ONLINE PRIVACY AND THE NEGATIVE SIDE OF THE INTERNET, SOCIAL MEDIA

Without a doubt, the internet and social media have made it possible for people to communicate with one another regardless of their geographical position easily. People have become more informed about their environment and the world at large due to having access to a wide range of information. It has not only encouraged human contact but has also aided in the growth of companies. Despite these advantages, social media sites and the internet as a whole have harmed online privacy. This paper examines the various ways in which online privacy has been invaded, as well as the consequences of such invasions. First, the internet and social media have exacerbated identity fraud (Fox & Jesse & Jennifer 65). In this digital society, the number of social media sites has increased. Almost every person has joined them with the aim of being kept updated about events around the globe as well as networking with friends. Notably, a person has to provide a lot of information regarding them. Some of the details that are common in the profiles of individuals include their names, their contacts, their location, and their relationship statuses, their institutions of learning, their places of work and their past experiences among other personal details (Fox & Jesse & Jennifer 68). While this is an excellent way to network and make new friends, it has invaded their privacy. People who want to steal identities are looking for individuals who expose their private information publicly. Unfortunately, users are not aware of malicious people. With the aim of making new connections and entertaining themselves, they accept friendships with people who have undesirable motives. When these details are linked together, it becomes easy for hackers to use them for personal gain in illegal ways. The availability of photos makes the hackers’ work very easy.

Identity theft goes a long way in ruining the life of an individual. The identity can be used in different ways that can damage the reputation of a person (Khrais 40). For instance, it can be used to perpetrate criminal activities such as fraud, propagate false information and cause chaos in the society among other atrocities. Often, social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook enable users to adjust their privacy setting in manners that they want (Khrais 45). However, this has not helped in preventing identity theft. People are making their lives very public even to people who they barely know the people they interact with. Perhaps, being keen on the friends they have in their network will help in solving this form of online privacy invasion. Additionally, they could reduce the number of private details they post on their profiles and timelines. This seems like the best solution to the pervasive problem. In fact, social media sites like Facebook provide ways of restricting the people who view a user’s information. Moreover, from time to time, it gives insights on security tips that the users should implement. Users therefore need education and enlightenment on the need to keep their lives private.

Secondly, with regards to online privacy, people have been exposed to loss of their belongings, more so their money through the internet (Khrais 48). The internet provides a lot of convenience to human beings. Such is the case with online banking which has become a trend over the past few years. In the past, people had to walk into banks and other financial institutions to access services. Nowadays, however, all a person needs to have is internet connection and a digital device to accomplish such tasks. Even though this is a tremendous societal transformation, it has caused people to lose their money. With online banking, a person has to create an account whereby they develop usernames and other login details. Often the financial service provider will guarantee that an individual’s money is well protected and none of their features can be exposed to unauthorized parties. However, hackers and fraudsters have also used the same internet technology to access the login details. Usually, they create URLs with captivating information so that a user can click (Maple 67).

Naturally, human beings are curious and want to know almost everything. As such, they click on such URLs which connect them to sites that have viruses and spyware. Once this is done, the spyware is installed on the digital device used by the person (Vien 54). Without their knowledge, the details they use to log into their online banking accounts are copied by the hacker. Eventually, he or she can make transactions and even withdraw the money without being suspected. Such activities are rendering the internet a threat to online banking privacy. Instead of providing convenience, it is acting as a tool that enables malicious people to rob off other people’s hard-earned money (Vien 59). Even though individuals apply the recommended security settings, it can be difficult to do away with such malicious acts. Probably banks that provide services online should come up with improved ways to prevent loss of money by their customers. This way, people will continue thriving in the convenience that comes with online banking.

