms to erode users’ privacy bit by bit. Such infringement may be implicit or explicit (for example, users’ information is directly published on other websites). It is undeniable that the emergence of the algorithm does bring great convenience to the platform or users, users can use the algorithm to accurately find the information they are interested in, and the platform can also use some characteristics of the algorithm to effectively attract customers. But algorithms and platforms implicitly violate users’ privacy (such as recommending content that users are interested in, or even eavesdropping on users’ daily lives). For these privacy leaks and violations, only relying on the efforts of one party is not enough, and the protection of user privacy must go through multiple efforts. Users, platforms, and governments all need to work together to protect privacy and prevent leaks. Maximize the protection of user privacy and create a beautiful network environment.


DeVries, W. T. (2003). Protecting privacy in the digital age. Berkeley technology law journal, 18(1), 283-311.

Fast, N. J., & Jago, A. S. (2020). Privacy matters… or does It? Algorithms, rationalization, and the erosion of concern for privacy. Current opinion in psychology, 31, 44-48.

Flew, T. (2021). Regulating platforms. John Wiley & Sons.

Gimpel, H., Kleindienst, D., Nüske, N., Rau, D., & Schmied, F. (2018). The upside of data privacy–delighting customers by implementing data privacy measures. Electronic Markets, 28, 437-452.

Kokolakis, S. (2017). Privacy attitudes and privacy behaviour: A review of current research on the privacy paradox phenomenon. Computers & security, 64, 122-134.

Strahilevitz, L. J. (2010). Reunifying Privacy Law. Calif. L. Rev., 98, 2007.

Young, A. L., & Quan-Haase, A. (2013). Privacy protection strategies on Facebook: The Internet privacy paradox revisited. Information, Communication & Society, 16(4), 479-500.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply