Can we afford to sacrifice privacy for convenience?

Phillip Chao
While enjoying the huge benefits the Internet has brought us, we now need to think about one question: Can we afford to sacrifice our privacy for convenience?
Phillip Chao

THE advancement of social media and internet technologies have given us convenience unimaginable to our ancestors. Just a simple click on the cell-phone, and we can buy clothing, book tickets or even find a job.

However, the Facebook data breach and numerous similar incidents also point to the potential threats to Internet safety. While enjoying the huge benefits the Internet has brought us, we now need to think about one question: Can we afford to sacrifice our privacy for convenience?

Plenty of people might have this experience: You randomly open a web page about healthy food, and the next day a company selling organic veges starts calling to promote their products.

Many have questioned the safety of our private information on the Internet and fear this data could come back to bite them. The recent Facebook scandal proved them right, as over 50 million Facebook profiles had been harvested by an app for data, which then passed on to Cambridge Analytica.

Pages deleted

Despite Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg’s apologies to its users, many companies have already taken action to protest against (or to say, draw a line with) Facebook by deleting their Facebook pages. Among them was Elon Musk, who deleted the pages of both SpaceX and Tesla.

Deleting these pages made a big impact, for each of the two pages had around 2.6 million followers and many people and organizations that followed Musk deleted their pages as well.

Facebook suffered hugely in the scandal, which led to a fall in market capitalization of US$70 billion in 10 days. Yet in the meantime, consumers like you and I need to take a step back and think about the sacrifice of our privacy in exchange for the goods and services provided on the Internet.

So where’s our data? In the world of Internet, every piece of information is useful or profitable in some way.

For example, your search histories on a search engine can be helpful to advertisers so they can promote products that you might be interested in. Your personal information like your address, phone numbers and age are given out every time you register for a website or fill a form online. If the company that received the information violates their privacy policies and leaks or sells them to institutions or individuals, things will get complicated as it might be used for research purposes, or even by scammers and other criminals.

If you have a kid at school age, you will not be surprised when educational institutions call you and try to promote their courses. Likewise, if you’re a local business owner, you might frequently receive phone calls or emails from accountants and law firms offering services you don’t need. In most of the cases, it’s the numerous forms you filled and boxes you checked on your phone that gave away your private information.

The Facebook data breach sent out a warning to our generation, a generation unable to live and thrive without electronic devices or the Internet. Thus laws protecting Internet users’ privacy and regular checks of Internet companies’ privacy protection measures are urgently needed.

Remember, the information you gave away can reach anyone’s hand via the vast world of the Internet.

And it can either be a harmless advertiser or a dangerous criminal.

The author is a freelancer from the US.

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