Each person has the right to use public information provided by the media, authority institutions, and others. On the other hand, using such data is prohibited by several laws enacted by different countries. As a result, it is important to consider the available technologies that provide access to any private data. Beside using public information, each person has the right to access it. Due to this, it is reasonable to assess advantages and disadvantages of the availability of such data to the general public. Possible ways of measurement should be also determined, which can be used in order to protect private or confidential information. The latter can be legally used by the federal government pursuant to the federal law. Therefore, the available “electronic privacy laws” that can protect citizens’ rights while receiving access to private information should be analyzed.
1. List and Describe at Least Three Technologies that Allow an Individual to Research Citizens’ Private Data
Many technologies allow to search for some private data. The first one is cloud computing, being a set of interrelated technologies, which represent resources available to the customer in the form of services. The term “cloud” is used as a metaphor, being an image of a complex infrastructure, which hides all technical details. According to the IEEE document published in 2008, cloud computing is a form, in which data are stored in servers and cached on personal computers or smartphones (Schneider, n.d.).
Cloud computing is a concept that includes software as a service, Web 2.0 and other technological trends. Thereby, there is a common belief that the Internet can meet the needs of users through data processing.
Another technology that allows to search personal data is an HTTP cookie. It enables the server to store and access state data on the client system through a particular mechanism. The latter enables web-based applications to store information about user preferences, selected items, registration and other data that can be accessed later (Dev Center – Desktop, n.d.). A cookie is a small piece of text information passed from the web server to the browser. The latter stores and passes it to the former upon every request relating to the HTTP header. Some cookies can only be stored in a single session, being deleted after closing the browser, while others are established for a period of time and stored in a file format. Usually, the latter is called “cookies.txt”, located in the working directory of the web browser. It presents textual information, which is quite dangerous, since it may include personally identifying data (such as, person’s name, address, email, or telephone number). However, the latter can be saved only upon the client’s consent, since web sites cannot get information that is not provided to them by a person. Besides, they cannot access other files on one’s computer.
As far as different ways and methods of biometric identification are concerned, they are based mainly on the measurement of physiological properties and characteristics of behavior. These include such areas as authentication geometry hands and fingers, venous structures, iris, the internal structure of the bottom of the eye, facial features, and fingerprints.
People do not always realize that a phone can be used to identify them by means of the voice. Such devices analyze the energy and dynamic range of speech, and even words. These systems are characterized by large tolerances and, consequently, a relatively low level of security, which means a high probability of illegal access to personal data. A keyboard can also be used in a similar way. Therefore, in the future, due to the cheapening of costs, household devices equipped with biometric mechanisms will record characteristics of their master in the memory.
2. Discuss the Advantages and Disadvantages of Public Access to Personal Information, both for the Researchers and Those Who are Being “Investigated”
According to the international standards of access to public information, the latter may include freely collected, received, stored, used and distributed data. Restrictions imposed on it concern only storage conditions, namely a specific character of conservation defined by the law. Public information is reflected and documented by any means and in any media. It should be noted that it is considered public due to being created, collected, processed and stored at the expense of budget funds allocated for the support of the appropriate authority.
There are advantages and disadvantages of free access to public information. First of all, all citizens can use, read, and save the required information provided by authorities, the media, and other sources. It is a big advantage, since such data can be obtained without any restrictions. It should be noted that the right to access public information is the natural one of each citizen. Also, it is an important characteristic of democratic society. Therefore, a country with any restrictions imposed on access to public information cannot be considered democratic. However, there are some disadvantages, since many users can receive wrong information provided in order to create some public opinion. Due to this, people should carefully check the truthfulness and authenticity of such data.
Public information presents a big advantage for the police and other institutions of authority, can receive any data about offenders. Therefore, free access can help investigate crimes. On the other hand, the above state structures can receive public information about all citizens and use it for the wrong purposes.
To conclude, access to public information has both advantages and disadvantages, since users can obtain a lot of data and use them for different purposes. Besides, authorities can search for personal information in order to find some offender. However, public data users can become a hostage of public opinion, and it can be used by institutions of authority.
