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The Internet can easily be viewed as a single greatest factor that shapes the contemporary world. Since its emergence and popularization two decades ago it has changed the way humans handle information and improved on every single aspect of our lives related to it including education, media, trade, culture, and social interactions (Pew Research Center). The growing online presence also created an unprecedented visibility opportunities, which immediately raised privacy concerns. With the increasing number of controversies surrounding the safety of personal information, the Internet has been termed by some “the final blow to privacy.” However, I argue that while it certainly changed the way we perceive safety of information, the situation may be far less grim than portrayed by sensationalist media.
It is hard to argue that the Internet opened up numerous vulnerable spots in our personal spaces. It has become extremely easy to post a silly photograph and end up being bullied by the entire country. The recent history of the Web is abundant with the cases such as the Dog Poo Girl – a woman from Korea whose photograph was published online as an attempt to persuade her to clean after her dog in the subway. Initially intended as a righteous act, the disclosure quickly got out of control and reached threatening proportions (“Dog Poo Girl”). On some occasions, such events led to tragic outcomes. In fact, Facebook is named as a reason behind the divorce in one case out of three (Chatel). Numerous examples exist where the information published online cost people their jobs (Price). To further complicate the matter, the very premise of safe online communication seems to be threatened by the recent developments in the legal sphere (Wagner). There is little doubt that privacy as we know it is under real threat.
While the former example could be interpreted by some as an illustration of the potential threat created by the Web to the inexperienced users, I suggest that it actually illustrates our pre-Internet understanding of information safety. In other words, by facing the controversial cases like that of the Dog Poo Girl, we learn to acknowledge responsibilities for sensitive information (both ours and that of others) and make conscious decisions instead of happily agreeing to everything. Essentially, prior to the emergence of the Internet, we had little opportunity to manage our information in a way that presented a feasible threat and, because of that, had only a vague idea of the concept of privacy.
Considering the information above, it would be tempting to say that the Internet taught us to handle the very threat it created. I do not think this is the case. Rather it presented the problem on the level that is easy to grasp and illustrative enough to communicate the importance of privacy to people. Safety of information has always been crucial – the Web just made it relevant and approachable enough to become a universal issue. I consider it a good thing, and while there is no doubt that it creates risks, we certainly are capable of handling them.
Chatel, Amanda. “The Real Reason Facebook Causes One-Third of Divorces.” YourTango. 2014.
“Dog Poo Girl.” Know Your Meme, n.d.
Madden, Mary, et al. “Teens, Social Media, and Privacy.” Pew Research Center, 2013.
Pew Research Center. “Internet Seen as Positive Influence on Education but Negative on Morality in Emerging and Developing Nations.” Pew Research Center. 2015.
Price, Lydia. “20 Tales of Employees Who were Fired Because of Social Media Posts.” People. 2016.
Wagner, Meg. “Congress Votes to Repeal Internet Privacy Protections.” WNEP. 2017.