Friday, February 6, 2015

Using or Profiting? Danger of Privacy

Security researchers said a Russian crime ring has amassed the largest known collection of stolen Internet credentials around the world, including 1.2 billion username and password combinations and more than 500 million email addresses. Does this really surprise you? Here are some statistics about the digital privacy issue. 11% have had important personal information stolen such as their Social Security Number, credit card, or bank account information. 21% of internet users have had an email or social networking account compromised, or taken over by someone else without permission.

I found that privacy and security are serious issues in the digital world. Lots of programs were created to steal information from users. CoffeeCup is one of the example that steals users' passwords using stolen FTP credentials. As a result, people can easily get some private information through the Internet. My research question is to find out whether websites are using people's private information in ways that are more advantageous to the user or in ways that are more detrimental to the user. Our private Information is in danger as we connect with the Internet. In my opinion, the availability of people's private information causes more disadvantages than advantages to the user. There are two reasons as I say that. First, using personal information is illegal and morally bad. Second, this action can make users' data public, that will make the user feel embarrassed. However, we have to admit incidents of private information being used without our acknowledgement.

First, digital privacy is destroyed when people steal personal information, and this is illegal and morally bad. Humans have the right to protect their privacy. This is also true in the digital world. An article titled "Microsoft Digs in on Digital Privacy" from the Internet reports that the software giant, Microsoft, was storing users' data abroad, in Ireland. This is a huge and serious issue, because Microsoft not only controls the data arbitrarily, but transport it abroad. This is really not a normal level of destroying the digital privacy but a really serious one that needs the involvement of the government. Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and former Justice Department official, said "This is the first round in an ongoing debate on where are the limits of privacy abroad." In this passage, not only the author, but many experts mentioned that digital privacy issues need to be resolved by Congress, which means stealing private information is against the law.

Second, when users' private information is published and shared without their permission, they may be embarrassed. Statistics from Georgia Tech show that many famous companies like Facebook publish the user's data in the public area for business profits. An article titled "It's Not Just You: Terms of Service Agreements Really Are Confusing, Study Finds" says that most people are skipping the terms of security and granting the rights to companies without realizing the consequences. The article also says that the terms are too long and hard to understand, and that people hardly pay attention to them. Georgia Tech said that we're giving up freedoms when agreeing to these documents. As the Terms of Service said, companies can publish users' words to the public area. If one day, a citizen found his chatting record or digital diary were published in the public area, how embarrassed can he be? People do not want others to look at their secrets. So using information can be a really bad thing.

However, some people may have other opinions about acquiring user data that can have positive advantages. They may say that some companies can view your data, but they also provide the chance for you to manage and erase the data. An article titled "6 Links That Will Show You What Google Knows about You" by Cloud Fender pointed out that 6 links from Google will make it possible for users to manage their personal data used on Google. Although this means Google already has your personal data, including your Google searching data, many people still think that this is a huge advantage that protects the users' digital security. In other words, Google can back up your information automatically, which you can use as you need. And within the links, you can control your private information by yourself, which seems better than some programs that steal your information but you cannot control it.

Another opinion that people may come up with is that companies might use the data to make a better environment for the benefits of the users. Companies may use the user data to judge their actions so far and make improvements based on that information. They believe that the stealing is all about improving the products. An article written by Munson Lee, "Twitter to Start Snooping at Which Apps You Have Installed - Here's How to Opt out" says that Twitter starts to peek on users’ digital devices in order to to see what apps they have downloaded so that it can make better recommendations. Twitter also promised that it will only record the list of apps you have installed, not how they are used. Further, Twitter promised to alert users when the new feature is turned on. This makes more people believe that peeking at data on users' devices can sometimes be a positive thing.

Many reports show that personal privacy and digital security are threatened and compromised frequently online. I firmly believe that these actions do not benefit citizens based on two reasons, being against the law and making people embarrassed. Although people may say that use of private information is not completely bad thing because it may help companies to know what we think and sometimes we can manage our information, I still agree that those actions need to be forbidden. However, we have to say that we cannot prevent the sharing of personal information from happening all around the world,so we as a digital citizen should at least learn some ways to protect our privacy.

