Anupam and Lauren (12) argue that increased reliance on internet and digital communications in the present world poses the need to have appropriate measures to guarantee privacy while online. Privacy issues are becoming a primary concern for internet users, whether it is usually from an informed or non-informed consent. This implies that internet users and the providers of such services are supposed to guarantee privacy when online.
Anonymity when communicating via the internet has become significant to most of the internet users mainly because most of the websites today log various personal details for diverse purposes such as marketing, surveys and maintaining a database of the web page visitors. Addressing the issue of web privacy requires the implementation of strict electronic privacy laws and policies through internet regulation.
Brostek and Libician (58) agree that the web is an open network that functions basing on the code of net neutrality. The subject of contention is whether the internet, just like any other form of mass media, should be subjected to regulation. Currently, various legislations such as the Data Protection Act have been adopted to enhance web privacy and curb any online activities that may jeopardize web privacy (Dororthy and Marcia 100).
Connolly (145) notes that the use of complete internet regulation to enhance online privacy is a contentions topic with diverse viewpoints. The basic argument is that internet regulation is required to address the problem associated with web privacy. This paper evaluates both sides of the argument regarding web privacy to evaluate whether the use of internet regulation is justified in the quest to reinforce web privacy.
Pros of internet regulation in reinforcing web privacy
Frackman and Ray (147) consent that “the use of internet regulation to reinforce web privacy serves to eliminate numerous illegal activities that are conducted over the internet”. The illegal online activity that is bound to affect the concept of web privacy is identity theft.
This is common in scenarios involving unregulated internet usage and cases whereby the provisions of the Data Protections Act have not been taken into consideration. This implies that internet regulation plays a significant role in the elimination of illegal online activities that serve to violate electronic privacy.
Some of the crimes that can be committed on an unregulated internet usage include financial frauds, theft of personal identity, swindles, phishing and various internet crimes. Similar sentiments were echoed by Miller and Vandome (128), who claimed that such crimes are usually committed due to inefficient regulation policies regarding the submission and revealing of personal information over the internet.
Without proper internet regulation, internet users will be less informed regarding the legitimacy of websites to post their personal details and that such web sites must reveal to the users the reasons behind collecting the personal information of the users. This implies that there will be an increased user’s awareness regarding the submission of personal details over the internet, which will in turn serve to reinforce privacy over the internet (Miller and Vandome 129).
Simson and Gene (95) agree that internet regulation eliminates the use of personal information collected without the consent of the user. Internet regulation imposes strict policies regarding the nature of the data collected, the specific purpose that does not serve to violate the interest of the users and using the data without the knowledge of the owners.
Smith (100) also asserts that “internet regulation protects the privacy of the data that has been collected by the owners of the website”. Privacy invasion is an increasing trend in the internet owing to the fact that there has been an increase in the volume of data being collected and traded without the knowledge of the users, or reported cases whereby website owners are not using the collected data for the specified purpose.
Simson and Gene (99) further affirm that “internet regulation will also play an integral role in eliminating privacy invasion over the internet”. This is because through internet regulation, website owners will be held legally accountable for release of personal information collected via their website and that any instances associated with inaccuracies can impose serious lawsuits being filed against the website owners.
Currently, there is no regulation legislation, which prohibits the trading of personal data gathered over the internet, and perhaps, internet regulation will fill the gap left by the absence of legislation to address this issue of trading of personal data over the internet (Smith 109).
The third pro of internet regulation as outlined in Simson and Gene (78) is that it serves to increase transparency among the internet service providers. Smith also supports the claim on grounds that transparency is an important aspect within the online community that is vital in ensuring that there is accountability for cases involving breaches of privacy over the internet and the data protection.
This is important in ensuring that internet service providers keep trail of the data transfers across their communication platform, which serves to enhance the surveillance of internet usage to determine potential cases of violations of privacy such as hackers. Monitoring the usage of the internet is a significant milestone in the quest to enhance privacy over the internet.
According to Frackman and Ray (78), providers and website owners are mandated to guarantee the privacy of the web page users and the relevant information posted on their websites. This is facilitated through controlling the type of data and the volume of data that is released relating to an individual via the internet, and others who may access the revealed personal information and use them inappropriately. Internet regulation also provides a framework through which internet users can reinforce their own privacy while online.
