Internet privacy

Internet privacy

Web users should think carefully before uploading personal data

By Joyce Wong, Renaissance College

Recently, people in Germany were alarmed to find that Google's Street View cars, which take images of city streets worldwide, had been collecting data from non-password-protected Wi-fi networks in the country.

Although Google has said it was an accident, the German consumer protection ministry said that the company still clearly lacked a full understanding of the importance of privacy.

Street View cars have been used in more than 30 countries since 2006. Google is now disposing of the data it mistakenly obtained, which security experts say could include e-mails and passwords.

In the hi-tech age, we are surrounded by so many devices that can collect data that privacy is an important issue. However, before complaining about this practice, people must understand that privacy protection requires co-operation from both the technology firms and users.

Although Google's Street View cars obtained personal data, it was only obtained from networks that were not protected. Users have the responsibility to protect their information.

Using non-protected Wi-fi networks puts users at risk and they have to accept the consequences when they take that risk. Otherwise, it is like blaming a thief for stealing our bag when we left it on a bench. We are also to blame for such a loss.

Facebook introduced its new privacy policy last year, making users' data visible to anyone by default. The option to keep it private was removed.

Where the "friends only" option was presented, many users thought little of what they put on Facebook. They thought only their friends could see it. This is not the case.

Actions like this make us think twice about what we put on the internet.

Almost anything placed on the internet can be retrieved in some way, since once it is in cyberspace it is pretty much out in the open.

Therefore, before complaining about the privacy policies of hi-tech firms, we should first think about what we upload onto the internet. If not, it is we who still clearly lack a full understanding of the importance of privacy.

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