Information Technology and Personal Privacy

It is clear that it has a radical impact on our ability to control access to information about ourselves and presents serious privacy issues. For the computer, when transactions and files were on paper, there was relatively limited access to public information about ourselves. To find information that someone had to go where it was located, find it in the file and copy it down. However, it was also difficult to track who had approached it. Today, when the same information is available in the online data collection, it can be accessed anywhere in the world in seconds and free of charge unless the appropriate security measures are in force. This ability has provided an awesome boost in productivity in our economy, but without basic safety measures it can ruin our privacy. The Internet has previously greatly increased the privacy problem, because when electronic information is taken, it can be copied and made available in many other locations.

Explosive growth in use of information technology has created a situation where high levels of personal information are easily accessible without the need for crime. For sufficient and effective reasons, government agencies are publishing official records of online brochures – births and deaths, marriages, divorces, real estate agents, business licenses, procedures, driving records and so on. Furthermore, personal information is important for marketing purposes and are information providers who are required to collect and sell such information to those who wish to purchase it.

In the normal course of business, we often need to provide sensitive personal information such as name, address and credit card number. To borrow from a financial institution, we must provide much more personal information and allow credit ratings so that the credit institution can decide if we will probably repay the loan. This is quite legitimate and because we agree to provide information to deal with the transaction, there is no invasion of privacy. However, when the company uses the information for the purpose that we do not allow or sell that information, serious personal privacy issues are encountered.

People are very broad in their views on the privacy of this personal information. Surveys over the years have shown that about 25 percent of the public are not at all worried about these privacy issues, 25 percent are quite vulnerable to personal injury and the remaining 50 percent are willing to consider dealing with privacy for other benefits if given the right to make that decision.

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