As of January 2017, 50 percent of the global population has access to the internet. Being connected to the largest information database in the world, however, does come at a price. While some see loss of privacy as a necessary evil, other internet users see it as an abuse which they are trying to eliminate, or at least minimize through different approaches. Due to the fact that the problem is new enough that little precedent can be invoked, policy makers and technology-developers, as well as individual users, are finding it hard to keep up with the very creative ways of online danger.
As of 2016, the threat to online privacy comes from a few different directions. On one hand, in the United States, online hackers are feared by some 96 percent of internet users. Disclosure of sensitive personal data such as credit card information or social security number, which can lead to stolen identities and financial damages, is the most common fear of internet users. During an August 2017 survey, only 17 percent of U.S. internet users stated that they thought their personal information was very secure online.
Another source of worry for internet users has increasingly been the involvement of various governments in the online activities of their nationals. In the United States, such fears were furthered during the 2013 leak of operational details about the United States National Security Agency (NSA) and its international partners' global surveillance of foreign nationals and U.S. citizens. January 2016 data shows that a sizeable number of worldwide internet users and IT professionals do not believe that governments should have access to encrypted information systems and have adopted specific online strategies to hide their information from the government. National security agencies, on the other hand, justify their right to access personal user data in light of terrorist threats of the past years and are pushing tech manufacturers to build in special codes allowing access in case of suspicious behavior.
Another increasing worry in the online medium is malicious use of personal information intended to humiliate, harass or in other ways damage someone’s reputation. A July 2016 survey of U.S. online users about online harassment through the invasion of privacy has revealed that five percent of internet users in the United States had harm caused to them through the exposure of sensitive information. Online identity theft, device security and fake communications are some of the biggest fear parents have when it comes to their children’s online safety. Some 50 percent of surveyed American parents say they have already discussed identity theft with their children as many governments around around the world have passed laws trying to protect internet users from such acts. Furthermore, an initiative called “the right to be forgotten” has been passed into law in several countries, in a bid to give individuals control over the information existent about them on the World Wide Web. As of March 2015, Google has granted some 46 percent of requests regarding link removal containing sensitive information.
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