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Privacy and Information Technology

Privacy and Information Technology

HARIDHA P 137 16-Dec-2022

Humans respect their right to privacy and the defence of their personal space. They prize having some say over who can reveal what about them. It goes without saying that they do not want anyone to ever get access to their personal information. However, new developments in information technology pose a threat to privacy, have diminished the amount of control over personal data, and raise the prospect of a number of unfavourable outcomes as a result of access to personal data. 

Data protection laws were implemented in the second half of the 20th century in response to the growing amount of personal data processing. Modern information technology and big data have taken over in the twenty-first century (e.g. forms of deep learning),exabytes of data are stored and processed, which leads to the emergence of huge tech corporations and the platform economy.

Concerns regarding unfavourable outcomes have been confirmed by Edward Snowden's revelations and, more recently, the Cambridge Analytica case (Cadwalladr & Graham-Harrison 2018, for example). Now that the technical infrastructure is in place, both government agencies and corporate players regularly use it to gather, store, and search vast amounts of data related to phone calls, internet searches, and electronic payments. 

The rise of China and the widespread use of cutting-edge digital technology for surveillance and control have only increased people's concerns. Customers' and potential customers' personal information is becoming a valuable resource for businesses.

Shoshana Zuboff (2018) has provided a detailed description of the extent and goals of the personal data-focused business models used by Big Tech (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple).Nevertheless, there is still a lot of disagreement over what privacy is and how valuable it is. 

Problems with law, policy, and ethics arise from the interaction between new technology's growing power with the public's waning understanding of and agreement on privacy. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which was implemented by the EU in spring 2018 as the replacement for the EU 1995 Directives and has application far beyond the borders of the European Union, provides the background for many of these philosophical disputes and difficulties.

1. Privacy concepts and the importance of privacy

The usage of technology and privacy debates are interwoven. The invention of the printing press for newspapers and photography led to the publication that kicked off the privacy debate in the West. The Harvard Law Review essay on privacy by Samuel D. Warren and Louis Brandeis (Warren & Brandeis 1890) was written in part in protest at the invasive reporting practises of the day's journalists. 

On the grounds of the 'inviolate individuality' idea, they claimed that there is a 'right to be left alone.'Since the publication of that essay, assertions about the right of individuals to control how much information about them is accessible to others (Westin 1967) and claims about the right of society to know about people have fueled the privacy issue. 

The privacy argument has grown with and in response to the advancement of information technology since information is the foundation of access to people. The evolution of computers, the Internet, mobile computing, and the numerous uses of these fundamental technologies make it difficult to separate the concepts of privacy from talks about data protection.

2. How privacy is affected by information technology

The privacy discussions nearly always centre on new technologies, including genetics and the broad research of biomarkers, brain imaging, drones, wearable sensors and sensor networks, social media, smart phones, closed circuit television, as well as government cybersecurity initiatives, direct marketing, surveillance, RFID tags, big data, head-mounted displays, and search engines. the effects of some of these novel technologies, with information technology as the primary focus.

3. In what ways might information technology itself address privacy issues?

Despite the fact that information technology is frequently blamed for privacy issues, there are a number of ways it might really assist in their resolution. Systems that protect user privacy might be designed using certain principles, recommendations, or best practises. 

These options include deploying encryption to safeguard private data from illegal use as well as ethically sound design techniques. The protection of personal data can be significantly aided by information security techniques that are specifically designed to keep data safe from unauthorised access.

4. New developments and our perceptions of privacy

In the previous sections, we discussed how modern technology could affect privacy as well as how they might help to lessen unfavourable impacts. There are, however, new and developing technologies that might have an even greater influence. Think of brain-computer interfaces as an example. 

In the event that computers are directly connected to the brain, not only are behavioural traits subject to privacy concerns, but also one's ideas face the risk of becoming public and being used as the basis for other people's decisions. Furthermore, the use of such technologies may make it possible to alter behaviour. In light of these developments, it is necessary to give privacy protections more thought.

The need to preserve privacy is consequently further justified in light of these changes. Autonomy would be a value to reevaluate in order to offer proper protection, particularly when brain functions could be altered from the outside.In addition to comparing information technology to present moral standards, one must also take into account the possibility that technical advancements may have an impact on standards themselves (Boenink, Swierstra & Stemerding 2010). 

As a result, technology not only affects privacy by altering information accessibility but also by altering the standards for personal information. For instance, social networking platforms encourage users to share more data than they might otherwise.


A passionate writer, blogger, language trainer, co-author of the book 'Irenic' and an enthusiastic learner. Interest includes travelling places and exploring.

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