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Privacy Concerns for Internet Users

The contemporary advancements in information technology are playing a very great role in digitalizing communication. These improvements are transforming the lives of most people, small and large scale businesses and various institutions. In the current world, the developments in technology have also led to an increase in the use of internet all over the globe. Since 2000, the global access to internet has increased threefold. It was estimated that more than 400 million individuals in the whole world were able to access the internet in 2000. This rate is perceived to have tremendously increased since 2009 up to the current times with a projected 3.3 billion users in 2016.

internet privacy conerns

Due to these advancements in Information Technology coupled with increased internet usage, the number of online applications has also increased. The use of internet has increased threefold in almost all sectors of the economy.  Ranging from the education sector, entertainment sector and the corporate world to other sectors of the economy, internet usage has tremendously increased. Though the use of internet has proved useful and beneficial in a number of aspects, several concerns have arisen. Privacy concerns have been perceived as major issues arising out of the use of internet in the global arena. In a study conducted by Yao & Zhang in Hong Kong, it was established that as the number of internet users increased, the rate of privacy concerns also inclined. Major privacy concerns that have been raised due to the use of internet are diverse. Privacy concerns related to the increased use of the internet have ranged from company concerns, customer privacy concerns and individual concerns.

This paper explores the privacy concerns that have been raised by internet users. The paper first explores the major privacy concerns for internet users. In this section, the paper covers the company’s privacy concerns in relation to internet use, the customer privacy concerns in relation to the use of internet as well as the concerns of individuals in relation to the use of internet. Further, the paper describes some of the solutions that can be applicable in solving or dealing with the privacy concerns in a general perspective.

Privacy Issues in the Use of Internet
Since the emergence of the 21st century, the world has experienced an increased rate of internet use. The internet has been described as a tool that holds the capacity to bring global change. The internet has a potential to change the way people live. With only a few mouse clicks, people can follow the news; look up facts, buy goods and services, and communicate with others from around the world. However, although the internet seem beneficial to a lot of individuals throughout the world, it may act as a crucial avenue through which confidential data and issues can become public. Most people are not aware of the nature of information being collected through the internet and hence most of them may find themselves giving out information through the internet that should not otherwise be given out. This has raised privacy concerns in the use of internet especially in e-commerce and confidential online activities.
The internet has proved a low cost avenue for information exchange in the commercial sector due to the online aspects of it. Through the use of the internet, employees can find themselves giving out information about their companies, the consumer information can be posted online or sent to other departments online and information about certain individuals can be accessed through the use of the internet. This aspect has raised great concerns about the privacy of the company information, the customer or consumer information as well as individual information. Companies are not assured about the privacy of their information, customers are also not assured about the privacy of their personal information while online and individuals are not sure whether they can gain privacy during their online activities. The internet is not regulated in an international perspective. There are no universal regulations that deal with the utilization of internet activities. It therefore becomes important to address the concerns that arise out of the use of internet.
Internet privacy refers to the right to be let alone. In terms of information, privacy is achieved when there is control over the utilization, release, and flow of individual information. Privacy concerns are witnessed when a company, customer or individual is not able to substantially maintain or control the flow of his information. Privacy concerns over the use of internet arises due to the ease with which any person can access the internet in any part of the world as well as the extent at which one can access another person’s information without consent.
Privacy Issues for Companies
In the contemporary society, the business world has witnessed an increased utilization of the internet. Ranging from the small scale businesses to the large-scale businesses, the internet has proved a useful tool of commerce. It has assisted companies market their goods online, create customer pools online as well as conduct their financial transactions online.  Due to this, the business world has tremendously expanded to capture global arena since the internet has allowed online business activities. However, although the internet can be accrued as a beneficial aspect to the business world, the rising utilization of the internet has led to the emergence of several privacy and security issues in the business world.
Further, companies have raised concerns that the use of internet by their employees poses a great risk unto their businesses. Several sites such as the social networking sites offered through the internet can be utilized by employees to tarnish the name of particular commercial enterprises.  Through the use of the internet, hackers are able to access secured codes that are crucial for maintaining company security and privacy. Through these codes, the hackers are able to access crucial and confidential company information which might be damaging to the privacy of the company. When employees use the internet to gain access to the company’s confidential information without the consent of the management, definitely privacy matters are bound to arise. Considering the amount and nature of private information that most corporate bodies possess a breach of its security and privacy provisions may be of great harm to the organization.

Privacy concerns for Customers
Several privacy concerns over the use of internet have been raised by customers. As earlier mentioned, it is quite easy for any person in any part of the world to access any information. The internet allows for the efficient, inexpensive collection of information without consumers’ consents. It can track consumers in unique ways whether or not a consumer is aware of it. Through internet use, several aspects of customer’s information can be captured including names, email addresses, credit card information, the preferences of individual customers, customer interests and other personal information. Although this information may be useful to websites and other commercial bodies, it has led to the emergence of privacy concerns to the customers.
Consumers have raised concerns about whether the information gathered by most websites and other commercial bodies is secure and whether their privacy can be guaranteed. Consumers have became worried about the security of their personal information and fear that it may be misused. Further, consumers have raised concerns that the collected online information about several individual aspects can be mistreated in the present times or even in the future.
There are many privacy concerns about the use of internet that consumers have experienced throughout the world. Individual consumers have raised concerns that their information can be secretly tracked and recorded after visiting particular websites. This has been a matter of concern especially when consumers use the internet to make private and confidential transactions especially if financial aspects are involved such as the use of credit cards. Further, consumers are concerned about the risk of their personal information such as email accounts, names and important passwords being captured and used for malicious and purpose that they have not offered consent. Further consumer concerns are related to the utilization of personal information captured through the internet for commercial purposes especially through being traded to third parties.

