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Privacy Predicament: Is Ignorance Truly Bliss?

Privacy Predicament: Is ignorance truly bliss?

The millennial generation is often surrounded by the idea that everyone is ‘over-connected’ and technology is, in fact, no longer a privilege but a part of everyday life. Technological companies such as Google, Apple, and Facebook abuse the pathos appeal in order to draw in their audience. The privacy of many is exploited as they naively follow the direction of these companies rather than paving a path for themselves. Although these companies can and do disrupt our private lives and interactions, I believe that we as a society contribute to the madness by poorly protecting our own freedoms and privacy.

Pokémon Go, the latest and only release made to run on a phone developed by the company Niantic on Nintendo’s behalf, took the summer of 2016 by storm. This interactive game brought users together and motivated many to experience the outdoors, so it was no surprise that within the first few days millions of downloads had been made, there was however, one detail overlooked by many. The app allows users to either create a Pokémon account (though the site’s account system is not currently accepting new members), or log in through a previously existing Google account. Many websites allow the use of a Google account, Pokémon Go however, is given full access to their users data. Thus meaning these companies have permission to read all emails, send emails, view search history, and apprehend personal information. Many users, including myself, unknowingly logged on and spent sunny days searching for Mewtwo and Dragonite while our personal information was being exposed. So, perhaps the question everyone living in the 21st century should be asking themselves is: Is ignorance truly bliss?

Although it is easy to place the blame on companies earning a profit by utilizing our personal information, we must also look within and recognize that we play a part in this game of cat and mouse as well. In no way are we forced to post any pictures on Facebook, or any other social media site, for that matter. Nor are we required to even sign up for these social media sites, to give (in most cases) a first and last name, and email, an address, and in some instances, even a phone number. Once the information that we post appears online, it is always there. Social media responsibility is a topic often discussed throughout grade school. Students are reminded that what is posted online stays online, and that there is no way to permanently delete information put on the world wide web. This holds true for personal information as well.

Fortune 500 companies should not be the average consumers primary concern when considering privacy related issues. The high school I attend, for instance, requires forms to be filled out at the beginning of every year, within these forms students are requested to allow information submitted on school servers to be observed. By signing said forms, students grant the school system permission to monitor all messages and searches sent while using the school provided Wi-Fi. Schools implement rules involving technology in order to provide the students with safety and insure the focus is on earning quality education rather than a text message. However, one is forced to consider, even with positive motives, if such rules are a breach in privacy.

As concerns surrounding technology continue to rise, the availability of devices and codes used to monitor activities as well as the possibility of certain items ending up in the wrong hands become more common. I have had a profile on Tumblr, a social media microblogging site, for approximately 3 years, and the stability of my account has never been a concern until recently. One month ago my account was hacked. The way whoever did so is still unknown, although I believe it could’ve been through clicking a faulty link where they then acquired my username and password. I discovered the hacker relatively soon and was able to change my account information with ease, but not before they sent out messages to all of my followers. The messages contained information pertaining to making money online and also included a link. Even though everything ended fine, it was still quite frightening. This specific situation has forced me to make some major changes in the way I use social media. I now pay closer attention to what sites I make accounts on and give my information to. I also change my passwords more frequently and never use the same password for numerous web sites.

Situations such as getting hacked online or scammed over the phone occur often, but privacy may be taken advantage of in other ways. For example, by simply posting a photo on Instagram everything within the image is monitored to ensure it fits the app’s ‘guidelines.’ Instagram also evaluates what each user posts to tailor ads towards specific interests and what would sell best. Google Docs also takes advantage of personal information and pieces of work by stating within their terms of service you automatically give them permission to reproduce, modify, and even publish any information stored on their program. It seems as though Google can basically do anything with the content you create and store on Google Docs. These websites are not the first to analyze personal information and use it to earn a profit and will definitely not be the last. These intrusive tactics are used all around the world and perhaps the companies doing so are at fault for exploiting the public, however, we as a collective population have also fallen short for allowing such instances to occur.