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Consumer privacy issues revolve around the legal (and illegal) use and extraction of user data on websites and social media platforms.
Explain how digital technologies expose organizations and consumers to privacy issues
Concern over consumer privacy dates back to the first commercial couriers and bankers, who were obligated to take strong measures to protect customer privacy to maintain competitiveness in the market.
With the emergence and evolution of telecommunications, companies and organizations have implemented online and offline customer privacy measures to protect confidential customer data from being stolen or abused.
While web visitors can choose to opt-in or opt-out of behavioral targeting on legitimate corporate sites, website operators that use malware collect sensitive user information without user knowledge.
Commercial companies and organizations institute customer privacy measures to ensure that confidential customer data is not stolen or abused. Consumer privacy concerns date back to the first commercial couriers and bankers who were obligated to take strong measures to protect customer privacy to maintain competitiveness in the market. Modern consumer privacy law in its recognizable form originated in the regulation of telecommunication companies, since these businesses potentially had access to unlimited amounts of information regarding customers' communications habits .
However, the growing adoption of web and mobile technologies, as well as the pervasiveness of the Internet, has given rise to additional concerns over consumer privacy online. While the web provides a collaborative platform for consumers to perform searches and share and post content, it also exposes them to privacy issues including spam, data tracking, malware, identify theft, and defamation.
Since most organizations have a strong competitive incentive to retain exclusive access to the data and customer trust is a high priority, most companies take some security engineering measures to protect customer privacy. Companies that advertise via corporate websites, social media platforms, and mobile devices must also grapple with implications on the privacy and anonymity of users. Companies that place web banners on its websites, host the banner images on its servers, and uses third-party cookies enables to the company to track browsing habits of users across these sites.
Cookies, Behavioral Targeting and Malware
Most browsers can block third-party cookies using discrete mechanisms to increase privacy and reduce tracking by advertising and tracking companies. Many advertisers have an opt-out option to allow users to remove behavioral targeting advertising from their user experience. Nevertheless, consumer privacy issues abound over both legal and illegal data collection practices on the web. Website owners are obligated to give users the option to revoke permission for contextual and behavioral targeting. The United States Federal Trade Commission proposed a "Do Not Track" mechanism to allow Internet users to opt-out of behavioral targeting in 2011.
Some websites use numerous advertisements like flashing banners to distract users or feature misleading images designed to look like error messages from a user's operating system rather than advertisements. Websites that unethically use online advertising for revenue frequently do not monitor where their advertisements link on the web. This allows advertisements to lead to sites with malicious software or adult material.
Some sites attach malware to the computers of unsuspecting users. Malware is an external application that alters system settings (like a browser's home page), spawns pop-ups, and inserts advertisements into non-affiliated web pages. These applications are also referred to as spyware or adware, as they mask questionable activities by performing services such as displaying the weather or providing a search bar. Typically, malware is difficult to remove or uninstall, making it even more difficult for less computer-savvy users to protect themselves from these programs. Malware also makes users vulnerable to the theft of sensitive information including social security numbers and credit card data.
Consumer Privacy Issues on Social Media
Social media sites, particularly social networks, have been defined as the new public sphere where individuals freely discuss societal problems. Thus, the mere existence of social media sites gives access to such discourse. Site mechanisms like comment boxes, wall posts, "Like" buttons, and widgets facilitate the ability to share and post vast amounts of information with multiple users. Brands are increasingly monitoring and analyzing consumer behavior on social media to refine behavioral and contextual targeting and encourage viral, word-of-mouth advertising.
With so many Internet users functioning as content creators and distributors, questions around privacy and anonymity have emerged in court cases throughout the United States. According to the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, "Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech." Consequently, the U.S. Supreme Court has declared that online speech is entitled to the same constitutional protections as traditional speech offline. Despite consumer willingness to share and post brand-related content, companies that engage in social media advertising must be cognizant of their increased exposure to litigation on social media channels.