This is facilitated through the development of web pages that have privacy settings that can be customized according to personal preferences (Smith 45). Violations of privacy over the internet are dealt with using legal actions against the website owners and people responsible for such breaches. This is mainly because the reinforcement of internet regulation implies stringent rules and policies regarding defamation that is not justified.
Cons of internet regulations relating to web privacy
Despite the potential benefits in reinforcing web privacy due to regulation, there are diverse opposing viewpoints regarding the use of internet regulation to enhance privacy over the internet.
Connolly (100) claims that “internet regulation results to a total take over by the government and other key players in the telecommunication industry”, which can result to increased violations of the principle of net neutrality and will reduce the effectiveness of the internet as a mass communication media. According to Brostek and Libician (47), the aspect of web privacy is a dead concept, and there is no way that internet privacy can be reinforced, unless the internet usage is prohibited completely.
Internet connectivity in itself offers a potential loophole that malicious users can deploy to violate privacy and data protection laws. Connolly (89) claims that the internet offers a vast source of information, and imposing restrictive policies regarding its usage on grounds of protecting privacy will reduce its access to the information and has negative impacts on innovation.
Brostek and Libician (128) are against the concept of internet regulation because “it will be an impediment towards the freedom of expression”, which ultimately played an integral role in ensuring the success of the internet as a mass communication media. Since its inception, the internet has been an important source of open information, whereby people post their information while others use the internet to collect data.
Using internet regulation will be an impediment to the aspect of freedom of expression and constrain the access to the information source offered by the internet. Brostek and Libician (78) further asserts that the success of the internet will be reduced significantly since people are more used to an open internet rather than a restricted internet. Privacy over the internet can only be enhanced by encouraging the ethical and wise usage of the internet rather than fostering a restrictive medium.
Opponents claim that the internet is a communication tool that is to be used responsibly to foster privacy on the grounds that access to the internet itself increase the vulnerability of personal information being accessed and violated without one’s consent. Connolly (145) notes that internet regulation is not an effective strategy to address the issue of web privacy; rather, it serves to reduce the effectiveness of the internet as an open mass communication medium.
Brostek and Libician (147) are against the use of internet regulation because it serves to violate the concept of a free and open internet. This is because every individual has the right to access any internet content that is deemed lawful, provided that the access and usage under the provisions of the enforcement laws.
The internet is considered an open mass communication tool that functions under the standards of net neutrality. As such, internet regulation serves to violate the basic functioning principles of the internet that ultimately resulted to its success. In addition, there are cases whereby the gathering of personal information over the internet is for justified reasons such as government agencies and corporations.
Connolly (74) cites that an open and free internet is behind the success of new frameworks such as e-commerce, online marketing, the fight against terrorism and identification of criminals. This are the benefits associated with a free internet that is devoid of regulations.
Issues relating to privacy should be handled by the owners of the websites, the users owing to the fact personal information is normally submitted at will, meaning that accountability for privacy invasion, and violation should be at an individual level and not the entire internet.
An empirical analysis of the opinions from the opposing sides reveal that internet privacy is paramount irrespective of the measures used in guaranteeing that there is minimal cases of privacy invasion. From the above, it is arguably evident that internet regulation can be an effective measure in guaranteeing web privacy.
This should be coupled with encouraging ethical use of the internet and ignorance of the perception that internet privacy cannot be achieved. Personal responsibility is also encouraged to ensure privacy over the internet because regulation does not guarantee total protection against privacy invasion.
Anupam, Chander and Gelman Lauren. Securing privacy in the Internet age. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008.
Connolly, Kevin. Law of internet security and privacy. New York: Aspen Publishers, 2003.
Dororthy, Kenedy and Muth Marcia. The Bedford Guide for College Writers. New York: Bedford/St.Martins, 2011.
Frackman, Andrew and Claudia Ray. Internet and online privacy: a legal and business guide. New York: ALM Publishing, 2002.
Miller, Fredrick and Agnes Vandome. Internet Privacy. New Jersey: VDM Publishing House Ltd, 2009.
Simson, Garfinkel and Spafford Gene. Web security, privacy and commerce. New York: O’Reilly Media, 2002.
Smith, Marcia. Internet: an overview of key technology policy issues affecting its use and growth. New York: Nova Publishers, 2002.