Digital Privacy – Concept, characteristics and risks

We explain what digital privacy is, its characteristics, importance and risks of its absence. Also, privacy on the web.

digital privacy
Digital privacy can prevent the commercialization of our information.

What is digital privacy?

Digital privacy or privacy on the Internet, is he degree of control we have of the personal content that we voluntarily or involuntarily enter the Internet, as users, through web pages, applications or any other piece of software, especially when it is capable of being stored, used and commercialized by third parties.

Digital privacy implies the right that people have to manage our “digital footprint”, that is, the information that we leave behind when using the Internet and 2.0 technologies, and limiting its use by companies and third parties, both for legal and illegal purposes.

It is a contemporary concern that arose from the massification of online businesses and social exchange through digital platforms and social networks, linked to the so-called fourth generation Human Rights.

The problem with privacy and data protection on the Internet has to do with the fact that it is a relatively new area of ​​the human experience. That is why it is poorly regulated legally and without its own institutions.

Today inconceivable amounts of information are shared on the Internet daily in a disorderly manner and, in many cases, without supervision, thanks to technological dynamics whose knowledge and specialized handling are not exactly popularly accessible, that is, they are highly technical and specialized handling.

Numerous national and international initiatives have emerged at the beginning of the 21st century, interested in a legal regulatory framework or some type of jurisdiction regarding the management of information on the network. The aim is especially to regulate “big data”: the large amounts of information that users enter the network voluntarily, and that is commercialized and used for private purposes without their knowledge or consent.

Features of digital privacy

Digital privacy is characterized, broadly speaking, by the following:

  • Refers to all forms of information that Internet users leave behind when browsing or using different types of applications and software. This can range from fundamental personal data, such as name, telephone number or credit card number, or more abstract data such as geographical location, personal contacts, browsing history and information consumption patterns, for example. .
  • It also refers to own content generated by users of the Internet, such as messages, images, videos and recordings, made to circulate voluntarily or involuntarily on the network, through private or public channels.
  • It is not limited to the use of web pages, but also to data transmission when performing operations e-commerce, use applications, instant messaging services or social networks.
  • It is usually regulated by local or national laws, contemplated in each particular legal system. However, the global nature of the Internet always poses a challenge for its local regulation.
  • It concerns software development companies and online services, and Internet access providers, who sell this service indiscriminately, and therefore must be responsible, even partially, for their mode of employment.

Issues and risks in digital privacy

The risks posed by the absence of digital privacy policies are much more serious than those of the majority of the population, and can affect privacy in catastrophic ways, if the appropriate measures are not taken in time. The main of these risks and problems are summarized in:

  • Tracking and geolocation. Devices such as cell phones or even the IP address of computers can reveal to third parties quite detailed aspects of the geographical location of users, such as where we are and for how long, with whom we coincide and where, which can be taken advantage of by malicious people to commit crimes and harassment.
  • Espionage and retention of confidential data. Through hackers and malicious programs, third parties may gain access to our Internet-connected devices and manipulate them to capture confidential information, such as credit card or social security numbers, or even compromising information using the webcam or microphone. of our devices. With that information they could then exert blackmail.
  • Traffic analysis. Different applications record our online habits, storing the information of what we see and for how long, and then they market that information to third parties, without us knowing who they are, what they will do with it or how much money the description of our Internet habits is worth.
  • SPAM and misleading advertising. This is nothing new for a traditional Internet user: false advertisements, false emails or that pretend to be from our banks (phishing or identity theft), in short, there are very different strategies on the Internet to capture our data and use it in against us, or to bombard us with advertising that is not only annoying, but ultimately restricts the capabilities of our electronic equipment.
  • Cyberbullying. Indiscriminate access to personal information allows cruel phenomena such as cyberbullying or cyberbullying, in which one or more individuals are dedicated to humiliating, defame or psychologically hurt a person, especially children and adolescents, in a much more ruthless version still of bullying or bullying.

Importance of digital privacy

digital privacy phising importance
The lack of digital privacy affects social, economic and political aspects of life.

Digital privacy It is essential to guarantee the correct, respectful and safe use of the dynamics that the Internet enables. It is a step, if you like, towards a friendlier, safer Internet that encourages responsible use of technology.

In addition, the risks posed by a lack of digital privacy are real and immense, and its effects on everyday life can be tragic, especially in the hyper-connected and vigilant world that is shaping up towards the middle of the 21st century.

Privacy on the web

To comply with the privacy regulations on the network, there are already different measures that must be complied with in relation to the recipient of the information, although in many cases they are far from ideal. Examples of this are:

  • Legal notices. Legal notices are informative content that a company is obliged to introduce in its digital portals and in its communications, to provide the user with all the legal and commercial information they need to know with whom they are doing transactions, that is, from whom they buy or who provides your information.
  • Privacy policies. On web pages and in certain types of applications, access to confidential or personalized information can only be given when the user accepts the terms and conditions of use. This usually occurs when entering the page and generally under the same logic of the fine print in advertisements and contracts: something cumbersome and abundant, which no user reads or takes too seriously, despite the fact that it really is.
  • “Cookies”. This is the name given to small files that are installed in the users’ browsing software, and that serve to remember information about their behavior. Some may be useful for remembering passwords or logged in sessions, and others may instead compile data and send it to third parties for advertising purposes. The installation of these files, however, must be expressly accepted in order to be legal.
  • Privacy in emails. The companies that send massive information by e-mail are obliged to take the pertinent measures so that the user distinguishes between formal and official communications, and copies or imitations for unscrupulous purposes, and so that any data exchange carried out with the institution occurs. under strict security and privacy protocols. Likewise, companies that carry out mass advertising (mailing lists) must offer users the opportunity to unsubscribe at any time they wish to stop receiving their mailings.

Privacy in social networks

Social media is another thorny terrain for digital privacy, as people often use it to share personal information or establish social connections, sometimes with complete strangers. Therefore, there are important recommendations to preserve privacy on social networks, such as:

  • Control the privacy settings of our social media accounts: to whom we give permission to see our photos, to write to us or to access data such as our telephone number or email address. All this should be able to be managed through the account on the social network, so that not everyone has access to us.
  • Be wary of accounts that pretend to be celebrities or famous people who insist on contacting us, especially when they promise prizes or other schemes. We must be selective about who we disclose information to in our private accounts.
  • Restrict the submission of highly sensitive information, such as passwords, intimate photographs or even our location in real time through social networks. We must always know who we are giving access to our privacy, and we must behave in social networks just as we would in the public square.
  • Choose if we want to receive personalized ads (that is, if we want to provide our browsing and behavior data on social networks) or not. We can always refuse to provide information, and we must consider it as valuable as money: when an application on social networks asks us to have access to our information in exchange for something, it is not really offering us a free service, but we are paying for it with personal information.