In an age where social media is a fundamental tool in everyday life, we rarely think about the plethora of ethical issues that are present on these platforms. To have ethics is to have ‘moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour or the conducting of an activity’ (Oxford Dictionaries, 2017) – in basic terms, it is having the knowledge of what is right and wrong. One ethical issue that I find particularly significant is the issue of privacy on social media.
Social media has enabled us to freely voice our thoughts and has provided us with more information than ever before. However, this stream of information does not stop at a simple google search, or an articulate debate on twitter, but also includes a vast amount of our own personal information that can be exploited by businesses and fraudsters.
Think about it. How many sites have you willingly entered in your personal details? How many businesses now have access to your cookies and browsing history?
Personally, I’ve lost count.
It has become second nature for us to accept terms and conditions without reading the 40-odd pages that may contain major breaches to our rights. A simple click of ‘I accept’ can strip you of your privacy; and as this video explains, leaves the door open for anyone to sell or take your personal details, without you even knowing! Of course, this can be seen as a cynical view, therefore, I have created a visual of the pros and cons of the online collection of your personal information via cookies:
Moreover, breach of online privacy is not just limited to businesses. The ‘Snoopers Charter’ law would ‘require web and phone companies to store everyone’s web browsing histories (…) and give the police, security services and official agencies unprecedented access to the data’ (Travis, 2016). As Greenwald explains, it is common for people to retort that ‘there is no real harm that comes from this large-scale invasion because only people who are engaged in bad acts have a reason to hide and care about their privacy’ (Greenwald, 2014). But despite claims of ‘increasing national security’, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World-Wide Web, argues that it ‘undermines our fundamental rights online’ and instead of protecting us, puts us at even greater risk.
Defining ethical practices is therefore difficult. Where intentions may initially be ethical; tailoring user’s online experience or safeguarding a nation, there comes a point where these agencies cross an ethical line. For me, this line has been crossed, our information is passed on like an online game of pass the parcel; and with government surveillance increasing, I would even argue that this mass privacy invasion is almost synonymous with the dystopian world described in Orwell’s 1984. After all, Big Brother is Watching You.
Word Count: 464 words
Cellan-Jones, R. (2016). ‘Snoopers law creates security nightmare’ – BBC News. [online] BBC News. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-38134560 [Accessed 23 Mar. 2017].
Evans, M. (2016). Cyber crime: One in 10 people now victim of fraud or online offences, figures show. [online] The Telegraph. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/21/one-in-people-now-victims-of-cyber-crime/ [Accessed 23 Mar. 2017].
Greenwald, G. (2014). Transcript of “Why privacy matters”. [online] Ted.com. Available at: http://www.ted.com/talks/glenn_greenwald_why_privacy_matters/transcript?language=en [Accessed 23 Mar. 2017].
Liu, Y. (2012). The Pros and Cons of Cookies: A Google Story – Internet Marketing Inc. [online] Internet Marketing Inc. Available at: http://www.internetmarketinginc.com/blog/the-pros-and-cons-of-cookies-a-google-story/ [Accessed 23 Mar. 2017].
LogicLounge, (2017). Do We Have Privacy Online?. [online] YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBs69y4pK9w [Accessed 23 Mar. 2017].
Orwell, G. (1949). 1984. 1st ed.
Oxford Dictionaries. (2017). ethics – definition of ethics in English | Oxford Dictionaries. [online] Available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/ethics [Accessed 23 Mar. 2017].
Techterms.com. (2011). Cookie Definition. [online] Available at: https://techterms.com/definition/cookie [Accessed 23 Mar. 2017].
Travis, A. (2017). ‘Snooper’s charter’ bill becomes law, extending UK state surveillance. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/29/snoopers-charter-bill-becomes-law-extending-uk-state-surveillance [Accessed 23 Mar. 2017].