Computers and Privacy

Essay by padsnoopUniversity, Bachelor'sC+, March 2002

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Computers and Privacy

What is privacy? When most of us think about privacy, if we do at all, we think about closed doors and drawn window shades or hiding our actions from others. We must change the way we think about privacy. Perhaps we need a better word. If anything, privacy is more about the right to remain anonymous. It's the right to know we are not being watched as we walk down the street or attend a public meeting. It's the right to know that facts about our personal lives are revealed only as we decide to release them and that the facts are correct. Privacy is about massive databases, identity theft, and the access to information.

The use of IT systems for many data handling tasks has led to a rapid increase in the quantity and detail of information collected and stored by groups and individuals about other groups and individuals.

With increasing use of electronic storage of records, and collection of information by varying means. Your Internet activity may reveal more about you than you realise, see and to discover what information your web browser reveals about you. Payment for goods and services by credit or debit card, and widespread introduction of loyalty cards mean that there is unprecedented opportunity for organisations and individuals to search for and collect data about you.

The use of data processing for marketing is extremely widespread. Companies collect, exchange, buy and sell information about individuals in order to build a ?marketing profile? to enable ?targeted? (therefore more cost effective) advertising.

The most obvious evidence of this is a proliferation of junk mail, both paper and electronic via email and ?pop up? advertising, but the issue has wider significance than this. Insurance companies, for example, cannot by law sell information...