I once attended a focus group where I watched a girl get very passionate about her online privacy. She explained that she never gave out her information to any companies on any social or digital platforms (not even websites!) because she didn’t trust the person on the other side. I didn’t understand this, as almost all of my friends work in media, and even those who don’t, will willingly give up private information, especially if they are promised samples. I’m the same way. Free chewing gum sample? Take my information!

Before I get into this discussion, I have to mention that I am not aware if this girl knew that her privacy isn’t exactly in her hands (cookies, etc.)

Privacy issues are extremely important in our day and age and not just because of some anti-advertising-Banksy-style idea, but because online privacy is multi-faceted and there is a lot to it that we, as normal people, are not aware of and often don’t care to make ourselves aware of. In some cases, not caring about privacy can be highly detrimental.

There’s a common hypothesis that young people, or millenials (everyone below the age of 35) don’t care about their privacy as much as those above 35 do. However, more recently, Harvard, Berkeley and University of Pennsylvania disproved this theory, claiming that young people, specifically teenagers, care about privacy as much as adults do. Interestingly but not surprisingly, the studies also claim that students believe privacy laws to be a lot more stringent than they actually are. The studies push for stronger privacy regulations.

Advertisers taking your information to sell you relevant products are a tiny part of online privacy issues – and possibly the safest. Highly qualified and experienced individuals can hack into your various social media accounts, share defamatory content and even access your online banking information. Mobile applications can now track your location, what you’re buying and the contacts in your address book. Roger Kay, a principle analyst at Endpoint Technologies, offers a particularly dark outcome – a possibility that future Governments are fascist, and one where they won’t have to collect information because we’ve already, willingly offered to put it on the internet.

When it comes to online privacy, there is a lot of grey area. There are a lot of things we are not aware of and that are not clear. The only way we can help ourselves is by being extremely aware of where our information is going and what it is being used for. We could all start by reading those long user agreement documents before hitting “Agree”.

Do you care about your online privacy? What are some steps you take to ensure your safety?

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