News Column

Expert say little privacy exists on Internet

June 3, 2014

By Jay Meisel, Highlands Today, Sebring, Fla.

June 03--SEBRING -- When Jennifer Martinez surfs the Internet she doesn't expect privacy.

"Privacy is only an illusion," she said on Facebook in response to a Highlands Today question about expectations of privacy on the Internet. "There is none on the Internet and rarely anywhere else. Anyone who thinks there is privacy has their head in the sand."

Katie Lindau Wilson voiced similar views.

"There's no such thing as privacy. Anywhere. Not even in your bathroom (if you are a mom). But I don't trust anything is for my eyes only on the Internet or phone."

Jacob Furst, an associate professor of computing and digital media at DePaul University, said that those who have little expectation of privacy on the Internet are correct.

"It may be worse than walking down a public street, Furst said.

Furst said that anyone doing activity on the Internet should assume that somehow what they are doing is being watched.

It may be by an employer, a search engine or a site that collects information on your shopping habits, he said.

One reason for this is that companies can make money selling that information to other companies that may seek your business depending on what you typically buy, he said.

Criminals also should not expect their activities are not being monitored, Furst said. For example, he said, law enforcement may be watching chat rooms.

In Highlands County, a man suspected of uploading child pornography was arrested after Google provided information to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Trevor Theron Long, 28, 832 Garland Ave., Sebring, was arrested and charged with one count of possession of obscene materials and 50 counts of obscenity.

Most likely, Google has an automated process that picks up on names of and types of files, said Panagiota Kelali, associate director of the Center for Information Technology and Privacy at The John Marshall Law School.

She said if someone sends an email to someone else that involves a crime, the email may not be monitored, but that doesn't mean the technology is lacking to do that.

Furst said means exist for people to increase their privacy on the Internet. But, in the end, it becomes counterproductive. In order for Internet users to enter sites, they often have to give information or accept the use of cookies, which monitor what the person does on the site, he explained.

"The more privacy you want on the Internet, the less functionality you have get," he said. And most people aren't willing to give up that functionality, Furst added.

Kelali said that it would be difficult to have complete privacy.

"Every time you do something on the Internet, you leave an electronic trail," she said.

But for one Facebook commenter, it doesn't matter.

"I don't really care," said Katie Strohmier Nolen. "They must lead very boring lives to monitor mine."

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Source: Highlands Today (Sebring, FL)

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