Internet Privacy and Safety in the 21st Century

Casey Scheld, Casey Scheld, Casey Scheld, Casey Scheld, and Casey Scheld

Ten years ago, people had almost nothing to fear when it came to Internet security. Other than the occasional Nigerian e-mail scam, browsing the net was safe.
Those times are long gone.Internet privacy and safety
Last Wednesday, hacker Ron Bowes leaked a file containing 100 million Facebook profiles onto the Internet. While it only contained things anyone using the site’s public search function could find, some say it is an unauthorized use of the service.
To make matters worse, tech blog Gizmodo discovered major corporations like Disney, Hewlett-Packard and Apple are downloading the file via their servers. Companies with this type of information can narrow down their target market, simply by what people write on their pages. While it is true marketing firms study consumers all the time, the fact that they resorted to downloading a free file off of a peer-to-peer network is disgraceful.
There is also the matter of public identity on the Internet. Blizzard, creators of the award-winning online game World of Warcraft, tried to implement the “Real ID” system into their game network just last month. The system would force the 11.5 million players of the game to use their real identities, which would hypothetically curb the rampant cyberbullying that goes on in their games.
However, the community’s response was overwhelmingly negative. BBC News reported on one particular Blizzard employee who used his full name on the service to demonstrate its safety. His plan backfired, and within five minutes, strangers had obtained his phone number, address and hundreds of personal images. President of Blizzard Michael Morhaime took note of this, and cancelled all plans for the service three days after its announcement.
Perhaps the most personal of the cases would be that of 11-year-old Jessica Leonhardt, or Jessi Slaughter. What started out as a childish YouTube video response to some cyberbullies quickly spiraled out of control. A number of Internet users from the image board 4Chan were able to track down her home address and phone number, which sparked hate mail, death threats and even falsified police reports from people she never even knew.
Her father posted a second YouTube video in retaliation, in which he yells at all those that are responsible for their families’ misery. Rather than instilling fear into their harassers, however, this outburst turned him a viral video sensation viewed by millions. According to a report by ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Leonhardt was sent to a mental facility due to authorities’ suspicions of her being suicidal.
While it is nowhere near this bad for the rest of the millions of Internet users out there, we still need to be careful with our personal information. It is true that we do not need to be paranoid, but publically giving away information without forethought is never a good idea.