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Information Privacy and Surveillance
Information Privacy is a fundamental Human Right according to the United Nations. In this regard, people have a right to determine, who accesses their personal information, what uses their personal information is subjected to and how this information is shared (www.ohchr.org). Governments and concerned stakeholders have implemented various rules, regulations and policies geared towards protecting the privacy of information among users. Governments’ actions to ensure that the right of citizens to information privacy is not violated have been based on benefits such as reduction fraud, enhanced personal security and maintaining a sense of personhood (Merkow & Breithaupt, 2013).
However, in as much as information privacy is considered a fundamental human right associated with various benefits, it has also been associated with various challenges. One of the major challenges experienced in regard to provision of information privacy is misuse of this aspect of human right to jeopardize security (www.ohchr.org). This has compelled governments to implement measures such as surveillance systems to ensure that their effort to protect information privacy is not used as a loophole to threaten national security (Bhasin, 2012). Although this strategy has raised many concerns and debates; certain stakeholders have argued that surveillance that target personal information is a violation of human right. This discussion will focus on information privacy and surveillance with specific regard to electronic sources of information such as; emails and social media. The background section will provide information regarding the value of information privacy and the role of stakeholders in enhancing privacy of information. The discussion will also explore privacy issues in the use of emails, social media and advertisement and legal frameworks that guide the provision of information privacy among the electronic sources. Application of surveillance as a measure to enhance personal and national security will also be discussed in this research. Consequently, it will explicate conflicting issues and debates on surveillance as well as how surveillance of online media channels may improve privacy.
Background and Discussion
Technological advancement in the communication sector has had a significant positive effect on communication processes among the current global population (www.ohchr.org). Modern Communication channels such as email chats have improved access to information and information sharing. This has been associated with improving the capacity of the global population to participate in debates, thus fostering democracy of participation (www.ohchr.org). However, with improved information access and exchange through electronic materials such as emails and social media channels, one important issue that has raised constant debates is privacy of the information shared. These debates have been raised owing to the fact that these digital modes of communication are vulnerable to violation of information privacy. The debates have also emerged due to the high value associated with information privacy. One of these values is based on the fact that information privacy promotes the essence of personhood. It ensures that an individual has the absolute autonomy over his personal information (Merkow & Breithaupt, 2013). In addition, privacy of information enhances a sense of self respect, individuality and individual dignity. Apart from enhancing a sense of personhood, information privacy plays a significant role in enhancing personal and national security. This is achieved by ensuring that personal information is not used in fraudulent activities as well as activities that may threaten security of a state. In this aspect governments and concerned stakeholders have made initiatives geared towards improving privacy through the use of surveillance technologies (Merkow & Breithaupt, 2013).
Privacy Issues in the Use of Emails and Social Media
Electronic communication channels, specifically emails and social media i.e. facebook, twitter and instagram have become fundamental components of communication across the internet. Just like any other source of information, they are affected to personal privacy issues, specifically in regard to the information disseminated. The right to privacy of information exchanged within these modes of electronic communication basically involves the personal mandate to repurposing, disclosure of information to third parties and storage. It has been identified as a subset of computer privacy. Risks to privacy of information shared through emails, social media and advertisement occur in the sense that companies are currently hired to watch people’s activities over the internet. Advertisements have also been associated with risks to privacy of information owing to the fact that consumers are usually subjected to send their personal information such as bank details and credit card information to website service providers. Additionally, direct observation of browsing behaviors i.e. browsing logs, personal profiles on social media and email addresses has been noted as a factor contributing to violation of information privacy.
In order to ensure that individual’s right to privacy of information relayed in the internet channels is not violated certain legal frameworks have been implemented to guide how this process. The United Nations is one of the international stakeholders that have advocated for enhanced privacy of information relayed through electronic devices by implementing certain legal frameworks. Through the International Covenant Civil and Political Rights, the UN has ensured that the right to personal privacy in regard to information disseminated through electronic devices is protected (www.ohchr.org). It specifically, hinders unlawful interception of personal information in an arbitrary manner.
