Free Research Paper On Privacy In Modern America
Type of paper: Research Paper
Topic: Confidentiality, Privacy, Technology, Information, Security, United States, Society, Government
Privacy is of vital importance in the day to day dealings with human beings as members of the society. The term “privacy” can be best defined as the right to be left alone (Privacy). The relevance of privacy and its essence can be obviously seen through the entire pages of the United States’ constitution. Privacy is a wide and all-encompassing concept. It includes the freedom from interference of the government in the family. This also covers confidentiality of activities like telephone calls, personal correspondence, financial information, medical histories and even emails. In the context of privacy, there is great concern that the advancement in technology will have a damaging effect on it. Evidence shows that with the current advancement in technology, especially the internet brings speedy diminution in privacy. This can be seen in the ease in eavesdropping, stealing of personal information, increase in cyber-crimes, espionages, to mention a few, all taking place over the internet.
Technology and Personal Information
Farrell asserted that in the subject of privacy, new technologies come with streams of new problems. This is because these technologies provide environments that make it increasingly difficult for individuals to protect their personal information and maintain their privacy.
Of course, innovative technologies provide a lot of comforts and satisfactions. For instance, such technologies have made it increasingly easy to receive updates and instructions as easy as possible. Agre pointed out that it is now very easy for a mechanic to monitor vehicle's engines remotely and also alert one in case of a problem. However, the conveniences brought by technology do not come without a price and one of the major prices to pay is the vandalization of privacy. Moreover, these technologies are becoming cheaper as the day goes by and hence making it easy for anyone to lay hands on them. Consequently, it causes more harm on privacy.
The advent of the internet even made it worse. The data is exchanged in virtually every electronic process such as when withdrawing money via an automated teller machine (ATM), sending emails on the internet and so forth. The use of a social security number (SSN) in the United States is a great threat to privacy. This is due to the empowerment of the government to track individuals easily and infringe on their personal privacy (Agre).
Sullivan mentioned that privacy concern can be observed in different aspects of our lives and daily activities. With the breach in privacy orchestrated by the modern technology today, it is now increasingly easy for a stranger to read your email. They can even go through instant messages as well as the websites that one visited without necessary permission. Anybody can take advantage of privacy breach spy or for a criminal purpose.
However, Sullivan clearly pointed out that even with the increasing privacy concern, it appears that an average American is not concerned or bothered with the privacy issues. The reason for this can be attributed to the fact that privacy is much like health that when we have it, we do not value it but we only realize its huge benefits when we lose it. According to a survey conducted by the NBC news, up to 60 percent of the respondents complained that their privacy is slipping away. Irrespective of the obvious truth, it appears that most Americans do not care for their privacy and are willing to give it away at any cost. This is made obvious by the series of tests conducted by the Alessandro Acquisiti, a Carnegie Mellon privacy economist. The test pointed out that most Americans will go to the extent of submitting their social security number for a 50 percent off coupon on their purchases. This simply shows the level of value Americans place on their privacy.
The Internet and the Government
Perhaps, the internet and the government has a lot in common when it comes to a privacy breach. The concept of privacy online can be better understood by the increasing spamming activities going on online. With a little information about a person or an organization, spammers can widen the chasm. This is obvious in the amount of spam messages that come from unknown sources entering inboxes. The internet seems like a very friendly place to be but, in essence, it is not. For instance, it is possible to provide your credit card information to a site operating in a region where the United States' fraud law does not apply. This can cause a lot of harm to your account and greatly wreck the individual. Most websites today require that a user register by providing some sensitive personal information before he can access the features. This could also lead be detrimental to privacy (Agre).
Another obvious threat to privacy is linked with the abuse of personal information by the government. This is quite obvious in most countries of the world. Political oppression is observed as the most serious threat to privacy in the world. The government claims to go for centralized and publicly visible surveillance system, but this could be misleading as it often results to a decentralized system that has great negative effect on privacy. Undeniably, if privacy concerns have to be settled, all hands must be on deck in tackling the problem. In fact, it would involve the government and also the common man in the street. However, effective solution to privacy issues must start with policy making and then its effective implementation must be a priority. Proper understanding of the importance of privacy and what it entails is a necessity in order to ensure that its vandalization and mutilation is avoided.
Teeming Privacy Issues in Modern American
Privacy has always been an issue but never has it been more teeming than now owing to the recent boost in modern technology. According to Rotenberg, the right to privacy is properly established in the international law. The Article 12 incorporated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “no one should be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor or reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interferences or attacks” (Privacy, Data Protection, and Freedom; Rotenberg).
