The internet is used for a wide variety of needs every day. From healthier recipes to shopping to the pursuit of an online degree, people are bettering their lives at every moment because of the internet. Are we sacrificing some level of privacy in order to accomplish these gains? In this look at the pros and cons of internet privacy, there are certain key points to consider to determine whether or not censoring some of the information we pass along to others could be a good thing to do.
What Are the Pros of Internet Privacy?
The primary benefit of internet privacy is that it allows individuals to remain anonymous should they choose to be. The simple act of logging into the internet is enough for some people to be identified by their ISP, which means tracking their movements online becomes possible as well. By instituting privacy measures, people can pursue their own interests without threats of condemnation even when they are not breaking any laws. Here are some additional advantages to consider with internet privacy as well.
1. It protects those who may be vulnerable to exploitation.
Think about the average child who might access the internet with or without their parent’s permission. By enhancing levels of internet privacy, it becomes possible to protect those children from content that may be inappropriate for their age level. People who may wish to take advantage of them because of their age would be unable to do so because of the privacy measures that have been taken. Other vulnerable demographics, such as those with developmental disabilities or a mental illness, could also benefit from this advantage.
2. It encourages the freedom of speech.
If there’s one thing the internet does well, it is provide a series of forums, groups, and sites where virtually any topic can be debated or discussed. These comments are open and transparent, yet people still can talk about difficult issues while being just an ISP number of an avatar. When people feel like they won’t be judged by others regarding their observations or advice, they feel more free to share. It is in that sharing where we are all able to gain something because of the wisdom that has been offered. You really can post whatever you want to post on the internet today outside of the taboos of religion, politics, or other cultural or ethnic “rules.”
3. It encourages the freedom of the press.
In the United States right now, six primary companies control a vast majority of the traditional media resources that people use for information every day. Six companies can potentially control how most Americans think and feel about almost any subject. Internet privacy allows for independent press that can cover stories in an alternative way so that people can get the full story instead of just one side of it. In a sense, everyone has a chance to find their own voice instead of having that voice be dictated by others.
4. It encourages innovation.
In a world where people can learn about anything whenever they want, a new idea can be quickly researched and tested to determine if there is any value contained within it. Learning tools can help anyone become an innovator, an entrepreneur, or even a freelancer. Without internet privacy, these innovations would become limited because anyone could have access to the information being accessed and steal ideas that have potential before that potential can be realized. When there isn’t judgment hovering around every corner, an equal playing field gets created with innovation always being the winner.
5. It becomes easier to ignore bothersome information.
With internet privacy policies that are available on most sites, there are plenty of ways for people to simply tune out the negative influences that are bothering them. On social networking sites, for example, people can be unfollowed and not necessarily even realize it. Certain news items can be blocked. Alerts can be created to let people know if there are news stories that are worth their time as well. Ignoring bothersome information that drags people down is easier to do and the experience can be customized.
6. It creates a system of checks and balances.
It doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to realize that there are certain individuals who would love to see governments expand into the daily lives of everyone on the planet in multiple ways. Internet privacy is a natural check and balance against those individuals because it creates a system where power cannot be abused, even if there are abusive comments taking place. The end result is a balance between needs being met, freedoms being experienced, and power being shared.
What Are the Cons of Internet Privacy?
The primary disadvantage of internet privacy is that it makes it easier for people to steal the intellectual property of others. This is most commonly seen today with photographs and writing. To steal someone’s writing, all anyone has to do is copy and paste the text into a new box and publish it. For photographs, the image just needs to be saved off of the internet and posted again. With the anonymous nature of many sites, internet privacy measures can make it difficult to locate those who are stealing. Here are some of the other disadvantages that are experienced with internet privacy.
1. It creates the ability to abuse others.
Just take a look at any comments section on any site. When people disagree with content that has been posted, the practices of internet privacy allow individuals to be held responsible for their comments. This gives people “permission” to become more abusive and intolerant of different opinions. Harsh criticism is often left and hateful or even threatening conduct becomes more difficult to police thanks to how people can hide behind an identity.
2. Source materials must be verified to be authentic.
There is no trust on the internet today and this is partly due to internet privacy. Any information that is posted online and treated as a “fact” must be independently verified to determine if it is real. There are numerous sites that offer “fake news” and other false information that is often treated as real. Sometimes this is done to get a good laugh, like with The Onion, but there are also times when it is done on purpose to spread specific propaganda.
3. It makes it difficult for people to get to know other people.
In essence, internet privacy settings that are set on “high” allow people to live a double life. They can be one person to their employer, family, and friends and never cross paths with the person they happen to be online. This can be especially problematic for those who are unemployed because it may make it impossible to either find someone or know with certainty that they are the person they seem to be from the information they are posting about themselves online.
4. It is easier for people to assume the identity of someone else.
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world today and part of it is due to the levels of internet privacy that currently exist. Sometimes identities can be assumed by others online as a way to steal money or goods from the family or friends of that person. At other times, internet privacy can even lead to instances of mistaken identity because there are numerous people named Laura Brown or John Smith in the world today.
5. It stops businesses from being able to track you down.
Businesses are using a tactic called “internet tracking” to follow potential prospects who have shown interest in their products or services. This bit of code places advertising within the line of sight of that prospect if they chose not to purchase goods or services for any reason at all. In many ways, this means that a consumer is stuck seeing the same ads at every site until the company’s money runs out or they get tired of trying to bring that person back. Internet privacy can stop all of this in its tracks.
6. It allows people to play the role of a victim.
Internet privacy allows people to actually “harass” themselves online and make it seem like others are doing it. It’s like performing self-harm, but in a digital way instead of causing self-pain through physical or emotional actions. About 10% of teens are doing this every day according to research published by Elizabeth Englander. Half of those who do play the role of the victim online by harassing themselves may create ongoing episodes that last for months.
The pros and cons of internet privacy have given us a system that may have some flaws, but there are certain successes experienced every day as well. You can make a Beef Wellington or share political beliefs without compromising how others feel about you as a person and that’s the most beautiful thing about the modern internet.