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Is Privacy Possible in the Age of Emerging Media?

Despite the potential benefits of emerging media platforms for growth and information dissemination, many consumers are alarmed. This issue is due in large part to lack of privacy while using the Internet. Privacy laws must monitor who receives the data collected on the Internet and how they use it. Tracking consumers on the Internet has affected privacy in the age of digital technology.

Internet marketing is pervasive in society. The influence on consumers’ lives is powerful. Recall your last online session. Were you distracted by ads? Did you click on a banner ad because it displayed a discount for an item previously viewed? Did anything capture your attention? Marketers study the purchase-decision process, track behaviors and collect the data to target consumers without regard for privacy. I find it interesting when I hear arguments for Internet tracking and against privacy. Corporations who track and target customers should disclose this activity.

In traditional marketing, consumers view an ad repeatedly and make a decision on whether to buy. Consumers are tracked when they first engage with a brand, research a product, or purchase a similar item. Traditionally impressions were important and today clicks are paramount. Consumer tracking has in fact changed. Media companies depend on the ability to mine personal data. Consumers are blindly connected to the Internet on computers, television, tablets and smartphones daily. Brands use digital and social media to compete and deepen customer loyalty. Instead of protecting privacy, brands gather relevant customer information and place customers in silos.

There are multiple arguments against increased privacy laws and pro tracking Internet activity. The article “Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have 'Nothing to Hide'” by Daniel Solove provides insight into this topic. When the government gathers or analyzes personal information, many people say they're not worried. "I've got nothing to hide," they declare. "Only if you're doing something wrong should you worry, and then you don't deserve to keep it private." (Daniel Solove, 2011)

There are other arguments that reveal private data is safe. "We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand," Cook said. "The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers – including tens of millions of American citizens – from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals." Apple designed the software in such a way that the company does not have the key to access the information. (Tom Risen, 2016)

Privacy and First Amendment rights trump “the need to know surveillance”. The research pro privacy conflicted with other data examining the need for government and corporate Internet tracking. There may be a few explanations for these discrepancies.

People are tracked as they traverse the Internet. And when you tell them that, they don't seem to mind. There are a few people who express Internet resistance. An example of this is when you end an Internet session because of too many banner ads. Many people want to be ad free while online.

Organizations track the quantitative data we give companies and sell the information. I believe the ability to collect and market consumer information is misleading. Consumers become constricted by our data and unable to stop the sharing of our data. I do not mind being targeted with tailored ads; however, the data analytics are not always accurate.

Consumers have a right to privacy; however, data collection can prevent crimes. We have witnessed the FBI solve numerous cases where Internet surveillance thwarted a major incident. These cases include terrorist attacks and child sex offenses. With outdated privacy laws, corporations and the government can monitor Internet traffic.

Consumers have the ability to avoid being tracked and targeted. The best way is to avoid the Internet altogether. For many people this option is not feasible. We need the Internet to conduct business and stay connected. Advertising is necessary to continue to receive Internet content. Without advertising, we couldn't afford to surf the web. Allan Friedman, research director for the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings, says that if people are unwilling to share their information, entire parts of the information economy could collapse.

To avoid privacy issues, consumers must be allowed to opt in or out as we navigate the Internet. Consumers are typically not aware of behavioral tracking and its negative effects on our culture and society. In conclusion, Internet tracking is exponentially increasing in today’s society. Privacy will never be what it was 50 years ago.

Sapphire White, Graduate Student

Master of Arts in Emerging Media

Loyola University Maryland

Risen, Tim (2016, February 17). Apple Resists Court Order to Unlock Encrypted Phone. Retrieved from

Solove, Daniel J. (2011). Nothing to Hide – The False Tradeoff Between Privacy and Security, New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press.