It’s become all too obvious that one’s privacy is not only limited, but also sometimes nonexistent in today’s online world.
Thankfully, efforts currently underway by congressional leaders are attempting to restore online privacy, providing oversight and accountability for those that profit from exposing others’ information – aspirations that should be applauded and supported.
Similar to the “Do Not Call” list, which currently protects 200 million phone numbers from being used by telemarketers, both Republican and Democratic leadership has shown support for “Do Not Track” technology, which allows users to opt out of demographic-specific advertisements based on what sites they’ve visited.
The Senate Commerce Committee is expected to discuss the issue during the first public hearing on online privacy concerns scheduled for February. Efforts also include legislation spearheaded by Sen. John Kerry to create a federal office that would be dedicated to protecting online privacy, in addition to giving the Federal Trade Commission the authority to penalize companies that fail to meet online privacy regulations, according to Politico.com
While it’s currently unclear how effective or far-reaching any potential changes would be, there’s a need to limit the invasive nature of the contemporary online world.
Earlier this month, Facebook changed its policy to provide users’ addresses and phone numbers to developers of applications – a controversial decision that was changed after public backlash.
Not surprisingly, there are sites providing much more detailed information.
With only the click of the mouse, one can access sites like Spokeo.com, which epitomize the current problems with privacy. By entering either a name, phone number or online user name, Spokeo allows visitors to find practically anyone and, amazingly, provides their last known physical address, age, gender, marital status, estimated income and even what type of residential building they live in.
Spokeo allows those who are bothered by their information being posted to remove it, but this means little if one is unfamiliar with the site.
This personal information could easily fall into the hands of not only advertisers, but also obsessive stalkers and predators, with potentially devastating results.
The nature of the Internet has changed in the decades since it was first conceived, becoming a daily part of millions of lives and a staple of contemporary culture all over the world.
It’s then natural and expected that governmental authorities be provided with the power to protect the rights of citizens from malicious practices that violate citizens’ constitutionally granted rights to a relative degree of privacy. As the world changes, so must the laws that govern it. The online world should be no different.