Privacy and Security Issues Experienced by Consumers and Businesses Online

Introduction

There are two crucial concepts that predetermine the efficiency of the ventures of online commerce. These are privacy and security. The concept of privacy comprises the necessity to provide proper control over the personal data. It is an obligatory aspect of managing information in the current course of time as the informational epoch requires relevant and credible data. Moreover, confidentiality and security are as well to be guaranteed. The concept of security is targeted at providing the protection of data from attempted access by unauthorized users of the worldwide network and subsequent negative publicity or illegal use.

The concepts of security and privacy are obligatory in the course of online commerce. They provide relevant and credible basis for e-commerce and attract the customers to the site, online shop or database. The use of personal data for commercial activities is the question of national and local concern. “National polls indicate that most consumers are concerned about, and opposed to, the unexpected or unintended use of personal information. However, the majority of consumers fail to exercise their rights under federal law, to opt out of having some of their information bought and sold” (Selis, Ramasastry, Kim, & Smith 2013). Therefore, it is crucial to provide properly organized and secured service for efficient and consistent e-commerce.

Findings and Analysis

Internet tends to eliminate all the borders as the data may be transferred immediately to the prevailing majority of parts of the planet where civilization appears to be on the proper level. Communication, data transfer as well as performance of different business activities may be possible if the proper level of privacy, security and accessibility is provided. The paper analyzes and evaluates the diversity of experience connected with the issues of security and privacy in the course of e-commerce as the basic factors of efficient and successful online business.

According to Ackerman & Davis(2013), “over forty percent of online shoppers were very concerned over the use of personal information, and 57% wanted some sort of laws regulating how personal information is collected and used”. Such an approach is absolutely grounded as the contemporary users tend to share not only personal photos and thoughts in the course of socialization in their profiles and blogs, but also to provide more serious and confidential data as, for example, important passwords, numbers of bank accounts, addresses, etc. Such data may be subsequently collected and used with criminal intentions by unauthorized users. Therefore, the web customers want certain kind of guarantee of data safety in the course of online activity.

Actually, the users even can not imagine what may happen behind the digital world of their online activity. Moreover, every year new threats are introduced to the customers’ privacy and their data security as the development of new technologies is dramatic and rapid. Therefore, PC World presented the list of 5 most dangerous threats to the privacy of the Internet users. This list includes such threats as cookies proliferation, seizing cloud data, location data betrayal, threat “data never forgets a face”, and finally, scanning processes allegedly performed in the name of cyber security. These threats are considered to be the most crucial and miscellaneous in the course of current year.

The threat of cookies proliferation comprises primarily the activity of marketers and different advertising agents. As a rule, these profiteers are targeted at tracking down the buying habits and personal preferences. Therefore, for the first sight, they do not present a serious threat for the users. Though, it is not quite so. The possibilities of use and implementation of cookies as a huge personal profile are astounding. As PC World maintains on the basis of the report provided and presented by Gartner in 2010, “the more that personal information can be correlated, the less it is possible to completely anonymize”.

It is significant that Obama Administration initiated a Privacy Bill of Rights. The Bill is targeted at activation of Do Not Track legislation. According to this legislation, each Internet user is supposed to decide whether to be tracked or not. The activation of such privacy system is possible due to special newly coined mechanisms which appear to be built into the matrix of a Web browser. Though, there is still no legal background of this crucial initiative. The reason is that there are a huge number of business owners and marketers proclaiming the tracking system to be generally not harmful to the contemporary users and at the same to be unequivocally important for the development of their business and promotion of their goods or services. Though, ”In the wake of customer privacy concerns, many businesses are now looking for ways to assuage these concerns while concurrently building brand loyalty” (Reputation). Therefore, this controversial issue is still in an uncertain position.

There are as well other significant initiatives related to privacy on the Internet: “Congress is considering several general privacy bills that would establish a regulatory framework for protecting consumer privacy by improving transparency about the commercial uses of personal information and providing consumers with choice about such use” (Federal Trade Commission 2012).

The second threat is directly connected with the cloud data. It appears to be not only convenient for the web customers, but for law enforcement agencies as well. Moreover, the tendency to “cloud” the online data tends to be implemented more and more often in the current course of time. According to Gartner, 36% of the data presented within the online resources will be presented by means of cloud by 2016 (Riofrio 2013). The key danger of using the data from the cloud is that such information has no protection in terms of the Fourth Amendment. As a consequence, the contemporary user of the Internet resources is to be well educated and as well to be aware that everything he or she shares at least once on the Web immediately and irrevocably becomes available for others. It is the law of the modern Internet community.

