Online Privacy Analysis and Hints for Its Improvement

Article excerpt

Introduction

Twentieth century technology provides various communication means. The Internet is a powerful interactive and multimedia communication medium offering numerous activities. Many companies utilize the Internet for the enlargement of their business. They create websites for advertising, contact information, e-shopping, etc.

Modern people use the Internet for diverse purposes such as information, education, entertainment, e-shopping, etc. All these services are useful, but at the same time can be misused, as well. There are a lot of cases of misuse, from malicious scripts causing various types of damage on user's hardware or software, to jeopardizing personality by misusage of personal data. The Internet users have very soon become aware of the risk of the Internet usage. They are worried, sometimes unnecessarily, but sometimes with a reason.

Today almost every computer is equipped with some antivirus software providing several levels of protection. Complete protection is impossible because of the expanding skills of virus authors; still users may improve safety by acquiring new and updating current antivirus software.

Regarding personality protection, users are not often aware of the danger, and ways of collecting their personal data. In many cases they do not sense the jeopardy, since personal data are not given directly. Websites can collect such data in different ways, without user's knowledge, and sometimes the user is compelled to provide own personal data in order to perform an activity on the Web.

Website visitors may improve their personal safety by recognizing possibilities of misusing personal data and how they can protect themselves. In addition, there is a set of recommendations given by W3C organization about many web issues and one of them is the user's privacy.

Possibilities of Misusing Personal Data

Surfing the Web people are daily asked to fill out forms dealing with their personal data. They are mainly asked about their name, family name, home address, telephone number, date of birth, hobby, profession, business, loan, credit card number, etc. Unfortunately, there are numerous possibilities of misusing someone's personal data. We will mention several of them: * Spam. Sending undesired e-mails is a very common misuse of personal data. Companies use data collection and user tracking for finding out user habits and interests, which can be misused for sending spam. Moreover, companies often share collected personal data with other companies. For example, ("Privacy matters", 2001) the Double Click company claimed in January 2000 to exchange collected personal data with the Abacus Direct Company. The same source mentions also some companies with financial problems that tried to sell their personal data collection in order to survive on the market, like Toysmart.com in June 2000. Fortunately, the above mentioned company renounced the data selling, after solving their financial problems in another way.

* The misuse of credit card numbers. Credit card numbers can be misused after security incidents. Such incidents happened for example, in 2000 at CreditCards.com, Eve.com and Amazon. com. An investigation made by Gartner and Harris Interactive, shows that among 1.000 adult online users in a period of 12 months, there were 7% of victims related to a credit card information misuse, (Knowledge Leader, 2006). One of several methods for credit card misuse is known as spoofing. Namely, criminal groups clone entire websites or their parts concerning credit card information and product purchasing, assuring clients to be the very legal website of a trademark company. They mainly offer products at a significantly lower price then the usual, which is an additional motive for people to purchase products at the false online store. After the collection of credit card information, the deceived clients are e-mailed about the successful transaction, so the clients can hardly understand they are misused. …