Has the digital privacy in our world been compromised?


Carlie Massey

Technology is ruling our world • Juniors Cheyanne Jones, Jade East, Freshmen Carly Mauldin, Marlie Holland, å senior Shania Pierce demonstrate the overuse of technology and how unsafe it is.

Carlie Massey, Copy & Online Editor

In this day and age, technology is something virtually no one can escape. Technology is found in classrooms, workplaces, homes and cars. It is safe to say that the 21st century has converted the world into running on technology. With this information in mind, can it be assumed that the privacy of peoples’ information has evolved as well? Emails, phone numbers, credit card numbers and more are all on the internet permanently, and it is left up to major companies to follow through with their privacy policies to keep their customers’ information safe. However, how can we be sure that the amount of information shared on the internet is not excessive? Has our digital privacy already been compromised?

The answer varies from person to person, but the overall cons of technology seem scarier and scarier with each privacy policy update.

With this increase in the use of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube, personal information such as a person’s first and last name, age, gender, address, and phone number must be given to said sites. Online shopping platforms such as Amazon and eBay must provide information such as credit card information as well as a P.O. box or an address. While this information is guaranteed to be secured with the company’s privacy policy, how can the customer be completely sure their information was not leaked or hacked?

At the start of 2019 a new site 9 to 5 Mac reported a glitch in Apple’s iPhones. The issue was dubbed as an ‘iPhone eavesdropping.’ It had been found that an iPhone user can call another iPhone user and listen to that person through the device’s microphone without the user having to even answer the phone call. This problem was the result of a bug involving the FaceTime app. This bug also gave the caller access to the other person’s camera. The issue was fixed by Apple later that night and found the issue had been caused by ‘Group FaceTime.’ This glitch cost unextreme financial earnings to Apple the next day. The issue with this glitch is that the caller can listen in on whoever they are calling without the other person even having to pick up the phone. This is an extreme violation of a persons’ privacy, and a primary example of how society’s privacy has been compromised.

A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in January 2018 showed that 69% of American adults report that they use some form of social media. The growth has come from all ages with 37% of those coming from ages 65 and older. The Center’s research and polls have found that the use of social media is primarily to stay in touch with friends and family; this is why social media has not become a dying form of technology.

Overall, a study conducted five years ago by the same center showed that 91% of Americans agreed that they had lost control over how their personal information is collected. 80% of social media users reported that they were concerned with advertisers accessing what they posted on social media platforms. 64% agreed that the government should regulate this type of targeted advertising. Another survey recorded in 2017 found that 9% of social media users were very confident that social media companies would protect their data. That’s 91% of users who were not confident that their information was secure.

Additionally, 61% of Americans believe that they would like to do more to protect their privacy and two-thirds have reported that the current laws are not doing enough to protect people’s privacy.

61% of Americans believe that they would like to do more to protect their privacy

Opposing sides to this epidemic might argue that an abundance of collection in data is beneficial to companies and outweighs the cons of collecting data. This side of the argument agrees that those who worry that privacy will ‘erode into the river and be gone forever’ ignore how these benefits will actually increase privacy.

However, the benefits of letting go of online privacy are not enough to balance the cons of it. Identity theft, loss of money, the publication of a person’s home, work, or school address becoming private could threaten their safety or their lives.

Luckily, there are actions people can take to help aide in their personal privacy battle. One of these actions is to update your devices. Update the security on your computers, mobile devices, laptops, and other electronics. These updates allow manufactures to fix any security bugs or imperfections quickly. After updating, it is always beneficial to check your privacy setting to understand what has changed or remained the same.

Another proactive step you can take is to use two-factor authentication. When you log into an account on a newer computer or phone, it will prompt you to enter your password. However, it won’t grant you access until the website sends a one-use only code to your phone via text. Without this password from your phone, your access into this website will be denied.

Lastly, make privacy a top priority. A strong password is not where it stops. Turning off your phones location is another simple factor that can slow the ‘erosion’ of your digital privacy. Allowing for your location to be used by tech companies as they collect and share information. Basically, retailers and advertisers rely on their consumers to volunteer information. For example, when a customer makes a purchase or is signing up for a news letter, it will prompt them to enter their phone number or email. But them asking does not mean the retailers do not already have their answer. A helpful tip when online shopping is to set up a ‘burner’ account that you can use primarily for shopping and other ‘unsafe’ online activities.

Oftentimes your devices ask you for information, too, but without your knowledge. You can start by checking your phone’s settings. Your phone often allows different apps to access various permissions through your phone. It can access your phone’s microphrone, camera, location, contacts and more. If you are questioning why a certain app needs to access certain functions, you have the ability to turn off these permissions.

With the use of these settings, you can help to preserve your privacy. Thus, you are also encouraging companies to give more attention to their consumers’ privacy.