The online world is a complex world. It is a world without borders. It is a world where one can pretend to be anonymous and it is a world where privacy is an everyday and boiling issue.
What laws really apply when the online world is global? And how will the future of the Internet be shaped? These are two questions that are hard and at the same time very important to answer. Right now, there are no global privacy laws. Most countries create their own laws, and these laws are really not very effective at all when it comes to protecting privacy online. The lack of privacy laws purely for online use is a little bit embarrassing. It is almost like some countries are stuck in the 1990's where some were saying that internet is only a fad and laws for purely online use are not required. Guess what? Internet is here to stay, and it is time to take some control over the companies that take advantage of the users that unknowingly get their privacy hijacked every day.
"What really is Internet privacy?" you might ask. Internet privacy is a matter of a person being able to do whatever they want online, within legal reforms, without anyone being able to track or store the usage without consent from the user. This is very complex today because most companies use a lot of storage and tracking to be able to advertise to the right consumers and for other purposes. Even though tracking and storing information about Internet users might be very helpful for companies, the user has to be able to control how much information companies are able to get. This is where most Internet privacy laws play a part and where many privacy laws should play a big part in the future.
The United States and Europe view online privacy in different ways. The United States views online privacy as a consumer protection issue, while Europe views online privacy as a fundamental human right. Online privacy really should be viewed as any other property rights such as copyright, trademark, or patent. Without consent, no one should be able to use the information. As important as privacy is in your home, it should be equally important online. Imagine sitting by the table eating and suddenly a company rings on the bell asking to write down what you had for dinner, how much, and at what time. This would be viewed as a total breach of privacy, so why is it not viewed the same way online?
There needs to be an agreement of what online privacy is before the right laws can be formed. Europe is truly the star when it comes to protecting online users. Europe is making it hard for companies such as Facebook and Google to store information and to take advantage of their users. Other countries should look to Europe and learn from how they deal with online privacy.
Europe passed new online privacy rules on December 15, which really revolutionize how people will have a say in how to share their information. The European justice commissioner stated that Internet and the users “will profit from clear rules that are fit for the digital age.” It is truly important for the world to realize that we are actually in a digital age and start preparing for it. The new ruling in Europe allows national watchdogs to issue major fines to companies that breach the new privacy rules whether they are based in Europe or not. The fine could be up to 4 percent of the company’s global revenue. This rule will scare more companies to not breach privacy online, which in practice is very good. The right to be forgotten law will be kept, and the new rules also require for people under 16 years to receive consent from their parents before using social media. Countries may change the age restriction individually to 13 years old. Last but not least, the new rules give companies three days to inform national regulators about data breach.
The Internet has become a place where people and companies feel like they can act however they like and interfere with people’s personal information however they like. It has become a place where terrorists recruit freely and a place where you cannot trust anyone. For these reasons, it is important for privacy laws to not only protect against privacy breach, but also to allow for companies and people to get justice when they are being harmed or when illegal actions are being made.
Many people today probably do not care about how Facebook or Google store the information they provide. I am sure most of them will in the future when that drunk picture years ago shows up every time someone googles your name even though the Facebook account has been deleted.
Our world today is shifting more into the digital world for each passing year. It is time to distinguish what kind of a world the Internet is before proper privacy laws can be created. Is the Internet a world without borders? Maybe the Internet needs borders. Should it be a global world where the same laws apply to everyone? The questions are many, and they are growing in number for each year we get more integrated into the online world.