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Online Privacy

It has long been considered that the one who owns the information owns the situation. Therefore, intelligence activities arose a long time ago. Thus, there are state, commercial, and military secrets. The desire to keep confidence from others, which gives an advantage and power, is probably the main motivation for people in a historical perspective. However, these days, with the widespread usage of Internet, individuals cannot protect their personal information. It is a serious problem as frequently they are subject to different cybercrimes. Privacy should be protected by people and government. The reason is that these days there is no privacy online.

Many Internet users believe that their data on the network is not available to other persons. In fact, it is a false opinion. The author Hamid Nemati states that “A significant number of people do not understand the technology and risks associated with surreptitious information collection on the Internet”. The system initially must not engender such illusions among users. The accessibility of the Internet and the development of technologies have led to rethinking of concepts of privacy and personal data. In the book Online Privacy, it is stated that “Online privacy means keeping your information – such as your address, phone number and even your name – secret from others”. Due to a large number of users of social networks and other online resources, the need for the clarification of importance of protecting personal information has increased. Providing the individual data on the Internet, people often expose themselves to the risks of becoming a victim of sexual exploitation, cyberbullying, and other challenges. The lack of attention to personal information may be a consequence of misunderstanding of the ways and purposes of collecting it, the legal protection of data, and the lack of individual interest to it. However, it is recognized that many users are still concerned about the issue of preservation of data about themselves. Nevertheless, they continue to share them online. After the information appears in the public domain, it can be used in commercial and other purposes.

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At the age of 8, children in developed countries actively use the Internet, i.e. both on personal computers and mobile devices. For the generation growing up after the 2000s, the web is part of life. It is a great way of entertainment, education, and communication. In the European Union, in 2007, 59% of young people aged 16 to 24 years used it on a daily basis. In 2008, in the United Kingdom, this figure was already 93%. One of the first reports of how teens relate to personal data on the web was the study of the University of California, of Berkeley, and of Pennsylvania. 84% of respondents believe that anyone who wants to put a picture or video with them must first obtain their consent, even if the photo was taken in a public place. 40% of respondents believe that employees of the company who are illegally using their personal data should be held to a criminal responsibility. The research has also showed that, despite the digital age, young people do not know about the protection of personal data on the Internet. They rely on the automatic protection from the state. However, frequently, users have no choice. They have to leave personal information if they want to use a certain online service. At the same time, when signing, users do not understand the meaning of the rules laid down in the agreement on the application of the software or the online service. Conditions of using services typically contain rules on acceptable behavior, use, and protection of user data, as well as sanctions for the violation of rules. However, the language of these provisions is often criticized for excessive formality, complexity, and ambiguity of perception. Regarding the large amount of personal information that people leave about themselves on social networks, it rather speaks of their desire to integrate socially more than of indifference to privacy.

Senators of the United States have become interested in the question of privacy on the Internet. In 2010, four of them sent a letter to the creator of the largest social network, i.e. Facebook, which expressed their concern on the change of some privacy settings, as well as the third-party access to personal data. This social network has made concessions. Since that time, users could see what information about them is available for each application. However, the same year, it became known that the data of millions of users of different applications in Facebook came to advertising companies.

The exploitation of a modern computer is not similar to what it has been before. These days, computers are more interconnected with each other than ever. The Internet applications have made a step forward. They have become more intelligent. Thus, different software collects users’ information. It is gathered and sent periodically in small portions without users’ intervention. Some of the transmitted data can be confidential. Nevertheless, some information may have a little relevance to the people’s identity. However, the data still have a certain value and is, therefore, transmitted. The process of recording and transmitting information does not represent any problem. Difficulties arise when it is used against the person and sent to the server through the Internet and stored in an unreliable way. Privacy and richness of the data must also be taken into account. However, it is not always the case. Information is often shared with marketing groups. With time, it allocates to a huge ad network or can be used by various cybercriminals. There are various laws and decrees governing the transfer of data and the rules of how to store and process them.

Some media players follow what videos people watch and then send this information to a central server. These data are taken into account and can be used for direct marketing. Some applications manage the users’ computer and enter the browser redirecting the traffic to the sites that the user would have never entered. Most of them are not aware of this behavior and may only notice the deterioration of system performance. Some applications do not affect the operation of the flow. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to detect them because of invisibility of changes made by them in the system. All data created by the users are their property. Personal data are also owned by the exact user. A person must keep them under the laws of property governing the rights entities that store information. It is necessary to encrypt all data that need to be kept in secret. It also applies to backup and archive information. Reliability is as well required when storing the encryption keys, which in any case should not be stored on the same hard disk as the data.