3. Determine What Measures Citizens can Take to Protect Private Information or Information They do not Want to be Disclosed
Citizens provide personal information on the Internet in various ways, such as voluntarily placing in the public domain, consenting when registering online, and allowing the browser to remember their login, password, and phone number.
Sometimes, swindlers resort to the use of online personal information in order to give credibility to their words. Hackers often get data about people, their companions, family, job, and phone number through social networks. Thus, the main recommendation for fans of online communication is to keep from providing all personal information in the public domain and make it visible only to friends.
Users should be especially careful concerning their login and password. If one uses the same user name and password for different resources, it facilitates fraudsters to get access to such data. In order to increase security, people should not to use one mailbox to registrate on different resources. If a rascal will break person’s email, he can get the password to all resources, on which he or she is registered. E-mails should be treated very carefully. For example, users should create a sufficiently complex and strong password and do not register boxes on little-known mail servers.
It should also be noted that the leading mail servers create additional conditions for the protection of personal data. For example, when one computer opens a mailbox, and data access is blocked on another one, since the mail server sends a verification code to a mobile phone.
Thus, each person should be wise and protect his or her personal information. The following advices can be used for this purpose:
1. Using anti-virus software.
2. Installing anti-spyware software.
3. Installing a firewall (a device or program that blocks unauthorized access to personal computer).
4. Periodically updating the above programs and installing security updates for applications and operating systems.
5. Bewaring of links and attachments that come with an e-mail or instant messaging, especially it is unexpected or contains a request for personal information or password confirmation.
6. Keeping from sending confidential information, such as credit card data, using an encrypted connection and immediately closing the web page.
7. Creating such passwords, which are difficult to guess.
8. Keeping from copying and installing software from unknown sources.
9. Regularly making reserve copies of files and storing them securely.
4. Discuss a Federal Law that Grants the Federal Government the Legal Right to Make Private Information on U.S. Citizens Available to the Public, and Whether or not You Agree with This Law
There are a lot of federal laws, which protect the privacy of personal information. These include the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, the Freedom of Information Act, the Computer Security Act of 1987, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, and the Privacy Protection Act of 1980. Each of these federal acts protects the human right to privacy of personal information in different scopes. For example, the HIPAA guarantees security to U.S. workers that improve portability and durability of health insurance coverage” (United States Department of Labor, n.d.). However, according to it, personal information can be published only in special cases. According to the HIPAA signed in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, personal information can be used by authority institutions. However, it should be noted that its publication is prohibited in general, but is allowed in some concrete and very unique cases.
5. Determine Whether There are “Electronic Privacy Laws” That can Prevent Others from Having Access to “Private Information” as well as How Effective They are
There are a lot of potential dangers, since some people can use personal information through the Internet and electronic documents. Due to this, governments of many countries have enacted laws, which prohibit the using of such data in general. One of these regulations is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) enacted in 1986 (U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, n.d.). It is an updated version of “the Federal Wiretap Act adopted in 1968 (U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, n.d.). According to this law, any kind of personal information transferred from one source to another is prohibited. The amended version of the ECPA protects any form of communication. The Act applies to emails, phone conversations, and electronic data (U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, n.d.).
There is another “electronic privacy law” enacted by the Parliament of Canada, namely the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. It has been created in order to protect personal information and electronic personal documents. This Act is divided into five parts. Part One outlines the ground rules for managing personal information in the private sector. Parts Two through Five concern the use of electronic documents and signatures as legal alternatives to original documents and signatures (SurNet Insurance Group Inc., n.d.; Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, n.d.).
To conclude, a lot of technologies allow to receive access to personal information. These include cloud computing, HTTP cookies, and biometric identification. Using each of the mentioned above can provide the opportunity to get access to personal data. There are advantages and disadvantages of it. First of all, all citizens can use, read, and save the needed information provided by authorities, the media, and other sources. Besides, access to public information is an important characteristic of democratic society. However, it has some disadvantages, since many users can receive wrong information provided in order to create some public opinion. Due to this, there are a lot of possible ways to protect personal data, such as using different anti-virus software, installing anti-spyware software, and creating such passwords, which are difficult to guess.