Privacy and the Internet mix like oil and water. As more websites gear up to provide transparency over the Web, privacy has taken on a new meeting in the virtual world. Everyone from Facebook to Google wants to share your information. Your likes, dislikes and your hobbies are all on display on the Web, which leads to one question - what is still private in the Digital Age?
As you look to reduce the amount of personal information shared on the Internet, it's worth taking a step back and looking at how the dilemma is evolving in real-time. There have been a number of recent developments that have changed the way we look at privacy and protect ourselves from others on the Web. Examining changes to privacy measures can give us a better understanding of how the Internet impacts our daily lives.
'The Right to Be Forgotten'
Earlier this summer, the European Union came together to create "The Right to Be Forgotten." This new ruling states that search engines have to remove online information that may be a threat to "freedom of speech." In short, this regulation gives each person "the right to be forgotten" by Google if he or she does not want to be traced. The issue was brought to light when a Spanish man found that information about old debts was still discoverable on Google. Arguing that the news was no longer relevant, the man made a case for himself.
But what does this mean in terms of privacy?
The ruling by the EU gives hope to those who feel like there is no such thing as leaving the past alone on the Web. Although the ruling has not become widespread around the world, the EU sets a leading example of how power can be taken from the Web and given back to its users.
Because the EU ruling is still relatively new, there have been questions surrounding how effective it will be in increasing privacy. The most common assumption is that "The Right to Be Forgotten" will prompt people to submit multiple requests without solid reason, and the rule itself will be hard to enforce. The EU is reportedly creating regulations to handle these issues, according to The Guardian.
DuckDuckGo Makes Headway
Internet search engine DuckDuckGo has made a name for itself with its no-tracking policy, which has more users looking its way - specifically those who are tired of Google capturing their information.
Most recently, DuckDuckGo has created a feature that allows individuals to enter search queries within specific regions to give more local results. However, people have been using it for months to receive unfiltered answers to their most pressing, "I bet I can find out on the Internet" types of questions.
This coming fall, DuckDuckGo will be available on the new Apple operating system, Yosemite. It seems that the search engine has a bright future ahead, but why are people going crazy for DuckDuckGo?
These days, privacy comes at a premium on the Internet. The Edward Snowden scandal and news on the NSA's activities have more people concerned about how much Big Brother knows about their personal lives. Until big search engines like Google can guarantee that they aren't being traced, people are naturally going to flock to new options like DuckDuckGo.
Facebook Manipulates Emotions?
The results of a study on Facebook in 2012 now have people questioning exactly how much control the Internet has over their lives.
In 2012, researchers at Facebook allegedly attempted to manipulate the emotions of its users. The goal was to determine if emotions are "contagious." Over the course of one week, some Facebook users were fed negative information through their Newsfeeds and analyzed for the sake of the study. Adam Kramer, the man who worked on the study, has since addressed the experiment on his Facebook account.
"The goal of all of our research at Facebook is to learn how to provide a better service," Kramer wrote on his profile. "Having written and designed this experiment myself, I can tell you that our goal was never to upset anyone."
However, many Facebook users still feel violated. This study is one key example of how privacy doesn't always come in the terms and conditions of using a website. That being said, it's becoming more important than ever before for individuals to think twice before they sign up for a site and use it for personal reasons.
Business, Privacy and the Internet
Companies and their marketing teams now have a gold mine of information to work with in terms of the Internet. Everything from CRM to email marketing software can help them get a better idea of how prospects are interacting with their business. However, the flipside of the coin is that not everyone wants this information out in the open. Now people are fighting back.
"The Right to Be Forgotten" in Europe may be an indication of what the future holds for the Web and its level of privacy. If this new regulation holds strong, people may gain more peace of mind when they surf the Web. In the event that it falters, one has to wonder when the invasion of privacy will stop.
However, not all companies are out to exploit the personal information of their prospects. In some instances, data can help businesses provide more suitable products and services to individuals on the Web. As the Internet continues to prove itself as a double-edged sword, the relationship between the Web and its users remains unstable.
Follow Jayson DeMers on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaysondemers