U Musings: Social media users should consider issue of privacy

cicwdn / Pixabay

Teaching my great aunt how to use her new cellphone was a wonderful and difficult experience. She didn’t seem to understand any of my instructions, and my patience began to wear thin as I answered the same questions over and over. It seemed impossible that my aunt couldn’t understand the simple technology that I use every day to function.

Once she got used to texting and using the internet, I asked her if she wanted to make a Facebook account. My aunt slowly shook her head and when I asked her why, she replied, “I don’t need the world knowing about my business. It’s my business, not theirs.” To this day she continues to defend her personal space and stay out of Facebook.

This defense is spurned on by the need to protect her privacy in this new day and age when so much private information is readily available. Our society has never faced the issue of too much connectivity. Most of the humans that have lived on this planet lived on farms, separated by miles of land. They never had to worry about their privacy, because there were literally miles between one family and another.

Now every human being is constantly spewing out information about their day, where they are and how they live, using social media. With so much information being generated all the time, a concrete definition of privacy is needed to protect personal information that, if in the wrong hands, could be used negatively. Privacy is an evolving concept that needs to be redefined to protect the next generation.

Big businesses take information from users’ devices and use it to generate revenue. They take information, like what websites you visit and what places you frequent, and use it to target certain ads your way. These personalized ads bring in most of the income for such companies and all the data behind them is taken from you. The “Terms of Service,” a document no one reads, is not enough to inform users of how their information will be used.

The government also has access to our information that is needlessly collected and stored by companies, and is able to use it at whim to incriminate anyone in the United States. The National Security Agency, NSA, documents information about every citizen in the United States and their digital information trail. This information is collected behind the backs of most Americans and has been kept on file.

This is disturbing because for most citizens the information they have is useless, yet they continue to collect and keep records in case they need it. Information is power and these records of banking, social media and other personal information are just sitting around, able to be hacked and stolen by anyone.

To combat this, laws need to be created that restrict the amount of information the government and private enterprises can store about any individual. One possible solution to limit the government’s control of this information is to create requirements for the government to obtain this information, similar to search warrants.

The future of privacy depends on the actions taken today to either protect privacy or allow big business and the government to store private information about the everyday citizen for their own gain. This information doesn’t need to be collected or stored; that is a preemptive move to benefit those collecting the information, not the consumer. The future of privacy has limitless possibilities, both good and bad, and it’s up to the consumers to bring the issue to light and protect their digital privacy.

Feature image courtesy Pixabay user cicwdn