Do you know what lurks behind your digital every click? -Unveiling the secrets of privacy and digital rights

With the rapid development of digital technology, today’s digital technology has penetrated every aspect of people’s lives, affecting everything from food, clothing, housing, and transportation. We have become increasingly reliant on modern devices and networks for almost every aspect of our lives(Greengard, 2021). In the meantime, these technologies have transformed our daily habits. For instance, when we fall ill or get injured, we can conveniently book appointments online with healthcare providers or seek medical advice through telemedicine apps on our smart devices. Similarly, the way we travel has changed due to new digital technology. The days of standing in long queues to purchase tickets or struggling to navigate unfamiliar routes are gone, with the advent of smart devices and location-based apps. Travelers can seamlessly purchase tickets, access digital boarding passes, and receive real-time navigation guidance to their destinations. This integration of technology into the travel experience has made journeys more efficient, personalized, and stress-free. Moreover, technology has even changed the way we satisfy our food cravings. We can now order our favorite meals from the comfort of our homes using food delivery apps.

People have gained great convenience through these technologies, but they often don’t know what is hidden behind every seemingly convenient click or accept the cookies, and terms on a website or mobile phone. While these technologies have undoubtedly brought numerous benefits and conveniences to our lives, people often accept the terms of cookies and other apps without understanding the risks involved.

Behind every seemingly simple and convenient click lies a complex web of data collection, privacy concerns, and digital rights issues. Thus, as we live in this digital technology-driven world, it is necessary and important to understand the risks and implications of our digital actions regarding privacy, data security, and digital rights in the digital age.

What are privacy & digital rights?

Privacy and digital rights play a crucial role in today’s society, particularly amidst the ongoing digital disruption that is reshaping societal norms and behaviors. The widespread use of digital platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, WeChat, Twitter, Airtasker, and Uber has significantly transformed how people interact in their professional, social, and political spheres across diverse societies, including advanced industrial nations, authoritarian regimes, and emerging democracies in the Asia-Pacific region (Goggin et al., 2017).

Privacy, on the one hand, refers to individuals’ capacity to control their personal information and determine its collection, utilization, and dissemination (Xu et al., 2011). Meanwhile, the definition of privacy in the study by Louis Brandeis and Samuel Warren in 1890 defined privacy as “the right to be let alone” (Lukács, 2016). As Lukács (2016) discusses, privacy is deeply intertwined with human dignity, freedom, and independence, making it a fundamental right in modern societies. However, as a multifaceted concept, privacy has evolved alongside technological advancements in the digital world(Lukács, 2016). Technological developments blurred the lines between public and private spaces. Under this situation, as the digital age progresses, the potential for invasion of personal privacy increases significantly. The proliferation of social media platforms, smart devices, and online services generates huge amounts of data, which individuals or governments can use to profile individuals, monitor their activities, and influence their behavior (Williamson, 2017). This not only includes just traditional forms of intrusion but also encompasses digital surveillance, data collection, and the use of algorithms to track and analyze personal information (Ribeiro-Navarrete et al., 2021). The interconnected nature of digital systems means that personal information can easily be shared, accessed, and exploited without explicit consent. This raises fundamental issues on individual autonomy, data protection, and the ethical use of technology. In summary, with the development of technology, people have lost their ability to control their privacy fully, and the easy exploitation of personal data has become an increasingly serious issue, harming individuals’ interests.

Digital rights, on the other hand, encompass broader rights and responsibilities within the digital realm. This includes not only privacy but also issues such as government surveillance, intellectual property, free speech, and access to digital services (DeVries, 2003). Digital rights, on the other hand, encompass broader rights and responsibilities within the digital realm. This includes not only privacy but also issues such as government surveillance, intellectual property, free speech, and access to digital services(DeVries, 2003). For individuals in the digital age, digital rights encompass crucial aspects that directly impact their personal freedoms and autonomy on the internet. For example, Individuals have the right to control their personal information and data although they have been shared online. Meanwhile, individuals have the right to ensure that their digital footprint is not exploited without consent, which includes safeguarding against unauthorized access to sensitive information by third parties, such as hackers or data brokers, and maintaining confidentiality in digital communications(Shukla et al., 2022). In the meantime, while using digital platforms and services, individuals generate vast amounts of data, from browsing habits to personal information. Thus, digital rights encompass the right of individuals to know what data is being collected about them, how it’s being used, and the ability to consent to its collection and usage. Another essential aspect of digital rights is free speech and expression rights. Individuals have the right to express their opinions, ideas, and beliefs through various digital platforms. What’s more, intellectual property rights are also an important aspect of digital rights for individuals. This mainly protects diverse creators’s work in the digital realm(National Research Council et al., 2000). Furthermore, individuals also have the right to access digital services. This ensures every individual has equitable access to essential digital services, including internet connectivity, online education, healthcare information, government services, and e-commerce platforms. However, since the enactment of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, digital rights management (DRM) systems have begun to be provided for digital content placed online by various entities such as magazine and book publishers, music companies, software and game producers (Foroughi, Albin, & Gillard, 2002). Copyright protection enables creators and digital content providers to exert greater control over how end users use and access their products. The development of DRM technology has led creators and providers have make significant profits, but to restrictions for many users in accessing and using information, limiting personal rights to access digital services.

Why does that matter?

Digital rights are closely related to basic human rights. As Mathiesen (2014) believes, human rights are inherent to all individuals and must be upheld in the digital environment. With the development of science and technology and the emergence of information technology, online human rights have emerged, but this has also led to the possibility of online human rights being violated. Therefore, digital rights matter in safeguarding personal space on the Internet and individual rights to privacy, freedom of speech, and access to information on the Internet. This also highlights the interconnectedness between digital rights and the broader ethical and moral principles that underpin democratic societies.

