What is Internet Privacy, and Why It’s Essential in 2023?

Ali Qamar Last updated: April 30, 2023 Read time: 31 minutes Disclosure

This article provides an overview of informational privacy by describing the information that is protected and why it matters.

The term “Internet Privacy” or “Informational Privacy” is now commonly discussed among internet users due to the massive upsurge in privacy issues today. These interchangeable terms, having the same concept of handling the users’ online data, primarily refer to how the government and other organizations track, collect, analyze, and sell the data to third parties. Mostly, such data collection is without the respective users’ consent, violating their online privacy rights. With this detailed guide, let’s learn more about internet privacy and how it is crucial today.

Most internet users want to control how their information is collected and subsequently used. In addition, they wish to understand who knows what about them and how they learned it. But on top of that, users appreciate their informational privacy and security in the digital world even more.

Although, some users do not mind giving away their personal information to the service providers to improve functionality. However, most internet users want some guarantees about who has the privilege to use personal information and to what extent. That’s why and how the terminologies like “data privacy,” “consent for sharing,” “data abuse,” and “privacy breach” trigger heated debates.

What is online privacy?

Privacy is a concept that has been around for ages, but the advent of the internet and social media has significantly impacted its meaning. In definition, privacy means being alone and not being watched or interrupted by others. However, in today’s digital age, this definition has evolved to encompass protecting personal data and preventing behavior tracking without explicit consent.

When you go online, you leave digital footprints used by various entities to track your behavior, monitor your activity, and collect your data. This intrusion into your online life can leave you feeling exposed and vulnerable. Regardless of whether you are alone when using browsing the internet, someone is watching and building your online behavioral profile. This behavioral profile is later used to target you with personalized ads.

Online privacy has two components. The first is an expectation of having your personal information protected, and the second is the inability of internet entities to track and monitor you without explicit consent. This way, you can control how your data is collected, used, and shared by all entities

What is personal data?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) defines personal data as any information related to an identifiable living individual. This means that various bits of information when summed up, can result in identifying a specific person and therefore constitute personal data. Names, addresses, email addresses, social security numbers, and IP addresses are all examples of personal data.

Just like people protect their physical belongings, online privacy is based on protecting personal data. Online privacy gives users control over their identity when using the internet. However, achieving total online privacy has become difficult because of the social, commercial, legal, and technological factors involved.

Is online privacy a myth?

The internet has created many online applications and entities where much sensitive data is shared daily. Each online transaction requires you to provide personal data such as your name, email, and payment details. Some of these applications are not trustworthy and have faced severe data breach scandals in the past. This is why many people wonder whether online privacy is just a myth.

Some online companies are even more invasive to the extent of tracking and monitoring users’ online behavior to target them with personalized ads. We have an uphill task to achieve total online privacy; everyone must be on board. So, everyone must follow the online privacy rules and take caution about using their social media applications. Additionally, people should start using privacy-enhancing tools such as VPNs to maintain anonymity when connecting to the internet. This way, we can make online privacy the norm rather than the exception.

Why internet privacy is important

Online privacy forms the backbone of internet adoption. It influences how technology evolves and affects both personal security and safety. Poor online privacy practices can result in various offline threats, such as swatting, extortion, harassment, and doxing.

Recognizing online privacy’s impact on an individual level is also vital. For instance, you would not want burglars to know when you are not at home because this will allow them to break in. Similarly, scammers could use your personal information, such as your birthday and place of birth, to steal your identity. 

Take some time and reflect on your most crucial online accounts, such as your social media platforms, email, and online banking, and the type of data they have about you. Your social media accounts only may have details such as your relationship status, school attended, workplace, place of birth, date, email, and phone number. Consider if the trade-off between the benefits of using a service and your privacy is still equitable. You can terminate your account anytime if your privacy and security are jeopardized.

Protecting your online privacy gives you control over your personal information and identity. Without it, people with malicious intent can manipulate your identity for their gain. For example, they can sell you an expensive vacation or steal your savings. The information you post online can also directly or indirectly impact your family and friends. Therefore, be cautious not to overshare and give cybercriminals an insight into your private life and personal data.

Some common threats to informational privacy