The modern world is full of technological innovation that seems to become increasingly more complex by the day. This technology has provided us with easy communication, shopping, security, and simplifying our lives. However, with this ease comes the cost of giving up our private information that would not be available to anyone else twenty years ago. With the advent of new products marketed to simplify our lives, it comes at the cost of giving up our personal privacy. As a result of this new age of constant surveillance both on and offline, people seek to find ways to limit their “digital footprint.” While the corners of the internet and the eye of the latest camera attached smart device can be a confusingly unnerving place, with careful deliberation and lifestyle changes, privacy can be restored in the digital world.

For a person that was born after the introduction of the internet there has never been a time where I haven’t been around a screen or new piece of technology; however, even for me the number and types of new technology seems to grow by the day. What this means is that there is an ever-increasing amount of ways that our information can be collected. Today, this has become almost obscene: doorbells being replaced by cameras, search engines that constantly record you, and little screens that sit in a room and send live video to the owner’s phone just to name a few. Not only does the physical technology pose a threat, but our activity online is the perfect place for our information to be sold across the internet or be taken by a cybercriminal. According to an article from welivesecurity.com our online information is being sold by free websites in order to create a profit for themselves. Through the use of complex disclosure statements, the things people blindly click that they agree to, free online software have complete access to our browsing data and personal information. This problem is worsened by the populous’ own ignorance as according to an article from Forbes 52% of people do not know how to secure their personal information online and one-third of all people don’t think they have any control with companies collecting their data.

    With the surplus of online activity and digital interaction we have in a day, it may seem like it’s impossible to secure data and protect ourselves from cybercriminals. While it is not impossible, it is increasingly hard as technology evolves. As well governments across the world have accomplished little to help its citizens. In the same article from welivesecurity.com, it is explained that the United States Government has had only one major attempt to protects its citizens, but this was struck down in 2017 under the Trump administration. Due to this decision, ISPs could continue collecting data from their unsuspecting users. While the EU plans to put into action a law that restricts some collection of personal data in 2018 for all companies, there are still holes in this plan as international companies will likely evade sanctions. In order for a government mandate to be successful in stopping the secret collection of data, it must be made apparent that countries have power of international companies, something that can be incredibly complex with laws around the world.  Knowing that the protection on individual data is largely disregarded by national governments across the world, protection is something that must come from each individual. The most important thing to know is that while technology that invades our privacy has evolved, so has the technology to protect our privacy. The website rightsinfo.org explains some of these steps and technologies that people can use to protect themselves. The website includes many software and add-ons designed to do things like store unique, complex passwords in one place, encrypt your sent messages online, hide your IP address, and allow you to browse the internet without constant collection of search data. These methods allow users to have peace of mind when browsing the internet as they restrict companies access to your personal information. Encryption allows for any messages or searches to remain private as the code is not available to companies trying to collect your information. As the need is presented, technology evolves to protect individuals who have the initiative to protect their personal information.

    While the advent of new technology has put many at risk for the loss of their privacy, the biggest objector to data privacy is the people who do not mind their data being used or even prefer it. When looking at the downsides of our data being used without our knowledge, it is easy to forget that a lot of the time our data is being used to streamline a process. For example, when our phone automatically knows our location, creates a playlist of recommended songs, or identifies items that we may want to purchase, it is doing this to for the benefit of the user. Some people do not want to lose this accessibility and feel that they have nothing to hide in the first place. However, while these people will always exist, the majority of the population still tends toward the side of data privacy.

    The digital age has brought upon us new challenges that we will have to continue to face when it comes to our personal privacy. Luckily for the users of these devices, with innovation to devices that limit our privacy, innovation comes to programs and technology that can build it back up. While this can take some learning to understand where you need protecting, with self-initiative your digital footprint can virtually be erased. The vastness of the internet and rapidly evolving technology may at first dishearten those who care about their privacy, but the tools we need to protect ourselves online can be uncovered with the stroke of the keyboard.

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CC BY-SA 4.0 How can we secure privacy in a world full of new technology? by William is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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