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The Internet and Its Threat On Personal Privacy
Identity theft in 2011 rose 13 percent from 2010, to about 12 million. About 7 percent of all smartphone users have had their identity stolen. LinkedIn has a victim rate of 10 percent, Google+ 7 percent, Twitter 6.3 percent, and Facebook has a rate of 5.7 percent.
This is compounded by the spike in high-profile personally-identifiable information thefts—a 67 percent increase from 2010 to 2011—from firms such as Sony, Epsilon, and the federal government. In light of this, a person’s right to free speech is compromised, as it is uncertain if what one says can be used for notorious purposes on social media networks. This has created the need for experienced legal professionals that are ready to handle the challenges of a new legal landscape that is heavily influenced by technology and the Internet.
As these professionals play an intermediary role between the public and large business (or the government), their influence can greatly shape how the public’s freedoms are interpreted and managed. In hopes of educating more knowledgeable leaders in law, many of academia’s top graduate law programs and top online paralegal certificate programs must be ready to embrace this tension and stand ready to educate the next generation of attorneys and paralegals. With the Internet’s influence only creeping more into our lives, the public needs to also take a proactive role in protecting its privacy and individuals must be wary of what aspect of their lives are submitted into the online space.
Even in non-theft cases, the lack of privacy online is disconcerting. CBS News reports that in August 2009, Georgia public high school teacher Ashley Paine was forced to resign because a student’s parent complained that she saw a picture of the teacher holding alcoholic beverages. The picture was on Paine’s Facebook page and was secured using Facebook’s privacy protocols. However, because it is possible to copy information easily from a website to a personal computer, the concept of online privacy may be a contradiction. Coupled with a lax attitude toward social media security, this provides a landscape ripe for abuse.
It has came to light that the Federal Government has monitored private citizens using social media. In an article posted in the Huffington Post, the Department of Homeland Security has monitored social media and news feeds for hundreds of key words. According to the disclosure from the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a 2011 Department of Homeland Security manual–the National Operations Center’s Analyst’s Desktop Binder–detailed search terms toward the detection of possible terrorism and public health threats.
This is compounded by public sector’s intrusion on online security. In 2002, President Bush issued an executive order allowing the National Security Agency to track and record international telephone and Internet conversations without the need of a warrant with the expressed intent to catch terrorists. Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the president may authorize surveillance of international communications. However, as reported in Wired.com, investigative reporter James Bamford suspects that the NSA is actively eavesdropping domestically against American citizens. Under surveillance program “Stellar Wind,” the NSA will be able to monitor billions of pieces of communicative data via their massive “spy center” in Bluffdale, Utah.
Authorization for these actions come, in part, from the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorism Resolution, which empowers the president to use all necessary force against any and all parties involved in the 9/11 attacks in order to prevent another terrorism attack. The Bush and Obama Administrations have both argued that these actions are intended to limit or curtail foreign parties involved in terrorism. As the United States move toward a more proactive military force, the Administration argues that improved intelligence is needed to make accurate, targeted attacks on enemy combatants.
Recently, Canada fought back against the NSA’s use of eavesdropping against their citizens. The Canadian government’s argument is that the leaking of confidential or personally identifying information across international borders poses an unusual threat to the privacy of its citizens. Previously, the NSA was in partnership with the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand in a massive global communications eavesdropping program known as “Echelon.”
While the continual monitoring of our communication networks is a violation of our constitutional right to free speech, the truth is that the Internet is a public forum that is free-to-all. What must change is our behavior: a secured page can be compromised by someone copying its content to an unsecured page. The threat to free speech lies within us and not the technology; an understanding of the security risks involved and a conscious effort from us to protect ourselves will serve to protect us all.