Essay on Do Consumers Need Stronger Internet Privacy Measures?

Submitted By ngannei
Words: 1547
Pages: 7

Technology has changed over years and developed rapidly during the recent decades, and it has brought enormous impacts on people’s lives, especially the Internet. We have noticed that the Internet has brought us a more convenient and personalized platform where users can instantly share personal information and collect data. While consumers are enjoying the free content and services provided by the websites and companies, they are sometimes completely unaware of the personal or private information that they have unintentionally provided. Companies then use these data to generate businesses and profits through, for instance, advertising and online purchasing. As this situation becomes more frequent, people then concern more about their privacy on the Internet. “Privacy isn’t just about hiding things. It’s about self-possession, autonomy and integrity. It’s the right of people to control what details about their lives stay inside their own houses and what leaks to the outside” (Garfinkel). Most of the consumers recognize that their privacy is at risk and are hoping to have more privacy protection measures. While considering to impose more Internet privacy protection laws and allow government regulation on the collection of personal information to protect consumers’ privacy, there are oppositions saying that those actions are unnecessary and ineffective.
Many Internet surfers are concerned about their Internet privacy, but they don’t know how to prevent companies from gathering information about them. “American adults who use the Internet at home don’t understand the flow of their data online” (Turow). Nowadays, businesses and companies compete with each other and seek to dominate the market or simply earn more profits. They found out that knowing consumers’ preferences and personal information is crucial to the growth of business: “Turbulent economic times are forcing companies to seek out new sources of revenue. Those sources are driven, in turn, by increasingly large amounts of data, as well as the ability to mine the various connections between pieces of data” (Harbour). Data are collected every time we send email, update status on a social networking site, read a news article, run a search, or make an online purchase. They also collect valuable sources like interests, habits and lifestyles of individuals and use this aggregate data to generate profit. Some websites even market consumers’ data to advertisers. Furthermore, online companies even select kinds of editorial and advertising materials to show to different consumers according to their web-surfing habits, which Joseph Turow asserts this selection as “discriminatory” and “disrespectful.” Pamela Jones Harbour and Turow both take the same stance that nowadays companies continually exploit consumers’ Internet privacy, and they both promote the need for greater attention to privacy. However, Declan McCullagh has a different view. He believes that businesses and companies’ keep simple motives and goals: “to make money, to burnish their firm’s reputation, to boost its market valuation.” “Websites,” claims McCullagh,” are usually subject to the supremacy of consumers.” Businesses would not misuse consumers’ personal data because they do not want to lose consumers’ trust and confidence. “If they fail in these endeavors, they suffer losses and must, it they do not succeed in amending their methods, go out of business.” Furthermore, McCullagh also claims that the collections of consumers’ personal data can help companies to better understand individuals’ needs and, therefore, to become more efficient in providing customers a more customized catalog of commodities.
As stated by McCullagh, one way that individuals can protect their Internet privacy is “by being careful and informed consumers.” Consumers can use measures like making purchases with cash, refusing to provide Social Security Numbers, etc. However, Harbour asserts, “Even where consumers have the ability to opt-out,