The current law enforcement agencies tend to track the data placed into the cloud with a dramatically increased interest. For instance, “Google’s Transparency Report graphs a 70 percent increase in such requests over a span of three years, from 12,539 requests in the last six months of 2009 to 21,389 requests in the last six months of 2012” (Riofrio 2013).

The third threat is concerned with a possibility to see the exact and proper location of a person when this person is connected to the Internet. As it is assumed, there is no more such a notion as the easy alibi: the location is easily detected. As a consequence, all the points of a person’s destination become available and traceable. These data are significant for advertising agents and marketers. Though, if it is forwarded to more serious services and organizations, it may become more threatening and far from being so innocent. As Gartner maintains in the 2011 report, 41% of active Internet users would feel seriously concerned about privacy in case the mobile location services were implemented so that they could acquire more targeted offers in term of loyalty or advertising programs.

Next threat concerns one of the most exciting and popular type of socialization on the Web – photo posting and tagging. This activity has become so popular and ordinary that it is hard to recognize the threat of creation of facial recognition database according to the uploaded and shared photos and personal data provided by the Internet users. One of the biggest “supplier” of the users’ photos from diverse angles is Facebook. There are not so many people who are not currently residing – or have not been previously – in this social giant. PC World provides the following evidence: “Lynch says that when Facebook sells user data to third parties, photo data may be included—and the sanctity of the data afterward is uncertain. ‘Facebook says it takes care to protect the data, but we don’t know how they do it,’ she says”. Evidence is quite threatening and appears to comprise the prevailing majority of active Internet users. Moreover, Facebook is not the only potential supplier of personal data tagged directly to photos and preferences. There are numerous social networks and diverse chatting rooms with the same or similar possibilities. Though, they have become so ordinary and usual that it would be hard for an average user to realize and comprehend the potential threat they present properly and relevantly. The policy of obtaining the customer’ consent within similar to Facebook private sector databases has been initiated. The compromising variant may comprise opt-in version of consent of the active users. Though, there are still no exact results.

The fifth proclaimed threat on privacy is the scanning process that is performed allegedly for the sake of cyber security. As PC World informs, “The federal government has made cybersecurity a high priority, as concerns grow about over the vulnerability of the nation’s infrastructure to a computer-based attack”.

The global essence of the Internet scope makes privacy issues even more complicated due to geographic and cultural differences related to the notions of security, privacy, and the role of the governmental activity. According to CISCO, the cross-border approaches to these crucial issues comprise “voluntary consumer protection cooperation, multilateral treaties for criminal law enforcement, cyber incident response teams, and consumer education and awareness”. As Columbia Business School maintains, the privacy issue has national differences, though the global nature of the Web predetermines the key laws and rules of its use.

Therefore, if there is no apparently possible privacy of the personal data, may there be a notion of security on the Internet? It is an even more controversial and hazy issue. If there is no confidentiality guaranteed by a web site, it is obvious that the data the customers upload and share will not be secure. As Peter Gray (2013) informed in the report “Protecting Privacy and Security of Personal Information in the Global Electronic Marketplace”, “Recently, a computer security error permitted thousands of patients' records to become accessible to anyone who visited the University of Michigan's health center web site”. This is one of the numerous samples which tend to demonstrate the significance of security of the data available on the Internet.

One of the most efficient and relatively compromising solutions of this dilemma is the contract with merchant service providers (Shelly & Jackson 2008). Though, even such a step will not guarantee complete and entire security.

According to the current legislative system, there are certain civil and as well as criminal penalties which are to be imposed in case of unauthorized access or unauthorized use of personal data. Moreover, the legislative regulations have as well been introduced with the intention to impose restrictions on Internet service providers preventing them from potential disclosure and use of Social Security account numbers or other private data. The interrelated essence of the multidimensional health care sector (with government and private benefit programs, providers of insurance, processing, payment and other systems) related to protection of privacy and security of sensitive personal data can be a hard and complicated task.

Conclusions

The issues of security and privacy of personal data in terms of globalized Internet community became incredibly significant. Thus, certain legislative regulations are expected to be accepted and subsequently implemented in order to prevent or eliminate such experiences. Furthermore, the Internet users should be more educated in the field as they actually do not realize what happens behind the digital dimension. The issues of privacy and security of personal data and photo materials impose real threat to contemporary Web inhabitants. Therefore, the proper legislation is expected to be imposed.

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