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How we are being tracked and the ways we are being watched

What is privacy in 2018? Is there such a thing? We click okay to an app’s request to know where we are at every moment just be able to play video games with others.  Technology has created an environment where every action is monitored by our electronic devices, which are listening to the things we say and the places we go. From iPhone’s Siri, to Amazon’s Alexa, to the microphone on your laptop devices, all are tuned in to everything we do. Whether you realize it or not, you are being listened to, and the things that you are doing are being tracked. The apps we use, the places we go, the things we search, even the shows we watch on Netflix. It’s true, the show that pops up as watch next is only there because of an algorithm based on what you’ve watched in the past. Netflix tracking what you’ve watched might not be that bad, but how private is anything you do on the World Wide Web? The answer: It’s not. The Google searches that you might not want to share are suddenly haunting you everytime you find yourself on Facebook. Just having a phone on you with the GPS location settings on allows websites like Google and Facebook to know exactly where you are at any given moment. 

After Edward Snowden leaked government information about a spy emulator in 2013, Pew Research looked into whether Americans cared about who could access information about them. According to Pew, 74% of those who responded to the survey thought it was very important that they personally have control over who can access and distribute their information. During an interview, Snowden stated “the only things that restrict the activities of the surveillance state are policy.” He says it started to serve “national interest” which included foreign intelligence, but has moved past that towards domestic surveillance by targeting the communications of everyone.

I believe there should be a policy in place to stop the government from gathering information online. There should be increased security protection over emails and communication, as well as the simpler things such as Google searches. Companies should not be able to sell information detailing the things we consume, and interact with on a daily basis. Does being concerned about privacy only mean that you want your personal things like social security number, and address private? Or does that branch out to emails and other forms of communication.

What about the ‘Googleability’ of your name? Currently in the EU there is a data protection law that allows someone to be able to request that Google remove anything that can be traced back to them. Google has a right to deny the request based on the amount of public interest had in a person. According to the request form Google can “decline to remove certain information about financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions, or public conduct of government officials.” This is a step toward allowing people to have more of a right to privacy than those in the United States. The U.S. should also have a similar policy, and citizens should fight against the companies, the government and search engines that have information about them. Even if it means giving up the suggestions on Netflix, and the ability to GPS the closest Starbucks.

For now, a few ways to keep your information more private is to clear the cookies on your phone and laptop. Change the privacy settings on your phone so the tracking device is only on when you need to get somewhere, and apps like Facebook won’t have access to your location. Also, log out of your social media accounts when you are shopping on sites like Amazon.

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