November 18, 2018 | ° F

ARMSTRONG: Searching on World Wide Web has upsides, downsides

Opinions Column: The Digital Dilemma

To go on Facebook, YouTube or other various websites that one might enjoy is, ideally, that individual’s personal information, right? It just might be their guilty pleasure — everyone has one. Though, within the nature of being online and being active on virtual realities, there are no options for the typical civilian to have online privacy in peace. Within former President Barack Obama's term, specifically in October, the Federal Communications Commission required broadband providers to get customer’s permission prior to collecting and profiting off of private online data. However, Republicans in Congress overturned that in the midst of Trump’s presidency, which means the telecommunication industry profits leap by billions. What do they need our information for? Maybe targeted advertisements, research, pure waste of time, but what most want to know is how this will affect their personal online experience. What should be pondered is the driving force behind this overturn, and even if the overturn does follow through, what will change in terms of privacy online?

It is impertinent to discuss why every human desires and deserves privacy. Though privacy was discussed under another light, here it is essential to resurface the idea. Privacy is the state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people. Why does every human desire and deserve privacy? It is human nature to occasionally want to be alone, secluded, free of other’s opinions. But in this day and age, privacy seems more like a luxury than a right. Should individuals be paying more for not only online privacy via VPNs, but also mental privacy and special privacy?

What the digital entities have done to privacy is jarring — our ancestors would have never imagined. Life on the internet is vastly different than reality: One can think and perfect a response before sending a text rather than being on the spot and thinking on his feet. It’s just two different ballgames — moments pass but posts stay forever, even if you think you have deleted it. When something monumental happens in person, it could be as public or private as you would like, but online, people you don’t even know have the opportunity to see that intimate and important moment. So when it comes to virtual social scenes and communication, the devices we use that seem to be the answer to all problems — how much should one relinquish to utilize the benefits?

The initial act did not stop people from seeing customers’ IP addresses and the websites they visited. But with the overturning of this rule, broadband providers do not need permission not only to collect private data but to sell it to advertisers and whomever else provides a good enough offer. Internet service providers always had accessibility to this information. But now it gives advertisers a big okay to not only notice the opportunity but pursue what could put their product in your face more frequently. This is one of many ways the economy of the United States could benefit: At the cost of civilians’ privacy. Is online privacy obtainable in modern day United States? With virtual private networks (VPNs), you can be located in a location that is not yours, or one could utilize Tor, which is a type of software that aids users in hiding identities and locations, though the creators of those services still have access to what people are doing online.

Searching on the World Wide Web has many upsides and downsides. Knowing information with a couple taps of a finger to being watched constantly by Big Brother are the truths that we inhabit here in the 21st century. What this comes down to is very simple — what does privacy mean to you and how much do you value it? This is a personal question that requires personal investigation and implementation. If you value your personal life and privacy more than anything, maybe you will highly limit the amount of wifi you use — maybe you will be wise in what you post, where you post it and what you search when you think no one is watching. It is impossible to live in today’s world without being subject to some of the rules that come with being online: But the line you have to draw is a personal one, and I would love to hear what that is for you.

Yazmin Armstrong is a School of Engineering junior majoring in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering. Her column, "The Digital Dilemma," runs on alternate Thursdays.

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Yazmin Armstrong

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