The Age of Infringement

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The dawn of the 21st century and its consequent years, witnessed the advent of mind boggling new technology; what once was merely the possession of the privileged strata of society, soon found its way into the lives of the general populace and had a profound impact on our fundamental means of existence.

Today to many, it is almost unfathomable to imagine a world sans technology or the internet. The internet has become so inextricably linked with our everyday activities, our social interaction and our education, that a large part of our lives would come to a grinding halt, were it to spontaneously disappear one day.

Seeing as how people gain from the internet on a daily basis, the internet may seem like a largely innocuous and primarily beneficial entity. However, in light of recent revelations with regards to breaches of privacy on social media forums and by search engines, it appears that we might stand to suffer huge losses courtesy our friend the internet, after all.

This year, social media giant- Facebook, provoked the world’s ire in light of well-founded accusations that it was feeding user data to various organisations; the most notorious of which was, Cambridge Analytica.

The information collected by Cambridge Analytica, (a British political consultation firm) is said to have been utilised for the purpose of creating targeted political advertisements, based on users’ data and browsing patterns, all of which indicated a blatant disregard for data protection and user privacy by Facebook. (The medium through which this data was harvested)

When the sheer extent of Facebook’s negligence was revealed to the world, (involving the collection of personally identifiable details from around 87 million people) naturally the response was unprecedented.

Following this scandal, people began to reevaluate the consequences of their presence on the internet and international governing bodies like the EU, decided to create and enact a refurbished set of guidelines- The GDPR, (General Data Protection Regulations) which held businesses more accountable for infringements of privacy. The damage however, was done, and the world now turned their attention towards other online portals, eager to know if they too were mishandling their information like Facebook had done.

What followed was a frenzied evaluation of data mining procedures, privacy policy agreements and information collection methods implemented by major websites.

We learned that Google and our Apple gadgets had means of collecting an eerily extensive amount of information, regarding our browsing patterns, our physical location and our daily routines. The world was now collectively aware of the fact that, as conducive as the internet might be to progress and to the ease of communication; it wasn’t a no-strings-attached affair to invest so much our life into it.

As for me, even before Facebook’s epic goof up, and before the big question of privacy was posed, I was cautioned right from the start by my parents, with the wise words- ‘Once on the internet, always on the internet’ and given an earful about the importance of withholding personal information and on protecting my identity online. Unfortunately, with the advancement of data mining and harvesting procedures nowadays, merely withholding information is a futile means of fortifying your details from being accessed by the world. Being on the internet now, unfortunately also means being under the constant threat of having your online activities surveilled. New and more stringent regulations definitely are a means to a more secure online experience, but for now- we need to decide for ourselves whether the pros of ardent internet usage, outweigh the cons and take it for granted that navigation of the internet needs to be practiced with utmost caution.

 

Contributed by Trishala Ballal

Image Credits: Cloud Security.

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