The concern about privacy on the Internet is increasingly becoming an issue of international dispute. ?Citizens are becoming concerned that the most intimate details of their daily lives are being monitored, searched and recorded.? (www.britannica.com) 81% of Net users are concerned about threats to their privacy while online. The greatest threat to privacy comes from the construction of e-commerce alone, and not from state agents. E-commerce is structured on the copy and trade of intimate personal information and therefore, a threat to privacy on the Internet. The Internet?s leading advertising company, DoubleClick, Inc. compiled thorough information on the browsing routine of millions of users. They accomplished this by implementing ?cookie? files onto computer hard drives. These cookies enable Web sites and advertising networks to observe people?s on-line activities with great precision. Cookies also include the search vocabulary entered as well as the articles one reads over, and the amount of time one spends looking at a particular article. Convinced that their actual identities were not being made public, consumers were pleased to accept this in exchange for the ease of navigating the web more efficiently. ?In November 1999 DoubleClick bought Abacus Direct, which held a database of names, addresses, and information about the offline buying habits of 90 million households compiled from the largest direct-mail catalogs and retailers in the nation.? (www.britannica.com)
Following the purchase of Abacus two months later, DoubleClick began compiling profiles that linked an individual?s actual name and address to Abacus?s complete records of their on-line and off-line purchases. This turned shopping that was once thought to be anonymous, into personally identifiable records. The American Management Association conducted a survey of nearly a thousand large companies and found that more than half the large American firms surveyed monitored the Internet relations of their workers. Several of these companies used Orwellian computer software that was initially offered for only $99 and had the ability to screen and record every keystroke on the computer with video like precision. It is also possible for the firms to screen all incoming and outgoing e-mail for forbidden words and phrases- such as those involving racism, or the name of a boss. Suspicious messages would then be forwarded to a supervisor for review.
One of the most popular Internet music players, RealJukebox was recognized in November 1999 by privacy advocates when they realized that the music each user downloaded could pinpoint a user?s identity by matching it with a unique identification number. There were even various software products such as Microsoft Word 97 and PowerPoint 97, which implanted distinct identifiers into every document.
?Americans increasingly seem to agree that Congress should save them from the worst excesses of online profiling.? (www.britannica.com) A poll conducted in March for Business Week magazine showed that 57% of the respondents said that the government should pass laws that modify how personal information could be collected and used on the Internet. The attempt...