If security of personal information has always been a public concern, the reality is inestimably exacerbated by the Internet, so relied upon globally for virtually all transactions and varying social, organizational, and commercial interactions. Then, the recent exposure of Cambridge Analytica as having unethically and illegally mined social media data only worsens the concerns, and the public is further alarmed at how personal preferences, gleaned from algorithms, are easily accessed by agents seeking to attain political goals through undue influence. The concerns are more than warranted, as evidence indicates how social media data is highly susceptible to misuse and breaches (Salloum et al, 2017: p. 129).
Moreover, information is also vulnerable because of the immense increase of mobile devices and share WiFi networks. Just as the public more insists upon Internet access in public spaces, so too is information less secure (Sicari et al, 2015: p. 150). What seems to be in place is an “arms race” in which, consistently, privacy protection is weaker, just as data threats ranging from ransomware to corporate targeting of demographics often originate from foreign operatives unable to be traced and/or prosecuted. Essentially, today’s world is defined by the dependence on the Internet largely failing to secure private information, and in all online venues.
This reality then promotes legislation and technology as safeguarding the individual but, thus far, to little success. One issue is that lawmakers simply are not knowledgeable about the technology, and cannot legislate effectively in unknown territory. Another is that the Internet as such virtually invites access. For example, blockchains, in which the user creates pseudo-identities to increase privacy, may offer a sense of enhanced security, but an illusory one because
the blockchain strategy relies on the pseudo-information processing as somehow more secure from tampering than is the authentic identity (Zyskind, Nathan, 2015: p. 182). People are as well aware that an exponential effect is in place; as the Internet giants such as Google and Facebook share information, potentials of violations increase.
There us no simple or sole answer to this massive problem. However, it is important to realize that external forces such as legislation will not adequately address it. It is meaningless to consider how corporations or individual should be permitted to collect personal data, as it is meaningless to ask why theft and unethical conduct are practiced. The need is for security, and the core responsibility then lies in the user. In plain terms, anyone involved in the Internet in any way must from the outset understand that providing any personal information online translates to vulnerability. In a sense, the public must “retrain” itself and discard earlier assumptions of protection, and accept the pragmatic reality that present data online creates risk. This awareness in place, the user may then more carefully decide which sites require what information, and to the end of reducing all personal data provided.
Also, with financial interactions, the efforts to establish the site’s security protocols must be made. Risk will still exist, certainly. Personally, an acquaintance of mine, long determined to live “off the grid,” has resisted most Internet involvement. He only banks offline and his few online purchases are done solely through eBay. At the same time, his work requires that he use a cell phone, and he has found that the minimal personal information required to register the device has exposed him to unwanted appeals made based on personal information collected. It is likely, if not inevitable, that the public demand for greater protections will increase in proportion to new media reports of breaches. Nonetheless, in this battle over information, the only rational defense is the user’s control over what they reveal, and to whom.