With the current high rate of organized crimes, cyber bullying and terrorism, local governments have implemented security measures to enhance national security (Merkow, & Breithaupt, 2013). One of these measures has been directed towards surveillance of electronic information i.e. surveillance of personal information disseminated through the internet. Through various legal frameworks, governments have been in a position to undertake surveillance of internet activities as a means to curb organized crime and incidences of cyber-bullying. In some cases, surveillance of personal mails and browsing history has been applied as a means of preventing organized terrorism activities. In the United States for instance, the implementation of a Foreign Surveillance Legislation has enabled the Federal Government through the Department of Homeland Security to prevent occurrence of terrorism activities. Specifically, through the US Patriot Act, the Department of Homeland Security is provided with the mandate to undertake warrantless surveillance of electronic modes of communication ranging from emails to social medial channels used on personal electronic devices. Surveillance of communication through electronic media has also been implemented as a means to reduce incidences of fraud that may occur through the access of personal information (Amoroso, 2013).
Conflicting Issues in relation to Surveillance of Personal Emails and Social Media Accounts
Despite the fact that many governments and security organizations have implemented surveillance of electronic communication channels as a means of improving national security, concerns have been raised in regard to right to privacy. In 2013, the United Nations General Assembly through resolution 68/167 raised a deep concern regarding the negative effects of electronic media surveillance. The Assembly noted that the increased rate of surveillance by governments i.e. intercepting communication through emails and social media is a violation of human rights to privacy (www.ohchr.org). In their argument, the Assembly affirmed that human rights to privacy of information on online channels should be observed on an equal basis as offline channels. In this regard, the Assembly requested all stakeholders to review their policies that guide surveillance of online/electronic communication channels to ensure that violation of privacy to information is not jeopardized (www.ohchr.org).
According to Fuchs 2012, Electronic surveillance as a means of preventing online criminal activities has also been noted to conflict with other existing legislations that protect individuals’ right to privacy of information. In the United States, current legislative processes that allow security officials to undertake surveillance of personal emails, social media accounts and other online activities has raised concerned (Slobogin, 2007). These concerns have occurred owing to the fact that surveillance of electronic media channels conflict with the stipulations of the Fourth Amendments that guide right to Searches and Seizure (Slobogin, 2007). This is because most of the online surveillance activities are usually performed without the consent of the concerned parties.
In the discussion, it is evident that privacy of information in relation personal electronic media channels is associated with various benefits for example: It provides users with an absolute mandate to determine how their personal data is used. International stakeholders such as the United Nations have also implemented legal frameworks geared towards ensuring a right to information privacy on the electronic communication channels. On the other hand, governments have also undertaken initiatives i.e. surveillance of online activities as a means to promote security and privacy. However, surveillance efforts have conflicted with certain policies for example policies that guide personal privacy to information. Despite these challenges, it is important to acknowledge the importance of surveillance and a right to privacy of information in the current digital modes of communication. To begin with, it is apparent that through surveillance of communication channels like emails, governments and law enforcement agencies are able to prevent security threats that may occur through organized crimes. Additionally, the right to personal privacy of information in the online communication channels is crucial in preventing online fraud that may occur through misuse of information.
Amoroso, E. (2013). Intrusion detection: An introduction to Internet surveillance, correlation, traps, trace back, and response. Sparta, N.J.: Intrusion.Net Books.
Electronic surveillance. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2015, from http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/electronic_surveillance
Fuchs, C. (2012). Internet and surveillance: The challenges of Web 2.0 and social media. New York: Routledge.
Merkow, M., & Breithaupt, J. (2013). The E-Privacy imperative protect your customers' Internet privacy and ensure your company's survival in the electronic age. New York: AMACOM.
Right to Privacy in the Digital Age. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2015, from http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/DigitalAge/Pages/DigitalAgeIndex.aspx
Slobogin, C. (2007). Privacy at risk the new government surveillance and the Fourth Amendment. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
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