Update: March 4, 2015
I was really appreciative for all the readers and comments of my blog. They gave me great advice and questions that made me think hard. Overall, my opinion toward companies’ secret using of users’ data is that it will cause more disadvantage than advantages. All the comments are great and took me time to reply on them. Though they did not change my overall opinion in my blog, some parts of my view really changed during reading and responding to the comments. First, I thought companies using users’ data without permission was bad for users’ rights, even if there may be some benefits in it. However, after responding to comments, I thought there could be a standard in this issue, which determined its effect to users. The comments also helped me to clarify my thinking. I realized again that my research is on companies taking and using the data not stealing. Comments brought me to further research on this issue. As I said before, I would like to find out the standard in this issue in my future research. In my personal opinion, the process of blogging is to have conversations with others, including friends and strangers, on a certain topic. Different on writing an essay, blogging has the advantages of keeping your mind on a social place, which means that by reading others' thoughts, your blog can better fit in an acceptable view. In my personal insight, blogging has a good effect in improving the society.


  1. Hello Destfare, I enjoyed reading about your thoughts on how Microsoft dug into our personal privacy, I am a current Microsoft user for lots of electronics and this worries me. I agree with your statement that stealing personal information is illegal and morally bad completely. I was wondering what exactly companies take from your and wether or not them using it really affects you? I though you might be interested in this link: here

    1. Edit: I also think you did a great job at describing what the companies had access to and what they can do with it.

    2. Hello, Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX, thank you for your comment. Microsoft has done a great job in annoying people in the region of digital privacy. You want to know the exact information taken from you. Example will be that companies take users' personal information include names, emails and also your rights to your works and to commercialize. So this is a really huge issue.

  2. Destfare, you have obviously given personal privacy online a great deal of thought. What we give up in exchange for access to a website, or app, or some sort of service can be astounding. It is definitely helpful to read the Terms of Service so you know exactly what you are getting into, but you are right that most folks don't because they are so long and complex. Have you ever seen an example of TOS that users could easily understand? In your opinion, who, ultimately, is responsible for securing your privacy? You, as a user? Or the company that is hopefully keeping your data "safe"? It's a complicated situation, to be sure. Thank you for prompting us to think about it more deeply. Given what we've read about weak passwords, and a lack of concern for security, this is good advice for us! People do need to be more educated and vigilant about their online data. Well done!

    1. Thank you for your comment. Although, users themselves choose agree companies to use their data according to the TOS, I still believe that companies have the responsibility to keep users' data in a safe place. Companies want users to buy or use their products so users agree the TOS and start using products. Than we can consider the security of data is one part of the products.

  3. Hello Destfare, I have enjoyed reading your blog and I think that you did this topic justice. I really like how you had two main points and them elaborated off of them. It made me want to read your article again and again. As I was reading, I began to wonder to myself if there are ways that I can protect myself on the internet. So, how can I protect my privacy and security? I found a link that I think you should check out (I will put it at the end of the comment). In this link, it talks about ways that you can protect yourself online. As I read your article, I became more and more interested on the topic. Amazing job on your article. Thank you for making me think more about my privacy and security online. Here is the link:

    1. Thanks for your comment, GraceGiraffe. I have thought about your question when I was writing this blog. The reason that I did not put the question in my research is that I think few ways are effective in protecting so far. As I read through the passage you provided, I found that even we cannot do something to protect our privacy, we can still use some ways to decrease the risks, which may be really helpful. And another thing that I found is that it is important to know about every risks of digital viruses.

  4. Hi Destfare! I was surprised by thouse figures in the first paragraph, I could not believe them in the first place. It's true that we are facing a more and more serious and severe problem towards internet security as the fast pace development of technology. I agree with your two points, but I do think that some of our personal information should be on stored on Internet somewhere could not be reached by the third parties. Becasue it's really helpful sometimes, like when you are shopping, there's already a recommanded list for you. And there's a recent news about how a teenager was arrested after posting a selfee with vitim. The snapcha is supposed to delete the pictures after a certain time, however, they are still keeping the picture somewhere in their system. Snapchat is not protecting customers' privacy, but in this case, this is good thing for the society. What do you think? Again, thanks for sharing this post!

    1. Shining W, thank you for your comment. Your opinion is surely true. Websites will give us useful information based on the data they took from us, which you also mentioned in that news. If the companies use our data in a "proper" way, it will make a lot advantages for us. And the point of my blog is trying to find out the standard of that "proper" way.


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