With the explosion of social media, the United States (along with the rest of the world) has become engrossed with the processing of data. Many companies with an online presence are beginning to use data to their advantage in order to better market to their customers. More and more people have become increasingly more comfortable providing personal information to online companies in order to participate in rewards programs, social networks, online communities, etc. Along with this huge increase in “big data” as it is called now, there comes great responsibility as it relates to privacy. Companies are required to adhere to privacy policies and make sure any customer using their services are clear on that policy. In general, this information absolutely cannot be used in any other way than for direct use by that company to provide the best service to that customer. Just recently, the use of this information has taken an interesting turn, especially in regards to personal privacy.
Just recently, information leaked to the press regarding a government program called PRISM, which apparently is a program that was set up to monitor and collect information from large tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, etc. According to news outlets, many consumers were not exactly concerned with the information. Many felt that they were already being monitored in some way, shape, or form so this particular news wasn’t exactly life-altering. Nevertheless, many news reports explained that the big tech companies initially refused to provide access to their cloud-based servers for this PRISM program in an effort to stand behind their privacy policies. After all, none of this information should be allowed to be given to the government unless there is probably cause for concern at that particular company, i.e. terrorist activity.
As the information leaked out to more sources, additional concerns began to circulate as well. These were more focused on the businesses themselves. If these tech giants are so easy to roll over when pushed a bit by the government, what says they all won’t do it again in the future (or had already done it in the past)? Of course, this same information also began to leak to other countries who are all trying to establish their own privacy laws. If the US is allowed to collect this information legally, they can technically share this with other governments who are NOT allowed to collect this information directly from their citizens.
With such a vast amount of personal information available over the Web, companies are going to have to continue to establish very specific policies as it relates to customer privacy. Many companies have begun to establish entire departments dedicated to privacy and/or information security, but it appears there needs to be even more focus.
Were the policies not clearly defined? Who is responsible for mediating whether or not a company should be required to provide information to the government?
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