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Online privacy becoming an increasing concern

The internet has come a long way since John Perry Barlow declared it to be free from government interference in 1996. Although many will be surprised to discover that eBay and Amazon were founded a year previously and the birth of Google was only two years away, there were then barely a tenth of the 2.5 billion people connected to the internet today.

Online

Photo: Matrix Parents

Barlow’s declaration centred on the fact that the internet transcended national borders. If a website owner in the UK hosted a website on a server in Canada which allowed users in America to access content illegal in their state, who, if anyone, should be prosecuted, and how? But Barlow ignored one fatal fact – internet users did not really reside in cyberspace, but in brick and mortar houses well within reach of governments.

Privacy online has since come more into the public eye. In 2009 Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, has said that “if you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” This attitude towards privacy from a company involved in large scale – and sometimes illegal – data collection and retention caused an outcry amongst internet communities.

Recently, Edward Snowden leaked information suggesting that the United States’ National Security Agency and the UK’s GCHQ have cracked internet encryption and are able to access large collections of online communications collected either covertly or through legal demands to operators such as Google and Yahoo – the revealing of which caused mixed feelings, with 58% of Americans thinking a criminal case should be brought against Snowden.

Closer to home though, many young people have yet to realise the real-world consequences of their actions online. The privacy policies of Facbook and Google (the latter’s resulting in European data watchdogs opening legal cases against the search giant) are dodgy enough without considering the sheer volume of personal information, communications and even images people pour into them on an hourly basis. The internet brings freedom in the sense that it brings people closer to each other and makes the world a smaller place, but it comes at a sacrifice: nothing online is ever truly private, and nothing can ever be truly eradicated once uploaded. Like all other vices, social networking is best enjoyed responsibly and in moderation.

20/09/2013

About Author

Joel Taylor



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