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Why Internet Privacy Matters to Consumer

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Internet Privacy is the ability to protect private information over the Internet. All users on the net give information in some form or the other andas such the issue is relevant to all net users. The chief issues in Privacy concerns are collection and storage of personal information, how this is used and sharing of this information.
Though computers track IP to aid the user experience, send cookies to enable better and more efficient use of the internet, most of the time, the user as a person remains anonymous. But as sophisticated data mining tools become more available, it is possible for smaller sites too to marry user behavior to personal information. As Cronin points out there is billions of customer data existing on computers across the world today, including bank accounts, credit card accounts, mortgage information, retirement fund details, medical claims and much more, and ‘the web seamlessly links it all together’ (Cronin, 1).
Search Engines are a great mine of information. Privacy concerns range from popular search engines like Google and Yahoo which track IP addresses, time of search and search details. When search history, registration details and email details are taken together, you can have a comprehensive personal profile of any user. Cronin in her essay contends that many users ‘are not aware that their online behavior is so readily recorded and analyzed’ (Cronin, 2).
Legal bodies in many countries have addressed the privacy issues, though this has not translated to new legislation. For example, a body in Norway has stated that Google’s retaining for information for 18-24 months is too long a duration. Cronin argues that ‘unless there is some external pressure to place limits on how much information is collected, or how it is being used, it seems that data mining practice will be fine tuned and expanded’ (Cronin, 3).
E-commerce sites command personal information including credit card information and purchase history. As users are wary of how this is used, this is an impediment to increased usage. ‘Good privacy practice should be more closely linked with trust, as an essential trust building block for closer relationships with customers and a sustainable source of e business advantage’ (Cronin, 5).
The Internet affords most users an illusion of a private space, a personal space without the interference of any third party. The concept of personal space includes privacy of personal behavior, personal communication and personal data (Clarke). Cronin writes, ‘often out interactions with the Net do have a private feel to them’ (Cronin, 3). On one hand users have an appalling lack of awareness about what information is tracked and stored and on the other hand complete monitoring tools exist on many Websites. Cronin points out that if customers did know about the long-term storage of the information they gave, ‘they would think carefully about balancing the value of resources they receive’ against the value of information they disclose (Cronin, 4).
There is a notable discrepancy between what privacy policies are currently stating and what users deem most significant (Earp, Anton, Aiman-Smith and Stufflebeam, 235). New legislation that comprehends the challenges of privacy concerns on the Internet need to be effected to ensure that uniform codes are adhered to on the medium. Cronin’s recommendations are for an external review body, which may be drawn from the industry, privacy advocacy groups and individual watchdogs with government support (Cronin, 5).
Citations:
Clarke, Roger. Internet Privacy Concerns confirm the case for confirmation, ACM 42, 2 (Feb 1999) 60-67. ( https://www.anu.edu.au/people/Roger.Clarke/DV/CACM99.html) accessed 12.00 PM, 28/11/2008
Cronin, Mary J. Why Internet Privacy matters to Consumers
Earp, Julia B. Anton, Annie I. Aiman-Smith, Lynda. and Stufflebeam, William H. Examining Internet Privacy Policies Within the Context of User Privacy Values, IEEE transactions on Engineering Management, Vol 52, No 2, May 2005, pp 227-237. (http://www4.ncsu.edu/jbearp/IEEE_TEM_Privacy_Values.pdf), accessed 2.00PM, 28/11/2008