Law in the Internet Society

A Growing Need to Protect Privacy in an Era of Growing Willingness to Give it Up

The Advent of Privacy Challenges

Those of us born in the 90s remember the in-between; the shift of people carrying cellphones, to people carrying cellphones that could connect to the internet. Of one being able to use a bulky computer in a stationary place, to carrying around a laptop that let us take our work anywhere. To the only “social” being face-to-face meetings, to social being a word that finds its place before “media.”

We look at our current debates with privacy and think, “this is because of the internet revolution.” But in fact, right to privacy is alluded to from the very advent of our nation. The U.S. Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, recognizes a right to privacy in multiple amendments. Further, the first article addressing the privacy was by Justice Louis Brandeis in his 1890 Harvard Law Review article, stemming from the advent of photography and newspaper invasion into individuals’ homes. 1948 Saw the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights address privacy, and soon after in 1960, legal Scholar William Prosser “outlined four torts that would allow someone whose privacy was violated…to sue the perpetrator for damages.” (1)

The Modern Issues

In the past, such concerns were largely driven by individuals not having control over the actions of others—of the press taking photos, of the government invading their homes. However, in today’s age the concern is individuals’ own ignorance or willingness to forgo privacy for service. In an era of programmatic, targeted advertising, it’s easy to give up our names, ages, emails, and phone numbers, for the convenience and range of services that make life easier, often with the added allure of such services being free.

Earlier this month, former Facebook employee France Haugen released files revealing the results of the company’s internal research results regarding the impact of Instagram on teenage girls. A key statistic that has been highlighted in the media is that “32 perfect of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse” (2). One solution addresses that children under thirteen aren’t even supposed to be making accounts, because data collection on children under that age goes against our country’s privacy laws. Yet, I know many of my classmates signed up for Facebook before they were thirteen with fake birthdays. Facebook also mentioned a potential to create “Instagram Kids.”

Similarly, humans invariably offer up their data. Sometimes due simply to being unaware of what they’re revealing by doing so (as with the military base that was revealed when soldiers decided to compete with each other, uploading their fitness tracker data in the process and creating a map of their exercise route). In other ways, we do so for convenience, as with the FreeStyle? Libre sensors that have been using AI to recommend personalized diets based on individual’s glucose levels (4).

Attempts at Solving The Issue

Apple created a lot of buzz (and some very creative advertising campaigns) when they released a pop-up window that notifies users that an app is tracking their data, allowing users to prevent the app from doing so. (3) Many small businesses and apps were upset by the change, arguing that this was how they allowed users to access their services for free. Facebook responded saying that it was attempting to create a method of advertising that doesn’t rely on user data (3). But is it really that easy to dismantle a $350 billion digital industry? These companies have different views of how much they should roll back such advertising.

While BigTech? attempts to revamp their own privacy systems, can and should users do more to take privacy into their own hands? I’m positive that many people would rather use an app for free than pay to remove advertising (as evidences by the numerous app-store complaints when apps roll out pay-for-no-ads versions of their products). There has been a growing industry of products that market themselves as shirking ads (for example Brave, the private web browser), but how many people choose to use this service?

Furthermore, what is the state of media literacy in our country? One of the first ways we can protect young children who will undeniably sign up for these enticing social media services is to inform them about what they give up in exchange for access to endless streams of videos, 150-word posts, and their friends’ photos.

In the long run, I would argue that this education is a must if we’re to convince people to pay for subscription fees in lieu of paying for such services with their data.






Webs Webs

r30 - 01 Nov 2021 - 09:57:43 - RochishaTogare
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