Internet Clouds Privacy Debate

Annette Ungermann, Staff Writer

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Because the internet is both a readily available and recent innovation, monitoring and controlling its use tends to be a gray area. Of course, in regards to government surveillance, Americans should be well aware of how much the state can dip into our private lives as a result of information provided by whistleblowers like Edward Snowden.

The right to privacy is a tricky subject, because the lines quickly become blurred. People voluntarily reveal information in the virtual world to total strangers yet wish to keep it “private” in the real world.

Some argue that privacy is dead, and we surrender that right when we go online.

Now, I don’t necessarily know if the NSA is watching me via my monitor’s webcam as I type this, or why they’d even care about tracing my online presence specifically. But a more present problem in my life when it comes to monitoring the role of technology and surrendering some privacy has to do with parental control.

Recently, I became aware that my parents wanted to have access to every online account I have, to have the ability to look through my phone or computer whenever they felt like it. They argued that it was within their rights as my parents and that if I had nothing to “hide”, then I had nothing to worry about.

While that sounds vaguely threatening, I have to wonder if that’s actually true. I am legally a minor and did not purchase the devices that they want to be able to look through. Because of this, is my right to privacy no longer valid? Does that sort of right even exist for me in the first place?

In a word, no.

While legally, the right to privacy is alluded to in the 4th amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and privacy is declared a fundamental human right in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, there isn’t a legal text that explicitly mentions it to be a right for minors.

A parent’s snooping through a child’s personal belongings is definitely a violation of trust. But when it comes to the internet, monitoring children and teens can be argued to be in the interest of safety. Whether some parents choose to or not, parents do have the responsibility to look out for the safety of their children, and technology has been known to cause problems.

A little overstep in the name of safety is not necessarily what bothers me. What does bother me is when parents justify unlimited control in the name of safety.

The real issue is a disconnect between what younger and older generations find appropriate to put online.

According to a study done by USC, younger internet users are more comfortable than older users sharing personal data online. However, a few months after this story was released in 2013, market research firm Harris Interactive found that 78% of millennials wish for more privacy on the internet.

Exactly what should be kept private changes depending on who you ask. Age, religion, and other demographic details are shared online freely by most young people. On the other hand, text messages and social media accounts are often viewed as personal. Parental sifting through these items represents a breach of trust. Now, if you’ve done something that proves you’re a danger to yourself or others, then parental action is certainly justified.

In general, the internet isn’t necessarily the place to find privacy, as the internet is readily availible to many. The fact that it’s so accesible serves as an incredible benefit, and a clear flaw.

While legitimate legislation protecting privacy for minors might seem like a dramatic course of action, it is the digital age. Maybe it’s fair to consider that with ever-changing technology, more legislation needs to adapt to the world we live in.

At the very least, as teenagers, we should retain some rights of privacy the closer we get to adulthood.

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Internet Clouds Privacy Debate