Americans ignore countless security breaches in favor of social media usage

May 18, 2018

In the age of technology, people share their personal information with countless companies. Whether it is a clothing store that asks for an email to send discounts, or a FitBit tracker that counts the number of steps one takes, people willingly disclosing their information in return for services. But as the risks that go along with this bargain come to light, internet users are beginning to wonder if it is too late to recover the privacy they have lost.

Internet privacy is one of the most hotly debated topics right now, but what exactly is it? Online privacy is the ability to control what information about oneself is on the internet, and who can access said information. As the 21st Century pushes forward, people are used to being told that in order to receive a service online they must disclose personal information about themselves, and many do it without a second thought. “I always give out my email if it means that I’m gonna get a discount” senior Peter Holmquist said. The question of the generation is: when does the disclosure of private information cross the line?

The most common way for people to connect online is through social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts. A common trait in these platforms is the way that each person tells the story of their daily life to their friends or followers. Although people have the option to make their accounts “private” so they can control who can see their posts, the platforms have access to all of the profiles. The ability to share one’s life online has led to data which is impossible to delete, opening up the opportunity for online fraud.

The infamous example of corruption and fraud via social media platforms is the Facebook scandal, where around 87 million users’ personal information was shared with a British analytics firm. Cambridge Analytica, the firm, then used this information for political reasons after claiming to be collecting the information for academic purposes. This scandal has led to the takeoff of the idea that people should delete Facebook, although most users are not taking such action.

This scandal is just the beginning: digital footprints lead to many other breaches of privacy and opportunities for exploitation. One example of this is the targeted advertisement seen on big websites. Social media platforms, in particular, have admitted to taking users’ information and creating a system to advertise products that they are more likely to buy. On a different note, more and more people are becoming victims of identity fraud because criminals are able to gain access to their information. According to NBC (2016), “Identity thieves, who commit financial fraud with stolen account information, had a banner year in 2016. These fraudsters successfully hit a record 15.4 million Americans — up 16 percent from 2015.”  In an age where the public wants easy online shopping, the consequence is that their information can be stolen or used against them. This benefits corporations and criminals, but is detrimental to the individual and their privacy.

Even though these downsides are apparent and relatively well known, especially after the Facebook scandal, most people are not likely to stop giving away their information. In the end, compromising one’s privacy is seen as “worth it” in order to be an active member of the globalization and technological advances of the digital age. The tradeoff has already been made, people have already given away their information in return for the ability to interact with others. Now that nearly every American uses internet services, people are reliant on them and not likely to stop giving away their information. “It’s too late now to stop. I already gave away my information, so it’s out there. I’m going to keep enjoying the useful benefits that come with the price of my birthday or email address” junior Kathleen Scoggin said.

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