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Reflection on Privacy as it Applies to Internet Usage

Upon reflecting on the readings for the talk on Privacy and Security, as well as our class discussion, I find myself asking the same question Collette recently asked me over Twitter, “How much does concern over privacy contribute to the choice not to use social media?” It appears from the article that I tweeted back to the class, that privacy and security don’t affect the use of social media as much as how people use it. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Institute’s Internet Project, 86% of Internet users have tried to use the Internet in ways to minimize the visibility of their digital footprint. If anything, this shows that the majority of Internet users are at least aware of privacy concerns, but what is interesting is that this article does not explicitly express what they define as an, “Internet user.” What about the people who do not use the Internet at all because of privacy concerns? How do they factor into this equation?

Virtually no trace of my father, Dan Johnson, exists on the Internet. In fact, he doesn’t own a cell phone, he actively avoids websites where “joining” is a requirement for use, and he only uses his credit card online when it is an absolute necessity. But he is still an “Internet User”. This is where things get difficult—to maintain a “normal” life, it is nearly impossible to exist completely without the Internet. Try procuring a fairly priced plane ticket without it, or being a student at any university. This means that, realistically, people who are truly anti-internet and do not use it at all, isolate themselves from inclusion both in these surveys and sometimes in society also.

The short answer to Collette’s question is, according to a National Telecommunications and Information Administration survey, 1% of families in the United States choose to completely abstain from the Internet because of privacy or security concerns. This seems very minimal compared to the amount of, “Internet users” who take measures to protect themselves online. This provides substantial evidence of the growing necessity of the Internet in our culture—that people are willing to risk a little discomfort and lack of security for the advantages the Internet provides.

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