Photo by Arnold Franziska on Unsplash
Online privacy is a growing concern among digital users. In an age where so many things have moved online, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many are wondering, “What is being done with our data? Who has access to it? What risks might consumers face if it falls into the wrong hands?”
The 2018 report confirms that while older people seem to take online privacy issues such as data tracking very seriously, younger generations are more concerned about privacy on social media and things that users openly share.
“Sometimes on Snapchat or Instagram, I’m private, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that people who aren’t following me can’t see my information,” said Kyriaki Pambis, a third-year concurrent education student, when asked about her general knowledge about online privacy. “If someone who follows me has access to my social media, they can expose someone who doesn’t, and then in a sense there will always be a trail online,” Pambis said.
Students are clearly concerned about their digital presence online regarding social media. However, other digital privacy issues arise, such as online data tracking.
“To be honest, I’m not really against data tracking,” Pambis said. “Yes, I know people can get your information and sell it, but what are they going to do with the information? I’m one person, I don’t think they’re going to be that concerned about one product that I’m looking at.”
However, Pambis noted that she is concerned about situations that are considered more serious. “It’s half and half. I’m not going to go out of my way to give away my private information or anything like that, but I don’t really care about the publicity.’
Many different forms of online media can be used to track their users. According to Internet security expert Clario, there are more things tracking your online activity than you might expect.
Search engines collect user data for “profiling”, which adapts advertising to the specific tastes of the consumer. Social media is prone to data breaches, with hackers leaking the personal information of hundreds of millions of users. Apps are designed to learn a lot about us through our phones; In fact, Apple has implemented a feature where users must determine whether they trust third-party apps when they open an app for the first time.
According to an FTC report, online privacy has been adversely affected by COVID-19, with identity theft doubling in 2020 compared to the previous year.
Pambis said that while she has been using her digital devices much more during the COVID-19 pandemic, she never thought about the impact it would have on online privacy. “[Throughout the pandemic,] people were very lonely in their homes and they needed that connection. They didn’t care much about their private lives,” Pambis said.
There are ways to avoid detection online. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are becoming increasingly common among digital users, providing a layer of protection for online consumers from data tracking. But these types of services aren’t free, and more people don’t use VPNs than do. A 2021 study found that only 41 percent of adults use a VPN for personal or business reasons.
When asked why younger people aren’t as concerned about data tracking as older people, Pambis remarked:
“It’s inevitable… you know it’s going to happen, so we’re not really against it because it’s a reality we have to live with. I understand the words of the older generations: “don’t post everything on the Internet.” In a way, I stick to it.”
Pambis concluded by talking about the importance of each digital consumer in the eyes of the corporate entities that track their information, “there are about eight billion people on earth; I don’t think they will care about you specifically.”
In general, adults and younger generations have different views on the concept of online privacy and what it means to them. This is often the result of different ideas about where online privacy should begin and end when it comes to social platforms.