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When It Comes To Online Privacy

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The article I have chosen to analyze, titled “Privacy Laws and Social Media Sites” published by HG.org, closely examines the issues pertaining to privacy and the wide-spread sharing of information across internet-based applications known for their social media prowess. The article states that “the point of social media is to share your life with the world; the very opposite of maintaining your privacy (HG, n.d.).” I found myself agreeing with this statement, leaving myself to question just how “private” the content we are uploading to the internet on a daily basis actually is. From photos to drunk Facebook posts, the article states that the sharing of social media may cause numerous problems when viewed by the wrong person such as an employer or coworker. When it comes to online privacy, I feel that everyone should be held accountable and take the proper precautions when using social media outlets.

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In the United States, only certain information pertaining to financial transactions, health care records, and data regarding children under the age of 13 is protected under federal law (HG, n.d.). At the time of the article’s publication, just about everything else remained unprotected by law. This is only true, however, if the information was accessed by legal means and not through illegal activities such as hacking or fraud. In today’s technological world, I believe we are constantly putting ourselves at risk to various privacy threats on a daily basis. Search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo aid users in finding the information they seek; however, only a few are aware that these services infiltrate the information that is entered. They, in turn, determine which advertisements to display on their user’s social media page based on their browsing history. I fully understand the importance of search engines and the need to keep them operating, thus they must generate an income via advertisements and the sharing of information to third parties. By doing so, however, I feel that basic human rights such as freedom of expression are being violated.

On the topic of internet privacy, I find that people have formed two separate schools of thought. On one side of the debate, there are those that believe “privacy is dead” and the sharing of information via social media sites is the norm in today’s society. On the other side of the argument are those who feel passionately about our right to privacy, suggesting that our right to privacy extends to the online world where we should be protected from any threats. We tend to hold a great deal of trust in social media sites to protect our private information, conversations and photos; therefore, many people forget about the consequences if sensitive information became available to the wrong person. In fact, the article published by HG.org states that “social media sites with vague privacy policies that did not clearly disclose which information it gathered and whether it sold that information, or sites that disclosed their practices of gathering and selling information” were free from any enforcement actions brought against the site. Though many are unaware of such privacy policies, I believe that users of social media sites should be made more aware in regard to these issues pertaining to their privacy.

I was surprised to discover just how many state laws are ineffective when it comes to protecting one’s privacy rights under social media sites (HG, n.d.). This is due in part to the purpose of such sites, as they are designed to enable users to share personal information with other users Applications are continuously being created to track the location of others based on their activity on social media, including tweets and Instagram posts. These applications are readily available online and can be controlled by even the least-tech savvy of citizens, which poses a great privacy threat through my eyes. As of recent years, I believe that social media sites have made progress in terms of protecting our privacy online by allowing users to opt out of geo-tagging and disable location settings. I feel we are moving in the right direction, though there are many improvements yet to be made. As the article mentions, laws pertaining to new technological advances often “lag years if not decades behind the developments themselves (HG, n.d.).”

Over the last decade alone, social media sites have skyrocketed in popularity and I am privileged to have witnessed its’ growth over the years. Although I follow news pertaining to social media outlets, I believe that the article has reminded me of the importance of privacy laws and the potential consequences that using such sites may bring. Furthermore, I was completely unaware that states were creating new regulations in order to assess the issue of privacy. The author presented the information in a clear-cut fashion that I could easily understand and follow, all while engaging my interest in the topic and leaving myself wanting to continue reading. There is a current lack of privacy on the Internet, which raises concern in regard to our safety and well-being. Therefore, I urge users of social media sites to remain cautious when posting information online. I feel passionately that every individual as the right to privacy in areas where personal information is shared and stored, and I anticipate the day in which such issues are addressed and resolved by our legal systems.

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