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The Value of Digital Privacy in and Information Technology Age Essay

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1. List and describe at least three (3) technologies that allow an individual to research citizens’ private data. A technology that allows an individual to research private data is the Global Positioning System (GPS). This “is a navigation and precise-positioning tool” (Glasscoe, 1998) developed in the early seventy’s by the Department of Defense. Although GPS was originally designed for the military, its applications have extended into the public sector to provide researchers the specific location of an individual (Glasscoe, 1998). A malicious technology that can be used to research an individual’s private data is spyware. In general, it is software that can be loaded on an internet ready device, such as a computer or smartphone, with the sole purpose of gathering and transmitting one’s private data to another person. Spyware is “designed to be difficult to remove,” and the collection and transmission of information can be completed without the individual’s consent (Microsoft, 2012).

In contrast to spyware, social networking services are freely provided with and individual’s private data. Social networking services are web based platforms built to facilitate communication between internet users. “When creating an account user[s] disclose private information about their social contacts and interests by including friends, business associates, and companies in their networks” (The White House, 2012). Services such as “Facebook, the largest social network service” (Halbert & Ingulli, 2012) can gather enormous amounts of private data that is associated with an individual including: “written updates, photos, videos, and location information” (The White House, 2012). 2. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of public access to this information, both for the researchers and those who are being investigated. “Personal data is valuable …[and]… companies spend up to $2 billion a year to collect that information” (SENGUPTA, 2012).

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Retailers use the data to target advertising to consumers based on their geographic location, personal demographics, or interests. Annually personal data is used to generate as much as $145 billion in online sales (The White House, 2012). Personal information is often shared freely in a mutually beneficial relationship between an individual and researchers. Those who are being investigated may sign up for online services which deliver them free content, such as music or games. Consumers are “pay[ing] for the service by agreeing to receive targeted ads” (Microsoft) from researchers. “Security failures involving personal data … can cause harm” (The White House, 2012) to both the researcher, and those being researched. If a researcher’s data is breached resulting in the release of private data the organization’s reputation could be tarnished. Subsequently there would be financial impacts to the researcher as consumers and business partners sever their relationships.

On the other hand, those being researched may be discriminated against due to misleading information or fall victim to “potentially life-disrupting identity theft” (The White House, 2012). 3. Determine what measures citizens can take to protect private information or information they do not want to be disclosed. First and foremost, citizens should “carefully read all disclosures, including the license agreement and privacy statement” (Microsoft, 2012) prior to downloading any software, shareware, or freeware to their computer or smartphone. Secondly, they should properly protect themselves utilizing updated anti-virus software and firewalls on their electronic devices.

Finally, citizens should be familiar with privacy-enhancing technologies such as “Do Not Track” which enables individuals “to exercise some control over how third parties use personal data or whether they receive it at all” (The White House, 2012). 4. Discuss a federal law that grants the federal government the legal right to make private information on U.S. citizens available to the public, and whether or not you agree with this law. Any person has the right to request access to virtually every federally held record. Enacted in 1966, The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is federal law which “provides public access to all federal agency records except for those records … that are protected from disclosure.” Nine exemptions and three exclusions to the FOIA prohibit the release of information in relation, but not limited to “information involving matters of personal privacy” (U.S. Department of Justice, 2009). In the wake of Watergate Congress enacted the Privacy Act of 1974 to protect citizen’s private data in the face of growing concerns of “illegal surveillance and investigation of individuals by federal agencies” (“The privacy act ,” 2010).

This federal law restricts disclosure of government held records which personally identify individuals, and increases an individual’s right to obtain and amend government held records kept on themselves. The Privacy Act also establishes a code of “fair information practices which requires agencies to comply with statutory norms for collection, maintenance, and dissemination of records” (“The privacy act ,” 2010). As Americans we “have always cherished our privacy…[and]… we have the right to be let alone” (The White House, 2012). Much more than the right to solitude, Americans have the right to freely participate in commerce without the costly threat of identity theft. We should be empowered with the freedom to seek employment or heath care without discrimination.

Federal laws should grant citizen’s peace of mind that our personal information it protected, and we have a choice regarding when and what portions of our personal information made available to the public. 5. Determine whether there are “electronic privacy laws” that can prevent others from having access to “private information” as well as how effective they are. Laws protecting electronic privacy include “the 1968 Federal Wiretap Law, as amended by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act 1986 (ECPA), [which] make it illegal to intercept, disclose, or access messages without authorization” (Halbert & Ingulli, 2012).

As with the FOIA there are exemptions to the ECPA which eliminate “protection from communications that are readily accessible to the general public” (Halbert & Ingulli, 2012) and current federal law may not protect all of an individual’s private data. As of 2012, forty-seven States have Security Breach Notification (SBN) laws. These laws vary from state to state, however they “promote the protection of sensitive personal data” (The White House, 2012) which is not currently protect by federal law. In February of 2012, the Obama Administration presented the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights to Congress. This Bill of Rights attempts to establish a much needed national baseline to protect citizen’s private information and acts “as a blueprint for privacy in the information age” (The White House, 2012).

Glasscoe, M. (1998, August 13). What is gps?. Retrieved from http://scign.jpl.nasa.gov/learn/gps1.htm Halber, T. & Ingulli, E. (2012). Privacy and Technology. In Law & Ethics in the Business Enviorment (7th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning. Mao, C.
(2012, March 28). Columbia business law review. Retrieved from http://cblr.columbia.edu/archives/12047 Microsoft. (2012). Microsoft. Retrieved from http://www.microsoft.com/security/pc-security/spyware-whatis.aspx SENGUPTA, S. (2012, February 04). Should personal data be personal?. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/05/sunday-review/europe-moves-to-protect-online-privacy.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 The privacy act . (2010). Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov/opcl/1974privacyact.pdf The White House. (2012, February 23). Consumer data privacy in a networked world:a framework for protecting privacy and promoting innovation in the global digital economy. Retrieved from http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/privacy-final.pdf U.S. Department of Justice. (2009, November). Your rights to federal records. Retrieved from http://publications.usa.gov/epublications/foia/foia.htm

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