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Privacy polices in the internet are generating great debate around the world. However, even as this topic generates various views and heated debates, the privacy of internet users continues to be compromised. This topic brings various issues at the forefront as to what role social internet sites have in protecting their privacy, and what role users can play in maintaining their own privacy. The topic of internet privacy is not new, but recently it has gained great momentum due to the increase of widely used sites such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, and MySpace. The paper will look at how the privacy policies are formulated to protect the privacy of users. It will also look at how effective they are in providing privacy, if they have been able to achieve this end, and how important they are to the users.

Importance of Privacy Policies

The use and access of the internet has sharply risen since the year 2000. With its usage comes, benefits, challenges, and also risks- and the greatest of the risk posed by internet sites especially internet giants such as Google FB, Twitter, Linked In, My Space and others is the privacy concern. Internet giants have a lot of its user’s information and that calls for implementation of privacy polices to ensure that this information is safely kept. The issue of consumer privacy has for the past thirty years received substantial attention. Importance of the policies is to protect users from any forms of abuse. The question of privacy relates to either/and to the misuse of information or its disclosure to other sources.

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The main purpose of any privacy policy of any site is to ensure that a user’s information is securely stored, does not get into the third parties, how it is displayed via the internet (Youn, 2009). Users do need to know that their information is on safe hands and so each site has to provide for this privacy. For example, Facebook provides privacy settings to all its registered users. “Within Facebook settings, the user has the ability to block certain individuals from viewing one’s profile. The option to choose friends is also available and to limit who has access to your pictures and videos” (Privacy Policy Facebook, 2011) unlike in Google where information and photos can be accessed easily.  Google has recently formulated new polices replacing the earlier 60 different privacy policies. “The new polices will provide privacy protections and create a simple and beautiful experience across Google “(Privacy Policy; Google, 2012)

The privacy policy issue is entirely a broad topic that concern various technical aspects such as ethics and legislation regarding internet use by the relevant authorities. Although various organization and government agencies hire internet security personnel to ensure internet security, internet users are still vulnerable to hackers and unauthorized access of their information by malicious persons. In fact, the approach against hackers has been training ethical hackers to take care of any attacks on official sites, which also occur to social sites. For instance, Twitter was hacked back in the year 2009 despite its privacy policies and professional team of expert security personnel. This is equally an act of cyber crime, and it affects users as well. In my point of view internet privacy cannot be guaranteed, but only maximized by putting into place measures to avoid extreme vulnerability. The Twitter Inc had always been thought secure and less vulnerable to such attacks, but the attack was an awakening call of how internet privacy can be violated. The attack was actually a violation of Twitter Domain Name System. This implies that the hacker had the means to get control of the site from behind the scenes.

User awareness of the most vulnerable practices in the internet could help a big deal. This is because access of a user’s private information from one social site could be used to violate his privacy on another social site. For instance, if a user has the password on Twitter and Facebook, the hacker could use the information to his or her Facebook account as well.

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Although privacy violation of an entire site is not the only form, in which a user’s privacy can be infringed users should be aware that the assumption of privacy is ignorance. Every user should play a role in ensuring their privacy as well by taking measures such using  anti-virus software when surfing the web.

It is inevitable to discuss privacy and internet without mentioning cookies. Browser cookies are simply encrypted text files, which are located in browser indexes. Web developers use these text files for the sole purpose of enabling users to navigate websites more easily and efficiently. In fact, disabling cookies would make surfing some websites impossible. Cookies are usually generated when a user loads a particular website. The website transmits information to the browser, which generates a text file. Every instance the user uses the websites, the browser sends the information to the server, which host the website.

Cookies determine how some elements are displayed as well the appearance of adverts. Standard cookies are used by the server website to assist in authenticating the user to load into a secure area of the site. In addition, some cookies are entirely for the purpose of making surfing fast. For instance, session cookies store information about a user’s navigation on web pages. They are used by the host server to assist the user to continue from where they stopped instead of starting a new session altogether.

Cookies are not programs hence they are not executable. They are in plain text format.

Therefore, they cannot make copies of other text files or spread to other networks. Given this technical aspect in which they exist, cookies cannot be classified as virus programs. However, it is noteworthy that malicious persons can use cookies to violate users’ privacy on social sites. Since cookies information about a user’s browsing activity, they can be targeted by unauthorized to violate privacy since is confidential information at risk. The most sensitive aspect of cookies performance is the information stored about the user concerning browser preferences and history on several websites. The greatest threat posed by an unauthorized person accessing this information is that the can use cookies as spyware to track a user’s browsing activities which could lead to a clue on how violate a user’s privacy. However, the use of anti-spyware is effective in dealing with this issue since suspicious cookies are deleted hence eliminates the extreme vulnerability to un authorized access to a user’s information.

Ethical software developers provide assistance on the issue and social websites employ them to look into the issue. In addition, search engine optimization is another way in which the problem can be addressed to avoid privacy violation. Overall, the issue of a users’ privacy is the responsibility of both parties, the user and the social website.

Analysis and evaluation of Internet Privacy Polices

Individuals do have a great role to play in protecting their own privacy, but this is almost impossible because they broadcast personal information on purpose, thus deluding the need for privacy. It is because of this that some experts argue that privacy does not exist within the field of Internet security and privacy. Users delight in posting personal information without any worry who reads it. In fact, the appeal of these sites is to post personal information with intent of broadcasting it to all. Individuals must be warned of the risks posed with such reckless posting of information (Youn, 2009). According to Majority of people do not care to check or use the privacy setting of the sites. For example, most users of Facebook’s ignore its privacy settings. The privacy settings are developed in a way that one can determine who sees their photos, posts, comments, personal information but most users do not care to use these privacy settings (Privacy Policy Facebook, 2010).

Consumers easily trust these sites and forget the information in their hands can be used in dangerous ways. Consumers adore their popularity and size and forget that they collect a lot of information. Users are called upon to install virus protection, install firewalls, screen emails, download patches, control cookies, shut down spyware, and block all pop-ups for personal protection. “The concern however, is a majority of them do not know how to install or go about doing any of these things to ensure full protection” (Heyman & Pierson 2011). The security issue will persists if users do not have any knowledge about how to install their network security. This is the reason why various researches on this topic have identified the vital issues of consumer privacy, and the manner in which they share private information. 

Internet sites have privacy polices and terms of use, but the question is whether these policies translates to privacy of individual users (Heyman & Pierson, 2011). The recent Google privacy polices have been consolidated in such a way that they will offer greater transparency and consumer protection. The question is whether this is attainable. For example, Google may be credited for being strong against hackers, but what we should know is the case is not the same for the third parties – they are not as secure. The chances of data leaks are live due to the several servers all around the world containing a huge amount of data.

Summary and conclusion

The issue of privacy is one that needs to be looked at with a lot of focus on the users. It is time that users also took the issue of internet safety into their own hands because they are the people affected in this situation.  Not only do they need to control what they post on the internet, but also they should install security measures. They must also be made aware of the on how to use security settings for their own privacy. Internet sites should also provide effective policies that will reduce internet crimes.

 

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