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What is Online Privacy and how is it affected?

  • Difficulty Level : Medium
  • Last Updated : 05 Aug, 2021

Privacy etymologically means “state of being alone and not watched by others”. The word privacy is derived from the Latin word “privatus” which means restricted, personal, isolated, or peculiar. We, humans, are highly concerned about our privacy in real life. We don’t want others to spy upon us or hinder our freedom and interfere in our lives more than we allow them to. With the growth of the Internet, social media we spend most of our time on them. As we define privacy in our real life so does the privacy that exists in our virtual life too. As internet has great advantages, there are undue disadvantages that it carries along with. One of the biggest disadvantages is the risk to privacy. Our privacy over the Internet is highly at risk of being affected. In fact we ourselves many times put our privacy at risk.  

How is privacy affected?

There are many ways in which our privacy is affected over the Internet. Some of them are discussed below:

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  • Spying and snooping: Spying and snooping simply getting to know someone’s private information without their knowledge. As many social media sites have come into existence, it has made it easy for spies to keep an eye upon us. We are so fascinated by social media that we share all our personal information on them which we even don’t share with anyone in our real life. Though we value privacy in our real life but in the virtual world, we have lost the sense of understanding that what needs to be posted or shared and what not. Also, we allow even strangers to connect with us through our accounts in order to gain more followers or make more friends. We fail to understand the fact that not everyone over social media is a genuine person and they misuse our information for their benefit or for threatening us. This is how we knowingly but unconsciously affect our own privacy over the virtual world.
  • Website Tracking: We make use of websites for all our work. You might have noticed when you open a website it asks you to allow cookies in order to access that site. Cookies are small text files that gather information in order to recognize you as a genuine user. While some of the sites are genuine, the fraud sites or genuine ones misuse the gathered information for their personal benefits. As a result, your privacy is put at risk.
  • Phishing attacks: Phishing is a kind of social engineering attack. The attackers or hackers see users as fish and they lure them by bait. This bait could be fraud lottery wins, fraud job offers, fraud emails, frauds call, and SMS. People being greedy or foolish fall into the trap and end up sharing their confidential information such as addresses, bank details, credit or debit card details. All this information is used by attackers and hackers for their monetary gains, revenge purposes, or blackmailing purposes. Thus due to our unawareness and foolishness, we affect our privacy and bear its consequences later.
  • Information Mishandling and Data privacy: The Internet is widely used for sharing information and data with others. This is because it is the easiest and fastest way to share our information and data. In order to share our information or data we connect to a network and then transfer them according to some protocols. If our data is unencrypted and it is in its usual form and also our network is not protected, it might be possible that middlemen in between collects our data and manipulates it, and transfer that manipulated data or information to the destination person. They may even misuse this information and data. This is how information mishandling occurs and data privacy gets affected.
  • Location Tracking: Many apps on your android phones ask you to turn on your location in your phone to get a better user experience. As soon as we on the location our location can be easily accessed by them. Though genuine apps won’t spy upon you but the fraudulent apps will get to know your location, track your activities for a variety of purposes. They may do so in order to get to know about our habits or activities and accordingly display advertisements which are also known as targeted advertisements. Or there may be several reasons to do so. Hence this puts our privacy at risk.
  • Identity Theft: Identity theft is a crime or illegal practice in which a person impersonates another person by gathering all their personal information and data. This person makes fake accounts in your name and uses them for illegal purposes or in order to defame you. Identity theft is the most common privacy issue in today’s time. Almost daily we get to hear cases of how someone fooled the other person by impersonating what they were not. Identity theft drastically affects the mental and emotional state of the victim person.

How to protect our privacy?

As we see there are many risks and issues affecting our privacy there are certain practices that we should adopt in order to protect our privacy. Some of them are listed below.

