Privacy in the Age of Mass Media

Privacy has never been a bigger problem than it is today, with the emergence and convergence of the Internet as a platform for mass media. Whereas mass media previously catered to its audience without much interaction, the Internet has made it possible for humans to interact with media more than ever before. With this hyper-connectivity, however, come severe consequences. The same devices that open up a world of possibilities in communication can also be used to track their users, leaving those users vulnerable to serious threats to safety and privacy. Although many argue that users accept a certain amount of privacy invasion when they agree to the terms and conditions, others believe this does not excuse the manipulation of personal information practiced by the few large and powerful corporations that control the media today.

Users today often ignore warning signs of information manipulation, only to complain later when whistleblowers reveal what companies are doing with our private information. Many of us have likely never read the terms & conditions pages of any of the websites we have signed up for. Hidden among legal jargon are clauses that allow companies to track computer activity, promise ownership by the company of user-created content, and allow the selling of information given to the website or app by its user. A certain amount of responsibility lies with the user of these platforms to read and interpret the guidelines laid out by the owners of the sites. We must become tech-savvy enough to know when we are being manipulated.

Therein, however, lies the problem. Consumers should not constantly be worried about protecting themselves from manipulation by media companies. After all, most of today’s activities require the usage of the very websites and apps deemed dangerous by analysts. We must keep with the times, but constantly check ourselves to ensure that we are not revealing too much sensitive information. It seems counterintuitive that the very technologies we must keep updated on in order to survive in, say, the job market or even a college course are the same devices and websites that threaten the security of our most private information. The decision is a difficult one: one must either refuse to succumb to technology and be severely handicapped in the evermore technologically driven world, or utilize technology and leave oneself vulnerable to severe manipulation and exploitation by the companies who “own” the Internet. When such amazing technologies are used to track humans’ movements, sensitive information, or even tastes in music and food in order to facilitate economic growth of various media companies, we must question the ethics of this breach in privacy. Perhaps there is some compromise to be made between money-hungry companies and concerned citizens, but it is yet to be determined how the highly controversial subject of privacy breaches can be resolved.

PC World: The 5 Biggest Online Privacy Threats of 2013

NBC News: Online Privacy Fears are Real


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