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Privacy Issues with the Internet Essay

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Privacy Issues with the Internet



Privacy has long been as elusive as the mythical Fountain of Youth. The

very idea of "protecting" information about family stirs up ominous

images of powerful agencies stealing our individuality and even our

identity. The fears about privacy have grown exponentially with the Web.



But who are we protecting ourselves from? The government? Not likely,

at least in the Orwellian sense that most of us imagine it. While

Congress passes the laws and regulatory bodies enforce them, media focus

of late has been on the private sector, particularly commercial

Websites. Civil libertarians' protests against information-collecting

Websites are enigmatic given that most of this information has already

been available for years in libraries, in town halls, in departments of

motor vehicles and from countless other places. Thus it should be

understood that "privacy" is largely an illusion. While the Lewinsky

tapes raised eyebrows, the media fanfare over the issue shows that

someone, somewhere, when you least expect it, will place a higher

priority on something that compromises your privacy.



Nevertheless, the increasing commodification of personal information is

worrisome to this author, particularly when the "collectors" get their

information wrong or draw incorrect conclusions from the data they

acquire. Already, some national pharmacies have tried to sell

information about their customers to marketers. (In at least one case

the pharmacy backed off after critics severely chastised them for the

plan). No doubt other organizations will move to sell medical records

to the highest bidder. What does this mean to the public? ...


... middle of paper ...


...we promise your privacy, we have someone who makes

sure we keep that promise.



However, many other TRUSTe licensees provide more extensive privacy

statements for visitors to scrutinize. Nevertheless, trust and privacy

guarantees don't come cheap. Costs for TRUSTe licenses range from $299

to almost $5,000, depending on the licensee's corporate revenue. While

$5,000 may not be a lot for a Microsoft, $299 is quite a bit for a

start-up firm with no annual revenue. This license allows TRUSTe

clients to showcase a mark of trust that could easily (but not legally)

be copied and used by any Website developer who wants to capitalize on

trust. With all the trust-brokers on the Web, the question remains

whether "buying trust" is any less elusive than the Fountain of Youth.

Moreover, one should ask, who is worthy of trust management?


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