Law in the Internet Society

The Slow but Sure Erosion of our Privacy

-- By ClodaghHogan - 22 Oct 2012

It would not be exaggerating to say, that most people lead double lives: those in the real world and those online.

I don't know whether it would be exaggerating, but it's unclear. Does that mean the lives are separate? Different? Equally important?

Even before smartphones and tablets came along, I would say that people spent an unhealthy amount of time on the internet.

This is the error of reifying the Net. Does it mean "too much time using their external as opposed to internal nervous system"? Does it mean "connected to other people the wrong way"?

Thanks to the evolution of technology, it is now possible for a person never to be “offline”. A person may go to bed, be happily dozing off to sleep and still have the possibility of a notification beep telling them a new email has just arrived to their inbox.

But once asleep, the connection is broken, because the external nervous system connects only conscious human minds. That will change also.

While some still value being contactable only when they choose to be, others have become hooked on this constant connectivity and are unable to shut it off.

Is that like people who don't want to be alone?

Either way, times have evolved rapidly, new habits have been formed and are hard to reverse. Whether you are addicted to the internet or an infrequent browser, all online presence must come with a hefty price tag. With every move we make online being recorded and in most cases monitored, we are in effect surrendering a large portion of our privacy. What form this takes is still uncertain, the consequences may as yet be unknown, but the fact monitoring exists in itself is frightening.

So you might want to learn how to prevent or reduce monitoring. But what is the idea of this essay? We're well into the text, and we still don't know.

Let’s begin

Begin what? You haven't given us your idea yet. We can't follow the development of a theme we haven't heard.

with one of the biggest sources of personal data: Facebook, where each user submits a wealth of information about themselves. Who your friends are and what you are interested in may seem like innocuous information, but coupled with thousands of photos, wall-posts and private messages, Facebook will glean enough information to know a person better than they know themselves.

This repeats a conclusion on the apparent basis of "facts" that don't establish it. You destroy the credibility of the idea you are supposedly expressing.

One of the biggest fears regarding Facebook, is not so much that they sell user’s information to advertisers, it is that they are hoarding massive amounts of information, and for use few know or understand at this time.


Who is to say what might come back to haunt us ten, twenty years down the line? As social networking has very much become embedded in modern life, it is unlikely users will unsubscribe. We are in effect making a deal with Facebook, that in return for its use, they have access to our personal data and online activities. A very imbalanced bargain it would seem, considering there is no full disclosure on the part of Facebook as to what ends our personal data may be used.

If this is the idea of the essay, it could have been put in a sentence. But what's the development?

With recent allegations against Google that they spy on user’s messages sent through Gmail accounts, it would seem like no online communication is free from prying eyes. Google has responded that there has been no unlawful monitoring and that no humans are reading emails, it is merely computers completing scans. While this statement may assuage some consumers’ concerns that their privacy is being breached, it does not clarify the issue as to the end-use of the scans. Most people would be enraged by the idea of a handwritten letter being intercepted and read, the same concern for privacy should apply to email communication.

This doesn't appear to be a summary based on consulting sources. If it is, you should link the sources.

The use of data-mining by insurance companies is another area of concern. Technology firms are developing software for insurers to help them sort data that might identify unhealthy customers or likely accident victims. The information bought from marketing firms can vary from records of prescription-drug purchases even as far as credit-card spending. Using this data, insurers are given important clues about potential customers, such as recklessness or unhealthy lifestyles. If these methods are being used, we can be almost certain that Facebook and Twitter are being scoured as well for all the information they have to offer. With no regulation thus far on the issue, it looks as if we will for now have to follow the advice of one data analyst, who claims to only pay for his junk food in cash. Monitoring a person’s grocery bills is as invasive as it comes, but until customers become aware and react, it is unlikely that anything will be done to stop these intrusive practices.

Equally disconcerting is the increased use of cellphone surveillance by law enforcement officials. Wireless carriers receive and respond to millions of demands by law enforcement agencies for subscriber information. The data collected can include location records, calls and text messages. The legal standards for this type of monitoring seem to be very loose, if not non-existent. Stronger laws need to be put in place to protect our data and ensure our personal information is not being revealed without a compelling cause. The idea that real-time and past location records are being monitored paints a worrying picture of a surveillance state.

This is just a laundry list. "And another thing...." If there is a connecting central idea, we need to be shown it.

The fact that data is collected by the government and private companies is no surprise to most. It is, however, something that most of us will choose to ignore, despite the uneasy feeling it gives us. Many would say they are not worried as they have “nothing to hide”. This idea, however, is too simplistic, and a mere way of ignoring what we do not wish to know. We may have nothing to hide, but we may also have nothing we want to reveal either. Information gathering on individuals creates a vulnerability and powerlessness on the part of individuals against governments and corporations. People are prevented from knowing how the information gathered on them will be used. Will their personal data be exploited? How long will data be stored? The potential uses of personal information are huge. What will it be used for? Without accountability for how data is used, it is difficult to assess the danger of data being collected.

Privacy isn’t lost in one single act. It is gradually eroded over time, until we finally notice how much is gone. This is a huge mistake, however, to wilfully accept the erosion of our privacy. In a world of evolving technology, digital communication needs to be protected by stronger privacy laws.

As the comments make clear, the primary route to improvement here is basic editing. What is the essay's new idea? Take the contribution it makes, the idea it launches, and put it up front. Develop the idea, along with the necessary context, so the reader can see why it's important and how you derive it from what is already known and said. Then conclude by giving the reader another, undeveloped idea resting on your primary theme, so that she can take your thesis and use it creatively, to establish new ground for herself.

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r3 - 23 Aug 2014 - 19:31:21 - EbenMoglen
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