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Online user, beware

Recent data breach brings attention to online privacy

Website users often disclose private and sensitive information online, trusting the website to protect them.

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Website users often disclose private and sensitive information online, trusting the website to protect them.

Rebecca Covington, Opinion Editor

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Data breaches seem to dominate the media, with new websites losing customer and user information everyday because of hackers. The age of putting personal information, such as social Security numbers and credit card information online, which means putting trust into websites to protect data.

In recent weeks, 87 million Facebook users learned their data was revealed to Cambridge Analytica and were shown different ads to sway voters in the 2016 election. This infiltration of privacy angered Facebook users and ignited a debate over what can be done by a social media company and what truly defines privacy on the internet.

Publishing photos, locations, and little things such as birthdays online exposes private information to the entire web. Marketing companies use this information to advertise specific products and services. First party “cookies” track the way a website is used on the specific site visited. Their purpose is to improve the online experience and increase efficiency by remembering items in shopping carts, login information and preferences.

Third party “cookies” placed by analytic companies or an advertising network determine how visitors use the website and determine ads for each user. Companies develop histories of the sites a user frequents and places ads to sell products.

Facebook did not adequately protect user data and allowed Cambridge Analytica to get access to millions of users’ data. Average users argue this action directly violated Facebook’s terms of service, while those with more knowledge on marketing and advertising knew data grabs were disguised as innocent personality quizzes and links. Ultimately, safety on the internet comes down to knowledge about where information goes.

Everything on the internet lives on forever. Most people don’t understand the exact implication. When data is uploaded on a website, it stays there. Every time you buy a product from a certain online store, there is an option to have your credit card information already automatically filled out and prepared for you to checkout. This seems efficient and makes it much easier to purchase something without having to dig for your card and tediously enter the information. However, data is stored and if the server of the online store is hacked, your credit card information can become available to the highest bidder on the black market.

Online safety is in the hands of the user. While saving your information online is convenient, it is much safer to take the extra time to enter it and protect your identify. The best way to avoid a data breach is not leaving an online footprint on unsafe websites. Customers and users need to watch out for themselves because not every website is watching out for them.

About the Writer
Rebecca Covington, Editor-in-Chief

Hi, I’m Rebecca Covington but most people call me Becca or Becks. This year, I’m a senior and co Editor-in-Chief alongside Laney Rendon, one of my favorite people. Other things I do include competing in UIL academics and loving my job as part of childcare staff at my church. I love talking about politics, visiting museums and going to festivals and concerts.

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