Conducting financial transactions using the Internet, ordering goods and services, using credit cards, accessing closed information resources, and transferring phone calls require obtaining the appropriate level of security. Confidential information that is transmitted over the Internet passes through a certain number of routers and servers before it reaches its destination. Typically, such routers do not keep a track of the flow of data passing through them. Nevertheless, there is a possibility that the information can be intercepted. Moreover, it can be changed and transferred to a recipient in a modified form. Unfortunately, the architecture itself of the Internet always leaves a room for unscrupulous users to implement such actions. Problems arising with the secure transmission of information in the operations in computer networks can be divided into four main types. The first one is interception of data, where their integrity is preserved, but privacy is violated. The second type is the modification of information, in which the original message is changed or completely replaced by others and sent to an addressee. The next kind is the substitution of authorship of values. The last type is the intercept of the message with its impressments. This problem can have serious consequences. For example, someone could send a letter on behalf of other people. This type of fraud is called spoofing. The web-based server can pretend to be an electronic store. It takes orders and credit card numbers but does not send any goods.

The community of Internet companies including Google has approved the implementation of the function of not tracking in the web browser. The aim of this decision is to protect the private application of the World Wide Network. In the beginning, the companies-developers of browsers actively resisted the introduction of this function. Nevertheless, some of them have gradually started adding it in their browsers. Microsoft, Mozilla, and Apple were the first companies that implemented this possibility. This function supports an idea of limiting tracking of Internet users.

Every year, the US Internet industry collecting about $40 billion just at the expense of advertising online was involved in a few trials. The reason for such actions was the creation of new technologies, with the help of which the people’s actions in the Internet can be tracked. Most of complaints consisted in the fact that many companies had collected this information under false pretenses. Then, they were using it to provide the web users with a specially selected advertising and other commercial purposes. Nevertheless, many ad companies have no plans to abandon their studies. They will further track sites, which are often visited. Otherwise, their business will suffer devastating loses.

One of the dangers of open personal data is cyberbullying. The National Crime Prevention Council affirms that it is the usage of mobile phones, Internet, and other devices with the function of sending messages and images. It is done with an aim to insult another person. According to the statistics in the United States, the victims of online bullying are 20% of young people. About the same number of individuals takes part in it. Bullying in the real world has its limits. More often, a victim knows an offender and can repulse. At the same time, a person cannot hide from online bullying. Messages can come anonymously; and an abuser does not see the reaction or impact on the psyche of the victim. The possibilities of bullying over the person have assumed a new dimension when the Internet, social networks, and other platforms for a dialogue have become public. Thus, a photo can be downloaded for millions of times and collect hundreds of comments. However, even after its removal, a backup copy of a picture will remain on one of the servers. It is even more difficult to control the storage and distribution of files that have already been downloaded by users. Ethnicity, appearance, faith, social status, sexual orientation, physical handicap, and others can be subject to criticism on the Internet.

The problem received its considerable attention in 2010. It happened when five teenagers committed suicides within three weeks. All of them were attacked for their sexual orientation. Among the people subjected to cyberbullying, their self-esteem is reduced. They experience depression; and they are more prone to suicidal thoughts. Coordinated actions on the part of teachers and parents can influence the situation of cyberbullying. They include the explanations on the importance of information in the Internet and its control, timely measures to remove the offensive files and messages, notifications to communication providers, deactivation of accounts, and identification of offenders. However, these means may conflict with privacy policies of different services or violate the laws protecting personal data of users. The position on the need to bring to justice for cyberbullying is ambiguous since such an approach breaks the right of citizens to freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment of the US Constitution. However, these days, the state of California has a rule permitting expulsion of students convicted of cyberbullying. Such a threat as blackmail over the Internet is punishable by criminal law.

Many countries worldwide tend to protect the users’ personal data in the Internet. In the book The Legal Environment Today, it is affirmed that, “Many believe that privacy is an extremely important right that should be fiercely protected”. It is expected that in 2016, users will be more responsible for the security of their data in the web. They will demand a better protection from online services providers. According to the report of the Forrester Research, companies that collect, store, and use people’s data via electronic channels are the most vulnerable ones to cyberattacks. The popularity of their services will also suffer from the fact that users will increasingly put a priority on the protection of individual information in place of convenience. To improve the security of their resources, companies will offer paid services to users, for example, a subscription with an ability to view sites without advertising, as well as in the mode of increased protection of personal data. According to the study, Facebook community is willing to pay from $ 30 to $ 60 per year for the similar service. 26% of American adults who use their computer are already using the service ad-blocking. At the beginning of 2016, the European Union will approve the new rules of responsibility for a failure to comply with the law on personal data protection. According to it, the penalty for non-compliance will be 5% of the global revenues. In the United States, companies can expect even more severe financial sanctions for the similar violations.

These days, new technologies bring new challenges. Millions of people interact over the Internet. The part of this cooperation is done with prudence when storing important and meaningful data. Maintaining the security of information is the next challenge faced by the users and organizations as many malicious and speculative companies try to steal and misuse the users’ values being freely available. Nowadays, there is no privacy online. The government and people should protect it. The careful study of the users’ behavior on the Internet allows understanding what rules and approaches will better protect the information about the personal life from others. It is also necessary to check compliance with the regulations on the provision of services to a variety of services with the possible online behavior including the disclosure of personal data and their further distribution. An important step would be to simplify the language of the user agreement. Therefore, people would not have a difficulty with understanding some possible ways to use their data including commercial ones.

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