Meanwhile, the Digital Rights in Australia report (Goggin et al., 2017) highlights key areas where digital rights play a crucial role. For example, Internet freedom is at the core of digital rights, ensuring access to the Internet and protecting free speech online. Issues such as net neutrality and content filtering underscore the need for policies that uphold these freedoms in the digital realm. Digital rights also encompass privacy and surveillance. For individuals, the collection and use of personal data raise ethical and legal issues regarding individual privacy rights. From the government’s and businesses’ perspective, adherence to digital rights principles is necessary without compromising individual rights.

In summary, digital rights are important because they are relevant to every individual, especially online. Digital rights are inseparable from basic human rights. The online human rights of every individual on the Internet are crucial, affecting key areas such as Internet freedom, intellectual property, privacy, and surveillance. Each individual has the right to protect their data and to know whether their data is under their complete control. With today’s technological development, many permission buttons and cookie clauses all over the Internet are traps. Many companies have collected a lot of data beyond the normal range for their use, and as individuals, we have the right to know and the right to defend our rights. These are critical to upholding digital rights and creating a fair, just, and rights-respecting digital environment for all individuals and communities.


Many digital products that we use every day are examples of this and have brought into focus the intricate challenges inherent in safeguarding digital rights. For example, digital platforms such as Twitter, which is a very popular digital product among young people. The report states that online social networks, including Twitter, have access to data from a variety of sources, such as mobile phone apps, allowing them to collect contact lists and potentially create shadow profiles. These shadow profiles may contain non-user information inferred from data shared by Twitter users. This phenomenon is consistent with the shadow profile hypothesis, which suggests that data shared by users can predict personal information about non-users (Garcia et al., 2018).

Twitter can predict a user’s location, gender, age, and political leanings by harvesting their personal data, according to research, highlighting the broad power of the platform’s data inference and analysis. For example, a study by Garcia et al. (2018) constructed a dataset of Twitter users that included profile text, location information, and bidirectional friendship links. The study assessed the predictability of a user’s location using only information provided by a user’s friends who joined Twitter before the user did. The results show that information shared by Twitter users can predict the location of individuals outside of Twitter. Furthermore, the quality of this prediction increases with the trend of Twitter users sharing their mobile contacts and is more accurate for individuals with more contacts on Twitter. These findings have important implications for digital rights and privacy protection. They demonstrate that individuals may no longer have full control over their online privacy. Because sharing personal data with Twitter may lead to predictions about non-user information. This collective mediation of privacy decisions, the actions of Twitter users impact the privacy of non-users, highlights the complex landscape of digital rights and the need for strong regulatory frameworks to effectively address these challenges. The ability of social networking sites like Twitter to aggregate information from other services and create predictive models based on user data raises questions about the ethical use of personal information and the boundaries of personal privacy. There is a growing demand for transparency, accountability, and user control over data shared on online platforms. These concerns have led to calls for stricter regulations and ethical codes to ensure digital rights are protected and that individuals have the right to make informed decisions about their online privacy. There are many similar examples, and these findings highlight the challenges of the fragility of personal digital identities and the potential misuse of their information, which affects individual’s privacy and digital rights.

Future And Actions

Individual’s perspective:
As individuals in the digital society, we should increase our awareness of protecting our personal privacy and digital rights. Individuals should not rashly agree to privacy terms that we do not understand, and individuals should adjust their user privacy settings on digital platforms. There are calls for companies to provide more transparency in sharing user data.

Company’s perspective:
Companies should adhere to ethical guidelines regarding the use of personal data, avoid hiding information in user consent terms, and comply with regulations. They should also consider introducing privacy features to give users more control over their data.

Government’s perspective:
Governments should establish and strengthen the regulatory framework to protect digital rights. Regulatory agencies should also step up supervision and law enforcement, imposing strict penalties on illegal activities.

  • Reference

    Greengard, S. (2021). *The Internet of Things*. MIT Press.

    Goggin, G., Vromen, A., Weatherall, K., Martin, F., Adele, W., Sunman, L., & Bailo, F. (2017). *Digital Rights in Australia*.

    Lukács, A. (2016). *What is privacy? The history and definition of privacy*.

    Xu, H., Dinev, T., Smith, J., & Hart, P. (2011). Information privacy concerns: Linking individual perceptions with institutional privacy assurances. *Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 12*(12), 1.

    Ribeiro-Navarrete, S., Saura, J. R., & Palacios-Marqués, D. (2021). Towards a new era of mass data collection: Assessing pandemic surveillance technologies to preserve user privacy. *Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 167*, 120681.

    Williamson, B. (2017). *Big data in education: The digital future of learning, policy and practice*.

    DeVries, W. T. (2003). Protecting privacy in the digital age. *Berkeley Technology Law Journal, 18*(1), 283-311.

    Foroughi, A., Albin, M., & Gillard, S. (2002). Digital rights management: A delicate balance between protection and accessibility. *Journal of Information Science, 28*(5), 389-395.

    Shukla, S., George, J. P., Tiwari, K., & Kureethara, J. V. (2022). Data security. In *Data Ethics and Challenges* (pp. 41-59). Singapore: Springer Singapore.

    National Research Council, Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, Applications, Computer Science, Telecommunications Board, & the Emerging Information Infrastructure. (2000). *The digital dilemma: Intellectual property in the information age*. National Academies Press.

    Mathiesen, K. (2014). Human Rights for the Digital Age. *Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 29*(1), 2–18.

    Garcia, D., Goel, M., Agrawal, A. K., & Kumaraguru, P. (2018). Collective aspects of privacy in the Twitter social network. *EPJ Data Science, 7*(1), 1-13.

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