In light of the adverse effects of the internet and social media on online privacy, it is essential to consider some of the impacts this has made towards the lives of individuals and the society at large (Fox & Jesse & Jennifer 30). To begin with, the invasion of online privacy has led to the victimization of individuals. This has been made possible by the ability of users to create pseudo accounts such that other users cannot quickly identify them. Victimization always emanates from undesirable interaction behaviors whereby false or private information regarding a user is spread on social media sites. Research shows that Facebook is associated with hurtful events and victimization is one of such experiences. It has become a widespread behavior for people to use one’s details to spread false information. For instance, a person can be accused of theft even when they have not committed any crime. This is enabled by the provision of all personal information regarding a user. Information spreads very fast over the internet.

Several people get to read information and even comment about it in a very short span of time. The sharing of information enabled by social media sites such as Facebook worsens such situations (Fox & Jesse & Jennifer 29). When a person is victimized, their reputation is damaged severely in addition to being harassed. They become a source of ridicule and memes are made to entertain other internet users. Such situations can cause one to become depressed or even commit suicide. Online victimization depicts the intensity of privacy invasion for an individual. The internet was formed with a sole aim of connecting the society among other benefits. As such, if it is used to bring down others, it can be rendered as irrelevant in a community that is seeking growth. Companies like Facebook should restrict the use of fake accounts to reduce victimization of users.

Over the past years, the rate of negative complains about the Internet and how it affects one’s privacy have risen tremendously (Khrais 18). It is quite obvious to find people complaining that the Internet and social networks have affected their lives negatively. A good example that can be used to ascertain this fact is that some of the Social networks have been seen to leak personal data. In reference to reports from various sources, it has been proved that some of the applications that support social media have been seen to leak information without the knowledge of the real owners. Most of this information has been used in different internet, tracking and advertising companies (Khrais 21). According to this reports; some of this applications cannot work unless the user accepts certain terms and conditions.

As soon as the user clicks on “Allow”, the application has all necessary permission to access one’s information and share it. For instance, the Facebook application has been accused of going against online privacy laws consequently sharing private information (Maple 39). It is also important to note the fact that once the user accepts clicks on “allow”, advertisers are granted a token from which they can be able to access photos as well as chat logs and other private information that the user does not intend to share with the public. As a result of the use of the Internet and accessing different social media sites, the chances of having your online behavior and online data tracked, leaked or scraped are very high. Basically, it is important to note the fact that the Internet is a very unsecure channel/media of communication. The chances of your data or information being leaked is almost at 90%. According to information from a number of sources, it has been established that controlling data scraping is impossible.

However, on the positive side, one can be able to control the information that they put out there. The best way to ensure that your privacy in the Internet is monitored/regulated is by ensuring that the privacy settings part is modified in the most appropriate way (Fox & Jesse & Jennifer 65). Secondly, one should ensure that their names and details are not available in the database. It is also important to note the fact that most of the internet and advertising companies’ access people’s personal data and information by going through profiles that are not private or set accordingly. They can also be able to access one’s personal data and information by going through the database (Fox & Jesse & Jennifer 69). Generally, the best way through which people can be able to protect their private information is by ensuring that in case they have to use the internet, they ought to hide their private information. They should only share information that is public and will not have an impact in case it is hacked or scrapped. Even though thus us an important security measure, it will limit the ability of people to network with each. Over the years, users have referred to personal details to search for friends who they have not contacted with for a long time. In addition toi this, the provision of personal details enables a person to know the character of the friends they chat with. Doing so reduces the chances of undesirable interactions over the internet.

Another negative impact of social networking and using the Internet in reference to online privacy is the fact that one can easily be tracked (Fox & Jesse & Jennifer 32). Basically, this is referred to as online social tracking. A good example that can be used to prove on this fact is that some of the social media sites such as Twitter contain buttons such as “Tweet, +1 and Like”. In most cases, this buttons are used to share content and information, what most people do not know is the fact that this widgets are very dangerous and play an important role when it comes to tracking. It is important to note the fact that this buttons work with cookies (Khrais 28). In lay man’s language, cookies refer to files that are stored in a phone that can access the internet or the computer. This files are very dangerous in the sense that they can track the user’s operations, data and information across different websites. Consequently, strangers and hackers can be able to track and monitor one’s interest, operations and online behavior. This is very dangerous in the sense that hackers and strangers can be access information that is very private and use it to destroy or tamper on one’s life.

