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Privacy: Still Possible or a Thing of the Past Essay

For as long as I can remember, our privacy and rights as human beings has been on the decline. We are no longer able to feel as though we aren’t constantly being watched and placed under twenty four hour surveillance. The more and more this dwindles, the more we have to protect ourselves personally just as we would protect our homes if someone were attempting to invade them.

Since at least 1999 there have been people making statements such as, “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it. ” (McNealy, 1999) In more recent years there have been similar statements made by Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Larry Page of Google, and Jeff Weiner of LinkedIn. These sites alone make it virtually impossible to keep information private.

Anytime you visit Facebook they are able to see where you’re posting from, and they are also allowed to use your photos without your knowledge if they are taken in a restaurant, coffee shop, or store. Once you are subscribed to that site, all of the content put up then belongs to them and will forever be able to be found in cyberspace. They own your information…you don’t. In fact, here is a statement that you have to agree to before being able to create a page. You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof. ” (Facebook, 2012)

However, for the new year they’ve decided to add some new terms of service just to make sure that they really have the rights to everything you put on there. “The following sections will survive any termination of your use of the Facebook Service: Prohibited Conduct, User Content, Your Privacy Practices, Gift Credits, Ownership; Proprietary Rights, Licenses, Submissions, User Disputes; Complaints, Indemnity, General Disclaimers, Limitation on Liability, Termination and Changes to the Facebook Service, Arbitration, Governing Law; Venue and Jurisdiction and Other.

We reserve the right, at our sole discretion, to change or delete portions of these Terms at any time without further notice. Your continued use of the Facebook Service after any such changes constitutes your acceptance of the new Terms. ” If anyone has used Facebook since February 4, 2013, you’ve already agreed to these terms even if you weren’t notified of the changes; just by logging in you accepted them. This alone confirms what McNealy said earlier. Privacy in 2013 is nothing more than a distant memory, a page in history, and something that children growing up now will never be privy to. In the past year, Facebook has started something known as “frictionless sharing.

Verizon told customers it could share their location and search strings with advertisers, and two members of Congress have called for the FTC to investigate “supercookies,” which track your activity across multiple websites and are difficult to detect and remove. These developments signal an accelerating rush to compile, index and disseminate personal data in the digital age. (Francis, 2011) Multiple reasons are behind why so many personal details are shared these days, but for one, people who are far away from family or friends take comfort in knowing they can stay connected on a more “personal” level if they have a multimedia site. They also sign up for such accounts to cash in on the discounts retailers and websites share on the networking sites for members. Government agencies tap into and monitor tons of personal information and they record it for future use if needed.

They will track everything from your vacations and travel to what you told your best friend on the phone that you ate for breakfast. Nothing is too insignificant to monitor. A large part of the increase in invasion of privacy is because of what a security expert Bruce Schneier, calls “the rise of Big Data. ” This is the emergence of massive data brokers like Axciom, Reed Elsevier and Eloqua, and more familiar suspects such as Google and Facebook. Such companies make a business of packaging and reselling information about you to marketers. (Schneier, 2012) Short of living off the grid, so to speak, and alone, you drag behind you a plethora of personal information every day.

Based off of my research, a day for the average American could look something like this: When you wake up in the morning probably one of the first things you do, maybe even before stepping foot out of bed, is to check your cell phone for missed calls, voicemails, or emails. Your cellular company has the data stored in their records of exactly who you called or when you checked your voicemail, how long you were on the phone and precisely where you were when this all took place thanks to the satellite signals pinging off of towers close by. This is something that most people feel comforted by, and some people have stated that their cell phones are the equivalent of a security blanket to them.

They feel safe and unable to be harmed, but should something sinister arise, the technology of GPS devices on our phones, the pings from the cell towers, and mapping available on them will almost definitely keep us more protected. This reasoning makes us feel secure to an extent. However, what most people don’t know is that companies like Retina X Studios sell, and or, make your information such as location, messaging, and call history available to third parties without us being aware. To make matters worse, companies such as Verizon are becoming increasing bold. In October of 2011, Verizon Wireless notified customers it plans to monitor their customers’ location, websites they visit while on their cell phones, and if that wasn’t enough, the apps they use. The real kicker is that they may share that information.

While it is possible to opt out, the default setting for Verizon and other carriers is automatically set up to share. Many people aren’t familiar enough with their phones to know how to change those settings. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon has decided to sponsor a specific bill that would set boundaries on the GPS information that agencies and companies can gather and obtain from wireless phones. Next during your day, you might decide to turn on the TV so you can watch a reality show. Yet another way to invade privacy, however, these people on the shows willingly sign up to be invaded. Compliments of an increasing reliance on Internet Protocols for distributing signals, now your cable or satellite provider knows exactly what you watched and for how long.

