Privacy refers to the right of an individual to determine or chose who, when, how or to what level his/her personal details can be shared. Privacy help users trust online services with their personal information. Yet time and again, internet privacy is always under pressure of being undermined. Promoting strong data privacy measures and ethical data collection methods can protect and foster online privacy.
Privacy is an essential element of our lives-whether online or in the real world. It helps folks express themselves, preserve their dignity and go about their lives knowing their personal details are safe. However, technological advancement has made information gathering a super easy and inexpensive activity. For instance:
Data storage costs are very low thus encouraging internet users to store their data for a very long time.
- Data proliferation is on the increase due to fast sharing and distribution
- Online search tools have been designed to search for everything including images, sounds, movements, locations and other things making it easier to track anybody and what they do.
- There are sophisticated tools to link, correlate and analyze data in large scale
- Mobile phones have features that keep us connected to the web for easy tracking.
Personal data is currently profitable in many ways. Each day, many people are exchanging information over the internet (whether knowingly or unknowingly). The increase in this data puts many people at risk and exerts even greater challenges on data protection methods.
This is why it’s imperative that there be some form of global privacy protection measures that promote ethical data collection and handling. Such a framework will foster the concepts of transparency, fairness, participation, legitimacy and accountability.
Global Internet privacy policies
Even though the world refused the internet to be controlled by the UN or any other single entity, some key concerns like personal privacy, intellectual property protection, hate speech, online child safety and regulation of objectionable content have motivated global interactions in an effort to clean up the internet.
Nevertheless, there are no data protection or universal privacy laws that apply to the web. In an attempt to curb the growing privacy concerns, several democracies like the US unite to come up with laws that govern every facet of the internet. This is what some people term “Multistakeholderism.”
Multistakeholderism, like democracy, has been found to be lacking in many ways. For instance, it doesn’t clearly define the issues of internet governance or stipulates the paramount values shaping the internet policy. However, there are a few national and international frameworks that have wrapped their tentacles together to come up with a set of key privacy principles. One of these organizations is OECD- Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development created in 2013. Their privacy guidelines are majorly used as a reference point when developing Internet privacy policies.
OECD’s principles advocate the following:
- Data quality- the data collected should be complete, accurate and used for the purpose it was intended for without manipulation.
- Collection limitation- collecting personal data should have limits. The process should also be done through a fair or lawful means of course with the consent of the owner.
- Purpose specification- how personal data will be used should be specified beforehand and limited to that purpose only.
- Use limitation- there should be a limit to how personal data can be used; such information needs not to be disclosed, distributed or used for other purposes without the consent of the owner.
- Security safeguards- personal data should be protected by the best security standards possible
- Openness- a general policy of openness regarding online privacy can help everyone feel secure
- Individual participation- individuals should have right to edit, delete or decide to what extent their details can be shared.
- Accountability-those who collect personal information should comply with the rules in place and are responsible for protecting user data.
Challenges facing global Internet privacy policies
- What data needs protecting
Privacy policies and laws protect personal information. Commonly, personal information is defined as “any information related to an identifiable individual.” However, definitions vary and this makes it challenging to decide what information is considered personal. Furthermore, the ever advancing technology makes protecting personal data a pipe dream.
- Different legal requirements
Privacy laws differ from one country to another. What may be protected in the US may not enjoy the same favor in France and vice versa. To make matters worse, each country defends its laws to be applicable to its people. This makes it very hard to come up with uniform global laws to protect the privacy of all Internet users. We have a great example of US. States push their privacy rules for internet privacy protection.
The same concern goes for protecting an individual’s data when it crosses borders. There should be some provisions in place for these “special” circumstances. Otherwise, providing maximum security for personal data will be impossible.
- Real meaningful consent
Privacy laws allow corporations or organizations to use personal information after the user has consented to it. Nevertheless, the agreement terms to be signed by the user are usually lengthy and written in legal jargon that makes it impossible for them to know what exactly they are signing for. Users’ need some systems that can allow them to know if their data is being used contrary to the terms of an agreement.
Even though there are no global policies protecting user data, many organizations have come up with pretty good laws that can guarantee the safety of internet users. These policies provide standards that can be adopted by many other internet organizations. If Internet users find it hard to trust the internet, they can hamper its development.