The Pros and Cons of Internet Privacy

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What laws and protection are currently in place?

The Electronic Privacy Communications Act (ECPA) was passed in 1986, which pertained to internet usage then; the internet has rapidly evolved since. Many states have there own laws in place, but there is no universal protection currently.

According to the September 18, 2011, New York Times article by Kevin J. O’Brien, “the European Commission has been considering how to put into practice a 2009 law that regulates software cookies, the unique digital markers that Web sites place on visiting computers to identify consumers and deliver ads tailored to individual interests.”

The European Commission is working to have E.U. consumers to “opt-in” to profiling before their information can be used.

Why would you want to “opt-in” to profiling?

Convenience. When companies and websites profile consumers, they are able to gear specific content such as advertisements and news articles to target the individual’s interest.

Targeted content reduces the clutter of unwanted ads and irrelevant news stories. This can be beneficial to consumers by helping them discover new products, events, articles and much more similar to their interest.

What are some concerns of profiling?

The internet world today is saturated with information and content from countless sources. Profiling helps reduce the clutter by displaying content that mostly pertains to the individual.

However, if profiling only displays the information someone wants to see, there could be a problem. Two individuals side-by-side could Google search the same topic and get different results. This raises the concern not only of what content is being display, but what content isn’t being displayed.

There could be extraneous events that fall outside of a person’s “profile.” When thinking about internet privacy and profiling, one must look at the various aspects involved in order to fully optimize their internet experience.

How can you have the best of both worlds?

There are a few things you can do to increase privacy protection.

1. Purchase or download antivirus software.

2. Use a program that allows you to anonymously surf the internet. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) offers a guide to companies that offer these services.

3. Be Cautious! Avoid downloading files from unknown sources, and be careful about what information you share.

Being profiled while still reducing the risk of missing important information is possible; you just needs to find the perfect mix.

As long as you are educated on internet privacy and profiling, you can make the proper decision of how to utilize the best of both worlds. Examples of mixed internet privacy and profiling could consist of the following:

  • Increase privacy: Privacy can be increased without full protection. Antivirus software and being cautious about opening unknown files can help reduce problems and spamming, but won’t disable to ability to be profiled.
  • Using multiple web browsers: Have multiple web browsers designated to different task such as work, school, personal, etc.
  • Dig Deep: If only one browser is used with limited privacy control, dig deeper for different, unique stories that may not appear in the top results.

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