Internet Privacy What Threats We Face and How To Protect Ourselves

Glossary

  • Accountable: required or expected to justify actions or decisions
  • Encryption: the process of converting information or data into a code, especially to prevent unauthorized access.
  • IOT: Internet of Things; electronic devices that connect to the internet, such as a fitness tracker.
  • KeyLoggers: A computer program that records every keystroke made by a computer user, especially in order to gain access to passwords and other important information.
  • Monetize: convert something into money
  • Propaganda: information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to persuade a particular point of view.

As millions of people access the internet each day, their private data and civil liberties are at risk. Protecting privacy and security is increasingly difficult as the internet expands.

Breaches in the health and medical sector have skyrocketed in the past 3 years.

How are criminals able to get ahold of my information?

A criminal may use the internet to pose as a trustworthy entity, such as a special software or a person you can trust so they can trick an individual into revealing personal information. Certain online ads and marketing companies will keep track of your cookies and use that data to make sure certain ads appear.The article Internet Privacy written for the Science Reference Center, states that “one of the most common ways that a hacker will steal personal information is by stealing data such as credit card numbers by hacking into the servers of online stores such as Amazon and Ebay by getting ahold of these cookies.” Also according to the article; some criminals use surveillance programs such as keyloggers. Keyloggers can keep track of and record your browser history, what buttons were pushed on your keyboard and then transmit that data to another user. The government is taking steps to ensure our privacy but people are concerned that the government may be invading our privacy in its attempts to protect us from hackers.

Citizens Protesting Government Surveillance .

Are governments’ efforts to monitor online activity violating human rights?

Recently the United Kingdom has been very harsh with the public’s use of internet, monitoring almost all internet activities. Dinah PoKempner, general counsel for Human Rights Watch, believes that governments are stepping on people’s rights to privacy as they attempt to limit the dangerous spread of messages of terrorism, revolution, pornography, or propaganda. “There is a large gap between human right laws and practices of the government, but this is most evident in the form of surveillance. Although people challenged surveillance in courts and legislatures, few countries reduced their surveillance powers and many instead legalized or expanded them in new laws.” PoKempner also states that “the more a policy or law limits rights for the many, the less likely it is the least intrusive means of protecting security.” According to the Mozilla Foundation’s Internet Health Report, more than half the countries in the world, including the United States, do not have any national laws regarding data protection rights. It’s not just web surfing that is putting your privacy at risk, hackers are also targeting new small tech products in order to get your information.

What other technologies and products are being targeted by online hackers?

New tech products that connect to the internet, make up a whole new category called the IOT, the internet of things. These quickly produced and rarely updated items don’t always have security in place to protect consumers. According to Laura Hautala, a staff reporter for Cnet.com “It's been a scary few years for anyone who's thinking about privacy and data. There have been massive hacks leading to the theft of data tied to millions of people.” University athletes regularly use fitness tracking devices to measure performance. It is unclear whether the data collected belongs to the universities or the athletes. "Players don't have the power to resist, to say, 'I will not use this,'" said Stanford bioethics researcher Katrina Karkazis. "And universities have an incentive to monetize this data." Now that cars are hooked up to the internet, they have become targets for hacking as well. By accessing the information from a car, hackers can easily obtain vast amounts of information.“They could even make a good guess at your credit score”, said Tony Aquila, CEO of Solera Holdings, a company that works as a clearinghouse for information about cars and drivers. Experts from tech companies, watchdog organizations and universities agree that new tech devices that connect to the internet open up more avenues for companies, hackers and governments to violate your privacy. Consumers need to learn ways to protect their personal information.

What security measures can the general public take to keep their personal information safe?

The best way to keep your privacy safe is to be cautious while online. Be sure to have passwords that would not be easy to guess. Do not download apps from unverified sources. Avoid strange emails, never click on a link from someone you don’t know, and remain vigilant when online. According to Identity Force.com, in September of 2016 Yahoo experienced a large data breach, leaving the privacy of over 500 million individuals at risk. An article from Data Center Journal has stated that “it is also highly recommended to use secure privacy tools, such as VPNs, which help hide the user’s true location (IP address) and encrypt all the information that is being transferred through the Internet. Such a user becomes impossible to track. NordVPN helps anonymize browsing the Internet with its modern security protocols and no logs policy.” Mozilla Foundation’s internet health report stated that “above all, we should be more critical about what information we share voluntarily. Will the online dating profile you posted 6 years ago ever get deleted? How long do the online ads you view track you? Even if you’d like to know the privacy conditions of online platforms, they are usually not written in English.” These are strategies that consumers can use now to protect their privacy. But in the end, consumers need to demand that product manufacturers do more to ensure that their products are safe.

How can companies ensure internet privacy when hackers are always finding new ways to steal personal information?

Companies need to stay on the forefront of security technology, always creating new software and security standards to increase the safety of the internet. Consumers need to demand accountability from businesses, a conclusion drawn by the Mozilla Foundation as it published its first ever Internet Health Report. The report rates and tracks internet categories such as Open Innovation, Digital Inclusion, Decentralization, Privacy and Security and Web literacy in its quest to rate the health of the internet. Tom Spring, a journalist with ThreatPost.com, states that “the Mozilla Foundation’s goal is to motivate consumers and organizations to make businesses accountable to ensure safety and privacy isn’t an afterthought when developing software, networks and devices.” According to internethealthreport.org, nearly 50% more websites are now using HTTPS, a secure encrypted connection, compared to only 40% at the start of 2016. Spring also states that “From the privacy and security perspective it was encouraged by trends in encryption promoted by organizations such as Let’s Encrypt and companies like WhatsApp that have made internet communications more secure.” Once an organization has your information it is very hard to get it back. The current methods for people to reclaim stolen data and information are quite challenging and difficult. Denelle Dixon-Thayer, chief business and legal officer at Mozilla, states that “Technologists need to create standards -- rules for encoding data -- that make it easy for users to reclaim their information.”

Works Cited

  • Spring, Tom. "Mozilla’s First Internet Health Report Tackles Security, Privacy." Threatpost | The first stop for security news. <https://threatpost.com/mozillas-first-internet-health-report-tackles-security-privacy/123235/>
  • PoKempner, Dinah. "The Internet is Not the Enemy." World Policy <http://www.worldpolicy.org/blog/2017/01/12/internet-not-enemy>.
  • "Internet Privacy in 2017: Predictions and Security Advice." The Data Center Journal. Press Release, <http://www.datacenterjournal.com/internet-privacy-2017-predictions-security-advice/ >
  • Laura Hautala January 26, 2017 6:37 PM PST @lhautala. "Data Privacy Day: Will you ever have control of your personal info?" CNET. <https://www.cnet.com/news/data-privacy-cybersecurity-hack-devices-toys-fitness-trackers-cars-stole-information/>
  • "Internet Privacy." Explora. Science Reference Center,
  • Brookings Institution, Internet Privacy and Security, Youtube, Edited by Allan Friedman https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QBSz5YNjs&scrlybrkr=d6a370f1
  • Paul, Ian. "Massive Acer security breach exposes highly sensitive data of 34,500 online shoppers." PCWorld.
  • "Privacy and security." The Internet Health Report.

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