In order to provide a comprehensive analysis of the cons of social media and the internet on online privacy, it is essential to consider the factors that have contributed towards its pervasiveness. Companies that own social networks are to blame for the exposure of the user’s privacy. When joining or logging in to a social media platform, the privacy agreements are often provided. Most of them claim that all the information that is passed across to the users belongs to the company (Maple 70). The media is spread in the form of songs, pictures or texts is usually stored in the companies’ databases. Even though they purport to keep users’ information safe, it is leaked to the public sometimes. Additionally, the same information is used to track the devices and location of the user. Such aspects weaken the privacy of a person. Even though the company provides the services of networking, it does not have the right to use the confidential information as and when it wants (Maple 72). This has become a legal phenomenon, and the company can use the content in the manners that it wishes. Ethically, this is wrong. Privacy dictates that data regarding an individual can only be accessed and used by them.

Another proof to show that social media companies propagate invasion of privacy is through allowing the creation of pseudo accounts (Vien 29). The account holders use false information to connect with other people. Often such people are usually on the lookout for private information to propagate crimes. These fake identities have been the main reason why users are victimized online. The people behind them often spread fraudulent activities in addition to damaging the reputations of other people (Fox & Jesse & Jennifer 76). The companies must ensure that this situation is corrected. For instance, Facebook can implement a strategy whereby people access the social platform using their real identities. This way, cases of undesirable interactions and invasion of privacy will reduce. Therefore the issue of online privacy should first be addressed by the companies that own social networks. Once this is done, they should spread information regarding effective online privacy measures to the users of the social networks. This will go a long way in ensuring that the internet and social media sites are used for their intended purposes.

CONCLUSION

The main reason why the internet and social media platforms were created was to enable people to connect with each. The sharing of ideas has not only impacted personal growth but that of the society at large. People have been able to make friends in addition to becoming knowledgeable about several aspects of the community. Additionally, people have found new ways of earning money as well as marketing their businesses. However, the issue of online privacy has hindered people from enjoying and benefitting from the internet. Innocent users have become prey to hackers and fraudsters when accessing the internet. This problem has become prevalent to the extent of rendering social networking as a threat to people’s security. People have the rights to privacy and anything that interferes with it must be dealt with. The activities of being tracked and their data leaking have contributed to their exposure. The effects of this have been theft of their identities and online victimizations among others. These activities not only destroy the reputation of a person but also cause them stress.

Companies and individuals are to blame for this situation. In as much as companies try to promote online security, there are still several gaps. Individuals, on the other hand, are using the internet to expose their private lives. It is unfortunate that they provide information that should instead remain confidential. Interestingly, a person who has never met them can describe their personalities even before having a physical interaction with them. Hackers have therefore taken advantage of this data to carry out criminal activities. If this problem is to be solved, companies have to establish stricter rules regarding the use of their social media platforms. Individuals, on the other hand, must be educated on the need to keep their private lives off the internet. The internet is likely to be enhanced in the near future. As such, the society should also come up with innovative ways to curb this problem.

Works Cited

Fox, Jesse, and Jennifer J. Moreland. “The dark side of social networking sites: An exploration of the relational and psychological stressors associated with Facebook use and affordances.” Computers in Human Behavior 45 (2015): 168-176.

Khrais, Laith T. “Highlighting the Vulnerabilities of Online Banking System.” The Journal of Internet Banking and Commerce 20.3 (2015).

Maple, Carsten. “Security and privacy in the internet of things.” Journal of Cyber Policy 2.2 (2017): 155-184.

Press Release. “Internet Privacy in 2017: Predictions and Security Advice”. The Data Center Journal (2016).

Vien, Courtney L. “Half of Americans expect to lose money to identity theft.” Journal of Accountancy (2016).

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