  • Do not share all your personal information on social media. Do not share everything on your status or in posts that where you are, with whom you are, what are you doing now. As we don’t share every second’s information of us in our real life with anyone so should we do the same in our virtual life. You never know who’s spying on you and how adversely they may affect you in the future.
  • Always connect to a secure network over the Internet. Do not use public wi-fi. If you are using the Internet in a cafe make sure you browse in the guest mode. Do not use other person’s gadgets to login into personal accounts.
  • Always make sure that the website you are visiting is a genuine one. Try opening only those websites that are “https:” secured. Do not click on random or unknown links on these websites.
  • Do not install apps without knowing about them. People try to install paid apps for free using “.apk” files or torrents etc. These apps may have malicious files, viruses with them that will get installed with these apps and will affect your system’s functioning or get a hold of your complete data.
  • Stay aware of recent scams and fraudulent activities occurring by reading newspapers, seeing the news, or reading blogs of genuine and official sites.
  • Always install antivirus on your system. Prefer using paid antivirus. Antiviruses protect your system by isolating the malicious files from your system files. Some antiviruses are Norton, Quick heal, Kaspersky, etc.
  • Use firewalls. A firewall is software or hardware or both that protects your system by blocking fraud sites.
  • Keep your browser, operating systems, smartphones up to date. Make sure you are using the latest versions of the operating systems, browser, etc as they come with bug fixes and enhanced security protection. The previous versions can be easily breached by hackers and attackers.
  • Make strong and different passwords for your accounts. Don’t use a single password for all your accounts. Also, don’t make such passwords that can be easily guessed. You may use password managers. Password managers generate strong passwords in a brute force manner using certain algorithms ( eg two fish algorithms) and also remembers them all. Some of the password managers are KeePass X, Clipperz, password gorilla, etc.
  • Use two-step authentication for your accounts. Two-step authentication is a more secure way of identity verification. It makes use of OTP (One time password) that is sent to you on your mobile phone or email to login into your account even after entering your username and password.
  • Do not download pirated content. It is illegal to do so and also these pirated contents mostly have malicious files that risk your privacy and system’s security.
  • Do not share confidential information over calls or messages or through social media accounts. The apps or websites running in the background or the hackers might get to know them and your data is put to risk.
  • Do not feel afraid to report to a cyber cell if you are a cybercrime victim. Many cybercrime victims do not report to the police or cyber cell due to fear of being mocked or feeling shamed. You should not think this way. Always inform the cyber cell. It may help them to get hold of those hackers or attackers and save hundreds of other people if you report the crime.
  • Do not save your passwords with the websites. Always try to use password managers or keep those passwords with you and do no click on save this password for future login options.
  • Do not click on unknown links that come in messages or along with emails. These are often fraud links that may hack your entire system as soon as you click them.
  • Always share confidential data over the Internet by encrypting it. Make sure the encryption key is known to only you and the other person with whom data is shared.
  • Learn and study about cybersecurity and also being an educated person create awareness about the same.

With small habits and practices, we can protect our privacy to a very large extent.

Privacy laws in India

Certain laws are made by the IT department and government in order to protect the privacy of the citizens. These are known as privacy laws.

  • Information Technology Act 2000, is an act made in the year 2000 that deals with cybercrime and e-commerce and provides a legal framework. It was further amended in 2008.
  • Section 43A of the Information Technology Act 2000, concerns privacy. It deals with the ” implementation of reasonable security practices for sensitive personal information or data and provides for compensation of the person affected by wrongful loss or wrongful gain”.
  • Section 72 A of ITA provides imprisonment for a period of up to 3 years and/ or a fine of Rs. 5,00,000 for a person who causes wrongful loss or wrongful gain by disclosing personal information while providing services under the terms of lawful contract.
  • The IT Act 2000 gives rights to the government to set the national standard of encryption and allows them to decrypt, intercept and monitor digital communications by allowing them to gather and monitor data traffic.
  • There is an Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (Cert-In) that is a national nodal agency that deals with cyber attacks such as phishing etc.

Sample Questions

Question 1: What is online privacy?

Solution:

Online privacy also known as internet privacy is the our privacy online or over the Internet.

Question 2: What is a password manager?

Solution:



Password managers generate strong passwords in a brute force manner using certain algorithms ( eg two fish algorithm) and also remembers them all. Some of the password managers are KeePass X, Clipperz, password gorilla etc.

Question 3: What is identity theft?

Solution:

Identity theft is a crime or illegal practice in which a person impersonates another person by gathering all their personal information and data. This  person make fake accounts on your name and use them to illegal purposes or in order to defame you.

Question 4: Mention any two steps we should do to protect our privacy.

Solution:

  1. Always connect to a secure network over Internet. Do not use public wi-fi.
  2. Make strong and different passwords for your accounts. Don’t use a single password for all your accounts. Also don’t make such passwords that can be easily guessed.

Question 5: Mention any privacy law.

Solution:

The section 43A of Information Technology Act 2000, concerns with the privacy. It deals with ” implementation of reasonable security practices for sensitive personal information or data and provides for compensation of the person affected by wrongful loss or wrongful gain”.




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