I suggest that you take some time to read over your provider’s privacy policy so that you can see and understand all of the various ways this information can so easily make it into the hands of others. Then, let’s say that you have an appointment for your yearly physical. You get in your car which tracks where you are going through your OnStar device. Up until September 2011, the company secretly continued to track even after you canceled its service, a policy the company dropped in the face of a political uproar. Once you arrive at the doctor’s office and they take your height, weight, vitals, medical history, changes in medications, and anything that might be wrong with you. All of this is now entered electronically to supposedly make the office run more efficiently and save the doctor time.

He will also transmit electronically any prescriptions for medications that you may need to your pharmacy. While certain safeguards aim to keep this very confidential information private, glitches can and do happen. “Personal medical data on 365,000 patients were lost when a car prowler stole disks and tapes from an employee’s van. ” (Providence Health & Services, 2006) Now what happened to all of those records and sensitive information? The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services specifically lists 345 cases of medical records breaches over the last two years that affected at least 500 people each. Some exposed records of hundreds of thousands of patients. Reasons range from theft of laptops to digital intrusions.

Every day, we pass signs, billboards, and stakes with advertisements on them pounded into the ground. What most of us aren’t aware of is that a “smart billboard” by NEC, IBM, Research in Motion, or one that uses Immersive Labs software, has the ability to not only target us with specific ads, but they may also have the capability of tracking our age, gender, speed of our car, and the amount of time we spent looking at the advertisement. While we’re busy looking at the billboards, we don’t realize that our license plate has been scanned and logged by the police, or even worse yet, an independent surveillance company that will reveal just where our car has been. These types of systems are used most commonly from California to Maine.

When we get home we remember that we wanted to list some items we don’t use anymore on a site such as eBay. When we create an eBay account we have to share our exact location, and when we sell merchandise to the buyer, our name and address has to be attached to the package somewhere. Now whoever bought that item from us can hop on their computer, pull up Google maps, or better yet, Google Street View, and they can see precisely where we live, if it’s an isolated area, nice neighborhood, if it looks like there are kids in the vicinity, and even what we’re doing if we happen to be standing outside at the time they look! Some countries have limited what Google is capable, like Germany, but most have not bothered to do so.

Here in America, it’s free for everyone to see. When you log into a social media site, specifically Facebook, you have the option to “tag” or label, yourself and others in photographs. Actually, Facebook has the largest collection of digital photos in the world…somewhere around 90 billion!! They try to sell the idea of this as being a great way to stay in touch and updated with friends and family, however what they don’t tell you is that these pictures are also very accessible to everyone from companies to people all over the world. Furthermore, Facebook’s continuing refinements that tend to compromise personal privacy, this is not reassuring.

An Austrailian technologist has discovered that because of the technology and software Facebook uses, they can actually track what you do online long after you’ve logged off of their site. “Even if you are logged out, Facebook still knows and can track every page you visit. The only solution is to delete every Facebook cookie in your browser, or to use a separate browser for Facebook interactions. ” (Cubrilovic, 2011) Anytime you log onto a computer at work, the library, or anywhere else that is public, you are connected to an internal network and the Internet. Your browsing history is logged by members of your employer’s IT department and your phone records are also logged and stored. 0% of companies admit to watching closely what their employees do online, and it’s stated on signs at most public libraries that what you view, download, or compose will be logged in under your library ID and kept for record.

Have you ever gone onto Google to search for something and popups telling you you’ve won something or have been selected to participate in a survey fill your screen? By clicking on those you’ve just handed over more personal information than you would have realized. Those popups have things in them that allow them to infiltrate your computer and hard drive and potentially wreck havoc on your private information. They have the ability to obtain anything from email access to bank records and passwords.

A scary example of how your personal information is collected, categorized, and then shared, you should look online at www. infoUSA. com. With very little knowledge of how computers work and hardly any effort at all, you can find people all the way down to who their mail carrier is what their route is. Maybe even more upsetting is that from this site you can also obtain information on the person’s income, marital status, credit cards, mortgages, ethnicity and religion, what they like to do, and if they ever served in the military. Now, this list of information does have to be purchased, however, if someone wants to gather personal and private data on you that badly, they’ll gladly pay up.

Just when you cookies were bad, there are now such things called “supercookies” that are nearly impossible to delete. Most of these are placed onto your computer when you visit websites that allow you to watch television shows or movies for free or a nominal fee, but once they are on your computer the likelihood of being able to get them off isn’t great. They embed deep into your hard drive and continually track where you go and what you do which just further gains information you don’t want anyone else to have. Similarly, there is a program you can get called Firesheep. What this program allows you to do is watch what you’re doing on your computer and very possibly steal your identity and any other information they can take from tapping into your computer.

All of this could take place while you’re sitting in class on your laptop, surfing the web at a coffee shop, or browsing the details of an upcoming business meeting while at an outdoor picnic area on your lunch break. In order to further protect us and track criminal activity, they have now installed surveillance cameras all around. Some of these cameras that are placed on buildings or businesses that experience higher probability of crimes or violations will have facial recognition technology software. In this day and age it’s virtually impossible to go anywhere without being recorded, watched, followed, or tracked. In fact, the New York Civil Liberties Union found more than 4,400 surveillance cameras in some concentrated areas around lower Manhattan and Harlem.


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