What is Digital Privacy?
Digital privacy is protection of our personal information when we use digital mediums personally and professionally. Probably, many people who use digital mediums like the internet, are blissfully unaware that their internet browsing habits and relevant personal information about them is constantly being recorded and stored. The question is, do we really have any control of our privacy?
Did you know that search engine servers at your internet service provider (ISP) stores information on when you accessed a website including time and date, how long your visit was and what browser you used in the process? This can be easily traced to your computer’s internet protocol (IP) address, which implies you can be identified by authoritative federal and security government agencies, and perhaps hackers who manage to make their way into the systems.
In this context, who is in control of our privacy, even if we are not breaking the law in any aspect of our browsing activities? Search engine servers periodically delete this information, but time intervals between deletions vary in time lengths from server to server.
Domain owners name, physical address, emails address, telephone number and relevant details are inserted into a WHOIS database that is publicly accessible to anyone who wants this information. So, digital privacy also extends to domain owners as their information is freely available to any member of the public. Companies that are in the business of domain privacy, reportedly do not hesitate to give away domain owner information, if they receive a call requesting it.
So, if we are owners of domains that are actively conducting business on the internet, we still belong to the increasing number of people in the world who do not have much control of our privacy, digitally.
Certain businesses may collate up to 10 years of information on you from different sources and provide it to interested parties without your knowledge. Websites may return full names and address, birthdates, and maps to, and pictures of, your home to these parties. There are no clear-cut guidelines that exist to define what intrusion of privacy is, in our digital environment.
Losing Control of Our Privacy
How does this happen, that we are losing control of our privacy and probably do not even know it?
Signups: In our day to day activities on the internet, we sometimes sign up for new accounts on websites. We do not give it much thought, but there are details that we give to the websites during the signup process that we would never normally give strangers. Granted, there are promises on the website you are signing up on, to assure you, that they will not divulge your personal information to other parties and that they will not use your details, for advertising purposes. This is supposed to make us feel that we are in control of our privacy.
Research Calls and Interviews: You get a call from an innocent sounding person asking if you will take part in a research survey. You may even get an email requesting you to sign-up and complete a survey. In either case, you end up giving your personal, financial and income details to strangers who can use these details that you have provided them, for “questionable” purposes.
We have briefly discussed the important question about the ways we losing control of our privacy to the digital age of today. When you ask the question about whether we are losing control, the answer is probably a “yes.” In most cases, we do not even realize that we are not in control of our privacy and that we must be ever diligent about the kind of information we put out on the internet.