Privacy Concerns in Information Computer Technology

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Information Computer Technology has already played an important role in people’s daily lives. It is widely used in information gathering, communication and mutual operation. Modern people have been benefited from more efficient information flow, less cost and faster communication. However, every coin has both sides. ICT also has brought people’s lives some concerning issues at the same time along with advantages.

One of the concerning issues is the personal privacy. In internet age, privacy, as defined by Alan Westin in Privacy and Freedom (1970) is “The claim of individuals, groups or institutions to determine for themselves when, how and to what extent information about them is communicated to others.” The current advanced computer technology increases capabilities to track, store and analysis personal data, which threatens individual’s privacy and security in using ICT. Though surveys showed that individuals have strong concerns about privacy (Widespread concerns about privacy, no date), many are still not aware the ways how privacy can be infringed. The threats of privacy are indicated in following aspects.

Firstly, individual’s personal data can be tracked and gained through databases, spyware and cookies, which give providers wider chances to access personal information. The WWW servers can create extensive log of the users who are accessing the web. It is even possible to record the address of the user and the previous address from where the user connected to the web service. Service providers can then collect and analyse these information to generate commercial market reports. Searching engines like Google and Yahoo store users’ personal data’s for years, some information is used for commercial purpose. It is said that Google filters its users’ emails to provide them with targeted advertisement. To show constraints, Google currently announced that they plan to partially delete the IP addresses after 18 months and create automatically expiring cookies with duration of 2 years (EU mulls new measures to protect privacy on the Web, 2008). And the same kind of thing also happened for credit card companies. They produced extensive models of users’ buying habit by using records of consumers’ purchases and sold models to other commercial companies.

Secondly, email is becoming an essential tool of communication nowadays but it is not a secure way to protect privacy. On the way emails travel from host computers to their destination, they pass through several relaying hosts. Administrators of these hosts can easily access to mails. In a local network like a company’s intranet, network administrators have chances to change users’ passwords in order to read and modify messages.

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They also have possibilities to monitor and read any files send over the network. It is often the case in a company’s office that the boss try to monitor staffs’ activities.

In addition, it is inevitable now for people to provide some very private information to organizations. Despite the fact that online services such as hotel booking, flight tickets booking and internet banking have already made people’s lives more convenient, individual’s privacy is posed threats meanwhile. Personal information, passwords and pin numbers can be obtained via hacking or the use of software such as keystroke loggers on publicly used computers. Moreover, In order to improve the performance of services and information delivery to citizens, governments now operate more via ICT which requires authentication of a person’s identity. For example, demanded by United Kingdom, individual’s finger printers have to be scanned and stored in system and used in border check before coming. The issue is that those significant data’s should be protected by governments to ensure no one other than the owner can use the information.

Another popular use of ICT is GPS and RFID technology. However, surveillance concern has been raised consequently. GPS allows tracking of people’s movements by mobile signals. And RFID enables companies to track customers’ purchases and profile their behaviours and preferences in a use of commercial purpose.
Lastly, internet media’s are booming these years. Youtube offers people a platform to share films and images and broadcast themselves. But some images and films of people in private situation are uploaded online without permission. Furthermore, the images and films of individuals on websites like Facebook are easily to be downloaded and used by others. These certainly infringe others’ privacy. Besides, newsgroups and discussion boards are also places that lack of privacy protection. Some internet users gather and track others’ IP addresses and further get others’ private information like home addresses. There are a lot of cases that people receive telephone harassment or threatening letters from unknown persons.

All in all, private privacy calls for more concern in ICT area because individual’s rights can be violated and social, academic reputation even life may be put at risk. European Union has established related regulations to restrict ICT providers’ activities to protect private privacy. But more important is the awareness of self protection on individual users’ side, such as logging own account off every time when finishing using public computers. Never provide personal information to non confidential websites or organizations. There can be an organization or website which share the privacy knowledge and promote awareness to publics. By working on both sides, the improvement of privacy in ICT will take effect.


Referencing list
1 EU mulls new measure to protect privacy on the Web (2008). Available at: http://www.euractiv.com/en/infosociety/eu-mulls-new-measures-protect-privacy-web/article-170156 (Accessed: 10th November 2008).
2 Westin,A. (1970) Privacy and freedom. The Bodley Head Ltd
3 Widespread concerns about privacy (no date). Available at: http://www.lumeria.com/paper1/2.shtml (Accessed: 10th November 2008).



Bibliography
1 A matter of trust: privacy and security issues in the information age (2004) Available at: http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/BrowsingType/Features/ID/70244 (Accessed: 10th November 2008).
2 Current ICT safety and security issues (2006). Available at: http://www.med.govt.nz/templates/MultipageDocumentPage____18171.aspx (Accessed: 10th November 2008).
3 EU mulls new measure to protect privacy on the Web (2008). Available at: http://www.euractiv.com/en/infosociety/eu-mulls-new-measures-protect-privacy-web/article-170156 (Accessed: 10th November 2008).
4 ICT, EU acts on growing privacy concerns (2008). Available at: http://www.euractiv.com/en/infosociety/ict-eu-acts-growing-privacy-concerns/article-170531 (Accessed: 10th November 2008).
5 Westin,A. (1970) Privacy and freedom. The Bodley Head Ltd
6 Widespread concerns about privacy (no date). Available at: http://www.lumeria.com/paper1/2.shtml (Accessed: 10th November 2008).


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