Does internet privacy exist anymore? Maybe.
Should you assume that your search, social and purchasing history is being held privately? Absolutely not.
I was fortunate enough to be a child and a teenager during the rise of the internet. At that time, I felt as though the internet was the wild wild west where I could do anything or go anywhere without anybody knowing.
I could look up information on any topic I desired without my family knowing, gossip with friends about things that I normally wouldn’t say offline and maybe catch a sneak preview of that new movie coming out that my parents weren’t going to let me watch.
Oh how times have changed…
Now, as a young adult educated in the technology field, I realize that my former intuitions were completely wrong and, in fact, they were opposite of what they should have been.
Everything you do on the internet can be traced. Sure you can take certain measures to retain your privacy. You can put yourself behind a Tor Network, use proxies to try and hide your route through the internet or you can clear your cookies and browsing history to try and keep your search history private.
When it comes down to it however, if someone really wants to find out some information about your online surfing habits, they can do it.
I become more and more aware of this problem everyday. Did you know that the information on your Facebook profile is owned by Facebook. Look into your Facebook account settings and you’ll notice that you have the option to “disable” your account, but not the option to delete it.
Imagine if the government wanted to investigate you for some reason and they mandated that Google allows them access to your Google account. That means the government would have access to:
- All of your emails (even if they’re deleted, Google archives them).
- All of your Google Docs.
- Everything you’ve posted on Google+, Google Buzz or Google Wave.
- Your search history for as long as you’ve had it connected to your Google account.
- Any address you’ve looked up in Google Maps while logged into your account.
Starting to see the severity of the privacy issues now?
Can Anything Be Done To Retain Online Privacy?
As I stated earlier, there a few actions that can be taken to try and retain your privacy while surfing the web. There is, however, no fail safe way to ensure your privacy online.
Because of that, I propose a different solution: Alter Your Mindset When Surfing the Web.
The internet has changed greatly in the last 15 years and I think our way of looking at the internet needs to change as well. Everyday, the internet becomes closer and closer to physical reality.
Doesn’t it make sense then, that our actions on the digital internet should begin to more accurately reflect our actions in the physical world? At least until privacy measures are improved?
Because I understand how easy it is to track someone’s actions online, I have changed my mindset on the internet. I was never using the internet illegally or anything, but I am much more conscious of what type of footprint I leave behind online.
If I don’t want people to know something, I don’t share it online. If you really need to communicate privately with someone in the 21st century, the safest way to do so is in person.
Hopefully privacy measures and laws will improve online but, until they do, I propose that we change our way of using the internet.
This will create a better environment for everyone, a safer online experience and will hopefully begin the emergence of a new online culture that is less secretive and more constructive and reflective of our everyday, physical world, lives.
I would love to hear what everyone else thinks in the comments section below!