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Susannah Meyer

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Privacy Rights in the Digital Age

Posted: 01/19/12 09:33 AM ET

There once was a time when anything you did, along with any type of file or record, was handwritten, and lost in a matter of time. Of course, I wasn't alive then. Privacy in the digital age has become pretty transparent, and increasingly so. Now, as rapid technological advances are being made, the right to privacy is questionable, in my opinion. What exactly motivates people to make their private lives public on social media sites, how permanent a record is, and what really is and isn't private are all factors of privacy that are changing as time goes on, and as technology advances.

The phrase 'permanent record' seems to be taking on a whole new meaning nowadays. Anything you've done, be it good or bad, tends to make its way onto the Internet. Anything that has a chance to be passed onto someone who can record it by any means, truly seems to keep itself in existence for long beyond what one person can even remember alone. For people who uphold a reputation through things they put out on the Internet, this is no means for worrying. However, for people trying to find work in this economy, a rumor documented 20 years ago could serve as validation for rejection.

People have become so concerned with this that there are programs that can force emails or documents to literally self-destruct after a certain period of time, so that after a while, it is completely faded.

Companies can find virtually any piece of information about a person that they would want to know. Whenever you fill out a survey, listing your name, address, or phone number, that information can end up on a website where vendors offer hundreds of thousands of names simultaneously, to be placed on a mailing list. Companies can locate this information. Even medical information that you voluntarily filled out on a survey can also be found on one of these websites. This, however, may not be all bad. When the correct information is shared, sharing information can actually make for a more relevant and meaningful relationship. Without information to form an image to your name, you just serve as a couple of words on a list one million words long.

What I don't know is why people do this. Every day, people all over willingly write down personal information on a website, just for convenience, discounts, and other benefits, even though those benefits may later be outweighed. In this way, online data presents itself as a privacy minefield. The extent to which companies will admit to where your information is going is not given much attention, considering it is probably hidden in the fine print, in the middle of a page people usually scroll through in seconds, clicking "accept."

On social media sites, people assume that any information they post will be kept within their circle of "friends." As I've researched, the reality is not as pleasing as one would like it to be. Whenever you take a quiz on Facebook, an assumption that is most likely made is that you are just answering a bunch of pointless questions. However, quizzes are applications, which can be made by anyone in the world that has access to Facebook. When you take a quiz, you open up your entire profile and anything that your friends can see to whoever made the quiz. It is clear to me that people don't know this, but I still wonder why people choose to reveal so much of their lives to the public. Most people post a few pictures, write pointless statuses, and that's that. But some people share most moments of their lives with Facebook, which can turn out to be a whole lot of people.

Not only is your information open to the public, but so is your GPS location. Digital parking meters, cell phones, apartment intercom systems, security cameras, and more, all have ways of recording your comings and goings.

So, is it fair that as technology improves, our rights to privacy dissipate? In the opinion of the general population, no, but sometimes, the advantages of technology are far more beneficial than having more privacy rights. Although this can be the case, sometimes you just have to wonder how much really is too much.

Where do you think the line of privacy has been crossed?