The internet has gained popularity in recent years and protecting one’s privacy has become a major concern. As a result, people who use the internet on a daily basis are concerned with how their privacy is being maintained and protected. Many companies are viewing people’s information via social networks and web surfing. Recently, AT&T has alleged that Google is profiling people for the NSA. According to AT&T, when a person agrees to use the Google toolbar, but does not opt out of the web history their information is stored. When customers do not opt out Google has the ability to observe what URLs the customer visited, other searches, and even see what pages were actually viewed. However, when a customer has nothing to hide they could care less if they are being monitored. There have even been alleged cases of social network selling people personal information to telemarketing organizations, but that might be one of the prices we have to pay for safety. I would rather be annoyed by telemarketers than have my identity stolen. The internet is a fast-paced environment that is constantly changing. The government is now asking companies to not track people’s location, sites they visit on a regular basis, and sell their personal information to help ensure that the general public feels comfortable with monitoring. . I believe that government internet monitoring is necessary to help prevent and detect terrorist plots, pornography, and international crime.
Many American feel betrayed because of the find of this information, but it is quite necessary to ensure our safety. Agencies like the FBI and NSA collect and monitor information about internet activity in efforts to maintain national security. Dinev says, “If Einstein 3 can perform deep packet inspection to prevent botnets from accessing certain Web pages, for instance, could it also be used to prevent a human from accessing illegal pornography, copyright-infringing music, or offshore gambling sites?” (p. 230). If Einstein can prohibit the access of pornography, I believe it has done a great job. Although many Americans see the United States monitoring policies as too invasive, there are other countries that have far more invasive monitoring techniques. Some countries even block sites that they feel are inappropriate or unacceptable. I believe that government internet monitoring is necessary to help prevent and detect terrorist plots, pornography, and international crime.
Public opinion about the government’s monitoring internet activity in efforts to prevent terrorism is somewhat divided among different aged Americans. Forty-five percent of Americans feel the government should monitor emails and online activity, while fifty-two percent believe that when the government does this they are infringing upon their privacy rights. It seems that younger Americans are more concerned with protecting their personal privacy than preventing terrorism when it comes at their privacy’s expense. People in the age frame of 18-29 believe it is more important for the government to not infringe upon their personal internet privacy rights even if this diminishes chances of the government counteracting terrorist plots. Nonetheless, sixty-one percent of people in this same age group feel it is acceptable for the government to track phone records for the same purposes. However, seventy-two percent of Americans aged 65 and older feel it is acceptable for the government to track phone and internet usage if it will prevent future terrorist acts. (Dinev, p. 222). No matter the age of a person, their safety is of the utmost importance and the government is trying to ensure that safety.
In a perfect world, people who have access to the internet would be responsible enough to use it for the intended purpose it was made. However, that perfect world does not exist. There are some people who use the internet solely as a tool to rob and scheme unsuspecting people. As a result, the government or the law is often needed to help people who have become prey to internet predators. Not only are adults targeted, but so are children. It is the responsibility of parents to monitor their children’s internet usage. There are many access control tools that can prevent children from illicit material. Nonetheless, parents are unable to watch their children at all times. As a result, children are elicited for sex and victims of the sex trade at an alarming rate. Using the internet, deals and the exchange of sex for money is done without some key players ever even meeting each other (Liau, A. K., Khoo, A., & Ang, P. H. 2005).
When one thinks of prostitution the actual physical act of sex comes to mind, but in the tech savvy world people are paying for visuals. There are various sites that one could go to and purchase a live camera sexual act. Often the people performing these acts are minors or sex slaves. Knowing that various sites are the government is helping to monitor illicit material is comforting to me, parents, and concerned citizens. For example, I was watching a talk show recently where a young lady was speaking out about being a former sex slave. She spoke about the acts she had to perform and how her life was threatened if she tried to notify anyone or escape. Luckily, it was the efforts of monitoring systems that were able to locate her and several other women been held captive. A local police department sat up a sting. They went onto the site and solicited the services of one of the girls. When they made arrangements to meet, the squad team was there to apprehend the pornography leaders. The site was found after the mother of one of the victims was able to view the emails of her daughter. The mother had become suspicious of her daughter’s behavior and had a device installed on the family’s computer. When she disappeared, the mother printed various bits of evidence from the computer. She was able to assist the police in the return of several girls. Knowing that servers like Google could actually be gathering information on the type of searches one makes is comforting as well. Also, now that the public knows this is taking place, I believe that people will be more reluctant to view illicit material over the internet. As a result, people in the pornography business will lose money.
Since the tragedy of 9/11, many Americans are more conscientious of the world around them. People have naturally become more vigilant of their surroundings. As a result, many terrorist groups have begun using the internet as a way to spread their message. There are numerous sites that support anti-Americanism. These sites elicit the help of people with like views. Often, the information is encrypted to try to ensure secretiveness. As a result, the American government has founded groups that monitor these sites. As a result, several terrorist plots have been foiled due to information gathered on these sites. Many Americans seem to agree that monitoring terrorist sites is acceptable, but still feel monitoring everyone else is an invasion of privacy. It is necessary because people with terrorist views aren’t always what one expects. Many people have a visual in their mind as to what a terrorist should look like, but in actuality it could be the next door neighbor, the banker teller, the local butcher, or even the taxi driver. With certain activities been monitored, all people are being monitored equally without profiling.
With today’s economy, many people have been trying to find work by any means necessary. As a result, many people are working nontraditional jobs at home. Consequently, there are many internet scams and international crime rings operating via the internet. There are some internet scammers that offer at home work, but the potential employee must first pay a fee for the start-up kit. There are others that contact potential victims stating that they have won a large sum of money, but must first pay the shipping and handling fees for the check to be delivered to their home. There are endless possibilities to be scammed by online internet companies. According to Salbu,
“The Bureau of Consular Affairs receives daily calls about international scams involving Internet dating, inheritance, work permits, overpayment, and money-laundering. Many scams are initiated through the Internet; victims range in age from 18 to 81 and come from all socio-economic backgrounds. While such confidence schemes have long existed, the advent of the Internet has greatly increased their prevalence. Individual U.S. citizens have lost considerable money on these scams, ranging from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars.” (Salbu, p. 439).
Salbu goes on to say that if a person feels they have become a victim of an online scam, they should notify the administrators of that website. The victim should end all communication with the alleged scam artist. Nonetheless, it is extremely rare that the victim recovers the lost money because scams evolve constantly. However, if the victim feels threatened in any way, they should contact their local law enforcement office. (Salbu, p. 459-62).
The invention of the internet had made our lives much easier and convenient. However, it has also exposed us to scams, extortion, and other negative possibilities. As a result, monitoring has to be done in order to ensure our safety. Although government monitoring may be a little invasive or annoying at times, in the long wrong it is more beneficial to Americans than it is harmful. Consequently, I am accepting of the fact that the government is monitoring certain sites or key words. As a law abiding citizen, who has nothing to hide, I have moved passed the issue of privacy in favor of overall safety.
Dinev, T. (2008). Internet privacy concerns and beliefs about the government surveillance. Journal of Strategic Information, 17(3), 214-233.
Liau, A. K., Khoo, A., & Ang, P. H. (2005). Factors influencing adolescent’s engagement in risky Internet behavior. Cyber Psychology & Behavior, 8(6), 513-520.
Salbu, S. (1998). Who should govern the internet?: monitoring and supporting a new frontier. Journal of Law & Technology, 11(2), 430-462.