Do social media sites have the right to know every move you make on your devices? Do you have the right to privacy? These are questions many people are asking today because privacy is not directly mentioned in the constitution.
Just last month the Supreme Court heard United States v. Microsoft Corp.—a case that will decide if the U.S. can access data stored in another country.
The discussion of online privacy rights is gaining momentum. Attorney Jennifer Miller, an adjunct member of the journalism and mass communication faculty who holds a degree from University of South Carolina School of Law, said she expects to see more cases on online privacy in the future.
“It’s hard to know what to expect [from a legal perspective] because there are no cases to reference,” Miller said. “But I’m sure we will be seeing more of these [online privacy cases] in the future.”
Today, technology is an integral part of most people’s existence. And like the locking of a home door, many people expect their personal activity online to stay private. However, many times this is not the case.
Matt Gardenghi, a specialist in BJU’s IT department, said privacy is not mentioned in the Constitution because there wasn’t a need for it. People shared secrets by word of mouth. There was no data collected and stored forever online in those days.
However, today technology is able to track and accurately predict peoples’ actions and even outcomes of the future based on their activity.
For example, Gardenghi said statistically speaking, credit card companies are able to predict divorce before the couple is even talking about separating—this is called “predictive modeling”—which TechTarget defines as “a process that uses data mining and probability to forecast outcomes.”
Gardenghi also referenced an example that was discussed on a TED Talk episode by Jennifer Golbeck called “Your social media ‘likes’ expose more than you think,” where Target predicted a girl’s pregnancy before her parents even knew.
Their clairvoyancy came as result of tracking her recent purchase history. Her purchases fit those of an expecting mother so closely that Target sent advertisements for pregnancy items.
What does Facebook do with all this information? They tailor advertisements. They know what people are searching, watching and buying on different sites so they know what products interest them and what to advertise. Facebook benefits by collecting data from people.
Some people don’t mind if their every move is being tracked by different sites. They like their adds to be tailored to their preferences. But the question still remains: is collecting every bit of data necessary or is it a breach of privacy?
Gardenghi said many places simply collect data for their own benefit. They collect information from their online shoppers such as what products they are buying, what are people looking at and paying attention to, etc.
Gardenghi suggests using a program that will help keep you private. Two programs he mentioned are Ghostery and Adblock Plus.
Gardenghi also said people should be aware before sharing information that isn’t already public online because once something is out on the internet it will always be there.
“Reduce that voluntary handover,” Gardenghi said. “[That might look like] not signing up for reward cards, the ones that collect your name and tie it to [other information]. They’re trading information. So the question is: do you want to give that to them?”
Gardenghi emphasized that when someone is able to access your information, they will be able to take seemingly tiny pieces of information and put them together to understand how a person thinks.