Privacy violation today is well apparent with the use of modern technologies. The Privacy Right Clearinghouse (PRC), outlined a lot of means by which privacy is violated today, and these are largely technological means. These include biometric technologies such as biometric encryption; video surveillance; online privacy and e-commerce. It encompasses workplace monitoring; location tracking technologies and wireless communication as well as data profiling. It enabled background checks, criminal identity theft; and information related to broker industry. This is threatening financial privacy and public records on the internet as well as medical records confidentiality such as genetic privacy and direct to consumer (DTC) genetic testing. It involved in wiretapping and electronic communication; digital television and broadband cable TV; radio frequency identification (RFID) and digital rights management. It also provides access to federal-level privacy protection law; behavioral targeting and cloud computing along with digital signage systems; smart grid and data anonymization.
The aforementioned key privacy issues bear heavily in the modern American society and affects consumers today and will likely have significant effects on consumers tomorrow. Biometric technology is touted as a means to ensure security but it raises grave privacy issues. Biometric can refer many of the ways, as humans can be identified by unique aspects of their bodies. Such unique ways of identifications may include fingerprints, hand prints, vein dimensions, iris designs, blood vessels in the retinas, body odors, the way we walk, our voices and so forth. Essentially, it includes anything that can be used to identify one's genetic profile. This is simply because each person on earth has a unique genetic profile from another. A growing aspect of biometric known as facial recognition biometrics tends to take into consideration the geometry of the face and hence use it in identifying a person (PRC). Even though these technologies are helpful in a lot of ways, they still pose numerous ethical concerns especially as regards to privacy issues. This is why privacy and civil liberties advocates continue to express their grave concerns about the widespread adoption of these technologies and how they can negatively affect the common man in the society.
Solutions to Privacy Concerns
Westin pointed out that privacy concerns is growing in leaps and bounds, and it has become an omnipresent issue in our technology driven the world of today. According to the study, a number of Google search on privacy key terms and related concepts revealed that privacy is truly a hot issue in the society. It whopping 11.93 billion search results whereas some other teeming issues like security had about 4.27 billion search results. This shows the importance of privacy for an individuals in the society. But the question is: how can the growing concerns about privacy be tackled?
Agre stated that potential solutions to the loss of informational privacy can be classified into three areas. These include regulation, technical measures, and individual actions. Thus, the effective solution would involve virtually everyone concerned in order to solve the issues of privacy. The United States is the leading model of privacy regulation in the world today. One of the effective solutions that were set by the U.S government to tackle the issue of privacy is the fair information practice. This is also known as data protection in most other countries of the world. The United States 1974 Privacy Act state these principles but the limitation of this law is that it only applies to the government and hence this makes it somewhat ineffective. Thus, in order to tackle the issue of privacy, effective legislation that covers all the privacy concerns will have to be put in place. The loopholes can be filled up by ensuring that the privacy law crisscrosses the entire privacy issues and concerns (Agre).
However, emerging and innovative technologies are not absolute detrimental to privacy. These technologies can be harnessed to protect privacy further and ensure confidentiality. As Agre pointed out, technologies like digital cash systems can replace credit cards and operate it like ordinary cash. They could be formulated in such a way as to reveal identity only with permission from the payer or with a court order. These cryptographic methods can be put in place in order to disguise identity.
Moreover, individuals can also help to protect their privacy by being mindful of where they submit their personal information, whether in the online store or elsewhere. When faced with excessive requests online or even offline, individuals can help to protect their privacy by asking the reason for the information or by simply refusing to answer the question. Privacy can be protected when individuals become more mindful of it and appreciate its relevance keeping it in contact.
Privacy has emerged to become a major issue in the modern American society. Of course, its importance is not limited to American society today but also to other societies around the globe both developing as well as developed countries. This paper explored the importance of privacy and its relevancy in the society today. It also identified the growing privacy concerns in the modern society, and this is orchestrated by the recent thriving in technology. These technologies include the internet, video surveillance, biometrics, criminal identity theft, data profiling, background checks, information broker industry, public records on the internet and the likes.
Although technology is seen as a major threat to privacy, it can also be harnessed towards encryption in order to protect privacy. More so, the protection of privacy would also involve the policy makers because effective policies would strengthen privacy. The individuals involved have their roles to play in order to ensure that privacy is well preserved and protected.
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