Individual Privacy Concerns
Privacy concerns in relation to the use of the internet have not only been raised by the corporate world and the customer base but have also been raised by individuals. In the corporate world, individual employees are still concerned about their privacy. The internet can be used by either the management or individual employees to tarnish their names or gain access to confidential personal information. In the corporate world, company administrations may track the computer usage of the employees especially when each employee is provided with own computer. This may in the long run lead to the infringement of the privacy rights of the individual employee. In most cases, the private communications of an employee especially through the social networking sites may be tracked by the administration. If compromising information is accessed, this may affect the nature of relationships between employees and the management and may also negatively impact on work performance.
Individual privacy concerns have discouraged people from conducting transactions online. The concern for privacy is a main reason for people not willing to trade online who are otherwise willing to do if their privacy is assured. This is due to the fact that most individuals view it risky to offer their financial information online as this can possess an economic risk. On a further note, the use of the internet can be compromising especially in the work place. The use of the internet in social networking has proved of significance in relation to the maintenance of close and private relations in individual employees.
Although internet may .prove useful in creating togetherness in individual employees, it may become quite difficulty for an employee to maintain the individual impressions that are prerequisite in the work place since social networking sites accessed through the internet might affect one’s individuality and personality traits that might at the long run affect the overall performance of an individual at work.
Further, most internet applications especially social networking sites require a subscriber to reveal information regarding profession and work as well as details for the employer. This can infringe on the privacy rights of an individual employee. In a corporate perspective, the privacy rights of individual managers may also be infringed especially when they are pressurized to provide information about their personal and managerial functions. Through the use of the internet, it is possible to witness breaches of delicate relations as well the disintegration of work place interaction.
Solutions to Privacy Issues Arising Out Of Internet Use
Basing on the described privacy issues related to internet use, it is crucial that measures are provided to offer solutions to these privacy concerns. There are many initiatives that can be utilized to offer solution to privacy concerns in interne use.  One major way through which solutions can be arrived to is through self regulation. This solution can be utilized in the individual or corporate basis. Self regulation can be achieved through the adoption of several guidelines provided in several parts. Firms can adopt the Fair Information Practices (FIP) of the Federal Trade Commission that stipulates guidelines on the type and amount of data to be collected and providing an assurance to the consumers for protecting their privacy. If companies, consumers and individuals are assured of their privacy, it becomes quite easy to deal with the problem of privacy in internet use. Self regulation though a traditional initiative has allowed firms to regulate the use of private information. This aspect however requires that all stakeholders involved be in unity and common voice.
Further, technical solutions can be adopted to ensure privacy in internet use. Although quite expensive, this has been termed as the most effective way of ensuring privacy in internet use. Businesses can come up with models that would encourage the opening of designs as well as formats for the important corporate information to deter the employees from sharing the private information of the corporation especially through the internet. Software engineering processes be utilized in ensuring internet privacy.  Protect ID objective can be used as a major technical tool in ensuring that individual privacy is ensured in internet use. This is strategies that utilizes pseudonyms, attributes and attribute properties to replace the identity of the person involved.
Litigation is also necessary for dealing with privacy issues in internet use. The Federal government must come up with effective policy and legal frameworks that can be used in ensuring privacy during the use of internet. There are three policy options that can be used by the corporate world to ensure privacy. Consumers can either opt-out through refusal to offer personal information, opt-in which is based on informed consent before personal information is used by firms. The anonymity aspect can also help in dealing with privacy.  In this aspect, firms are not allowed to use any individual information in planning or making decisions. The combination solution can also be applied. In this solution, several measures are brought into board to deal with privacy concerns in internet use.

This paper has explored the privacy issues related to internet use. The paper has explored the privacy issues in the use of internet in company perspective, customer perspective and individual perspective. The paper has also described some of the possible solutions that can be employed in dealing with privacy concerns in internet use. It is established that the contemporary advancements in information technology have led to an increase in the use of internet that has led to the emergence of privacy concerns. Companies have raised concerns about the use of the internet by individuals with malicious intentions to create harm. Through the use of internet companies are at security risks arising from hackers who might get access to important and private data useful to the company such as business codes and secret codes. Customers have also raised concerns about the privacy of the information they provide online with concerns ranging from mistrusted use of their information to commercialization. Individuals have also argued that their personal information may not be safe since the use of internet can damage personal identity. Several solutions can be adopted to deal with privacy concerns in internet use. Ranging from self regulation and litigation to technical solutions, these solutions in conjunction with others if effectively applied can be useful in dealing with privacy concerns in internet use.

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