Personal privacy is an important aspect of human life. With the emergency of computers and the widespread use of the internet, privacy has become a major issue affecting several aspects of human life such as in business, learning institutions and government and private security agencies (George, 2004). The revolution of the web has posed a great threat to personal privacy. Our present society is challenged by several privacy issues as compared to privacy issues during the pre-Web era. The problem is known as Web Privacy by information technology security experts (George, 2004). The paper discusses information technology ethical issues in web privacy.
Web privacy is the right of concealing individual information by having control of personal information and protecting from the use by unauthorized people when using the Web. The use of the Web has grown quite fast due to increased connection of the internet. The concept of globalization has enabled many people to access the Web and obtain information as they require it. The Web has also grown due to the increased access and use of personal computers. Information access over the Web has been made easily accessible, making it more exposed to other interested parties with the aim of intruding other people’s or business privacy (Johnson, 2007).
Web privacy has received considerable attention recently, but it still remains to be a substantial challenges. Organizational regulatory and self-regulatory Web using actions have been put in place to curb and preserve individual or organization data safe from intruders (Tavani, 2011). However, the measures have achieved limited success in curbing Web intrusion to private information or data. Some Web privacy regulations and standards are incompatible and different (Tavani, 2004). For instance, the Web privacy regulations in the US are different and incompatible from those in Europe. Web Privacy preservation is a vital practice in the present information society.
The problem of Web Privacy is centered on two key factors:
The Web-based transactions in large organizations such as banks and financial institutions. The transactions are complex and prone to leakage of delicate personal information. Private information involving client-business, business-business, government-citizen and business-government over the Web can be exposed to one or more unintended recipients of that data.
The nature of the Web is nondeterministic and inherently open making it an easy platform for intruders to use in order to obtain information. The present Web provides an exposed environment in which unknown users obtain information. The secure traditional enterprise networks provided a system in which only users with different access privileges could access information.
Several abuses of Web Privacy have taken place in several parts of the world. Notably, abuse of Web Privacy takes place in large business organizations which are competing for market share. Violation of an organization privacy takes place when a business entity obtains and stores customer data from its competitor’s customer database (Johnson, 2007). A business can also obtain customer data and make use of it without the agreement of the customer. In some cases, businesses are compelled to disclose customer data in case of a legal battle.
Recent abuses of Web Privacy continue to take place. For instance, downloading copy-righted music online is considered as illegal although it takes place in several parts of the world. Government regulation bodies have not implemented stringent laws and regulations to curb such practice. The mishaps that arise as a result of Web Privacy Violations have greatly impacted modern business which carry out their business transactions online. The Web-based economy has suffered a major blow as a result of consumers who do not have confidence and are reluctant to carry out business transactions online (George, 2004).
Sources of Web Privacy.
There are several ways in which Web privacy can be violated. This depends on the intentions of the intruders. They include:
Transfer of unauthorized information.
Businesses competing for the same market segment obtain and sell personal data to other businesses. This is a Privacy violations as personal private information is transferred without the consent and knowledge of the owner (Tavani, 2011).
Owing to the inherently open nature of the Web, intruders and businesses take advantage of vulnerability to access private or classified information. Accessing a Web-bases application is due to its weak security (Tavani, 2011).
Data magnets are tools and techniques used by any party to collect individual or business information with the aim of selling it. In most cases, owners of the data obtained are not aware. The data magnet techniques includes; collecting personal data explicitly via online registration, cookies, software downloads, using IP addresses to identify users and collecting personal information indirectly (Tavani, 2011).
Web Privacy Solutions.
Some privacy protection policies and government regulations have been put in place to safeguard individual and organization information from unauthorized access.
Technical privacy protection methods.
The method entails the use of methods such as Virtual Private Networks when using a public infrastructure to transfer or exchange data, use of personal and enterprise firewalls and trace removers. Technical solutions have also been put forward and have enhanced Web privacy. For instance, encryption-based solutions ensure secure communication or exchange of data between two or more Web entities (Graham, 1999).
Organizational and government privacy protection methods.
Legislation has been enacted to protect and keep people’s information private while on the Web. This is referred to as Mandatory regulation. Also, self-regulation measures address the issue of Web privacy by promoting self-discipline for private information when carrying out online business transactions. Laws and legal measures to curb Web privacy violations has been enacted by political governments. The European Union’s Data Protection Directive of 1995 is a notable example of a regulation meant to preserve Web privacy. The US has also enacted several private policies and regulations to curb Web privacy violations. The Electronic Communications Privacy (ECPA) of 1986 and the Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) of 1998 are some of the notable examples to ensure Web privacy (Rosenbaum & Baird, 2000).
The technical and organizational and government privacy solutions have enhanced protection of private data in the Web. However, the privacy violations continues to take place and is even on the increase in other parts of the world. The information age has provided intruders with ease access of techniques and tools to obtain private information in the Web. Despite that the regulations and the technical solutions have been employed, privacy violations is still rampant and stricter and stringent measures to ensure Web privacy should be put in place.
- George, J. F. (2004). Computers in society: privacy, ethics, and the internet. New York, NY: Pearson Prentice Hall.
- Graham, G. (1999). The internet: A philosophical inquiry. Sydney: Psychological Press.
- Johnson. (2007). Computer Ethics, 3/E. London: Pearson Education.
- Rosenbaum, S. E. & Baird, R. M. (2000). Cyberethics: social & moral issues in the computer age. Prometheus Books.
- Tavani, H. T. (2004). Ethics and Technology: Ethical issues in an age of information and communication technology. London: John Wiley & Sons.
- Tavani, H. T. (2011). Ethics and Technology: Controversies, Questions, and Strategies for ethical computing. London: John Wiley & Sons.