Is privacy a right, or a responsibility?


writer icon Paige Whitehead     Benjamin Balazs   |   Tech Ethics     🕐 06. Aug. 2018

Artificial intelligence has been making headlines recently for the issues it raises over privacy. Yet, technology has invaded our privacy for a long time and with our permission.

Click to accept

Privacy used to be an inherent right, something that was expected and given. Now, online users are forced to monitor their privacy with every new app and on every new website.

To deny the terms of every program would effectively leave a user in the dark ages, unable to use the newest software. This creates a vicious cycle that compels users to accept having their private information distributed to several sources.

Every time a new program or application is installed on a device, there is usually an electronic agreement involved, the Terms of Service. Most people do not read these, they simply click accept in order to move on with the program. 

Clicking accept may allow the program to access and use their private data.

This private data can then be sold to a third party who can use it to solicit adverts to the user. With the click of a button, one's private data has the potential to be sold, and reach hundreds of other sources.

If the terms of service are written well enough, they can get the program out of almost any lawsuit. With so many negatives to the online contracts, why do they keep working?

How they succeed

Terms of services are generally lengthy and contain legal jargon that can be difficult to understand. This means that if one were to read the terms of every program installed, they still might not understand what it meant. Most people do not have the time, or the money, to consult a lawyer every time they download an app. 

Instant gratification is a large component of our society. Technology has enabled us to get what we want with just a few clicks of a button. 

Terms of service can take a lot of time to read and understand. They require something that goes against what we are accustomed to. We click right through them.

That is exactly what the companies using them want. They do not want users to know what they do with private data, so they bury it in wordy phrases, hoping that no one will read it. 

If someone does read it, hopefully, they will not understand it. If they do understand it, hopefully, they will not spend their time on a lawyer and just click accept anyway. Those who do read the fine print and subsequently choose not to accept are in the minority.

Finding loopholes

Europe recently launched the General Data Protection Regulation or, GDPR. Due to GDPR, websites and apps in the EU must now notify the user of what they use private data for, and who they send it to. This is a major improvement in protecting the privacy of online users, but some companies are not taking it well.

The blogging site, Tumblr, requires users to manually uncheck every single one of their 350+ partners in order to protect their privacy. Other sites simply refuse service to those in the EU, unwilling to comply with the privacy standards.

Even with the standards of GDPR, some users will still click accept and move on.

Vicious Cycle

Facebook, Amazon, and Google have all recently been under fire for their invasions of privacy and questionable ethics. Overall, the companies seemed surprised at the reactions from the public. This is understandable given that they, along with other companies, have been invading users’ privacy for years thanks to their terms of service agreements.

To protect themselves, people must sift through large and difficult contracts. In the moment, most people do not seem to consider the outcomes of relinquishing their data to outside sources. 

The outcry over privacy ethics is understandable. It is also about twenty years too late. Going forward, users should consider if their privacy is worth the latest technology. Perhaps it is their responsibility now, not merely their right.

We believe that information should be free and will therefore never put up a paywall.

If you like reading our reports about the Scandinavian business scene and would like to donate towards the upkeep of the site, we would be very grateful. Click here to donate.

Most Popular Articles of November

Most Popular Articles of this Year