While I certainly don’t think it’s necessary for you to learn about things like processors and RAM, I do think it’s important to understand how the internet affects our lives both personally and as a society. Here is a resource to steer you in the right direction.
With the number of Americans who don’t use the internet down to a mere 11%, I think it’s safe to say that the internet is here to stay. But there are still a lot of folks who don’t know (or don’t care) about what goes on behind the curtain. And while I certainly don’t think it’s necessary for you to learn about things like processors and RAM, I do think it’s important to understand how the internet affects our lives both personally and as a society. With so much talk about privacy, security breaches, etc., we all need to understand both our rights and our responsibilities as internet users.
So let’s take a look at some of the most important issues. Some of them may not apply to you right now, but if you bookmark this article, you can use it as a resource to steer you in the right direction if you ever do have a problem.
Most people are shocked to find out just how much of their personal information is out there, not to mention the multiple methods used to collect and analyze it. Even when you don’t explicitly share a piece of information, today’s sophisticated algorithms are often able to piece little tidbits together into amazingly accurate profiles.
More and more, consumers are pushing back, and regulatory agencies are responding. One of the first was the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). With the recent passage of Brazil’s version of the GDPR, there are now more than 120 countries with some degree of data privacy regulation. And the U.S. currently has several proposed bills under consideration.
Privacy advocates are busy at local levels of government, as well. In the U.S., the California Consumer Privacy Act offers extensive protections. Eleven other states are considering similar legislation.
It means that the idea of who owns your data is changing. In a rapidly increasing trend, governments are determining that your data belongs to you, not the businesses that collect and process it. While the particulars may vary, there are some commonalities you should keep in mind:
Again, we’re still dealing with a mishmash of laws at this point. The important thing to know is that, if you have concerns about how your data is being used, where it’s being stored (and how tight security is), if you’re tired of receiving junk emails, etc., there may be things you can do to correct the problem.
Courts have ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers digital spaces as well as physical ones. In a nutshell, this means that you shouldn’t have to forego using a website because there’s not enough contrast between the text and the background, videos don’t have captions, the images aren’t tagged to work with your e-reader, the site isn’t navigable using only a keyboard, etc.
Websites are supposed to have an accessibility statement that tells you whom to contact if you’re having a problem using the site. If not, you can use the general contact information. The important thing is that your access to a given website can’t be restricted by any physical limitations you may have.
One goal of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was to make sure your private health data remains private. Another goal was to guarantee patients access to their own medical records.
All in all, HIPAA has turned out to be a good law. A word of warning, however: Many people have found themselves in a situation where their doctors couldn’t talk to a family member who was trying to help manage a health crisis for them. Make sure you sign paperwork with each of your healthcare providers giving them permission to discuss your care with a person of your choosing.
While there are many laws and regulations regarding the handling of your personal information (including payment information like credit cards), they do little good if those safeguards break down due to your own security practices. Here are some things you can do to make sure the weakest link in the security chain isn’t inside your own home:
The opportunities presented by technological advances are almost beyond imagination. However, they don’t come without risks. I always tell my business clients that their approach to digital should be to balance risk with opportunity, and I think that’s good advice for the average user, too. You don’t have to “go offgrid” to be safe. Instead, know your rights, hold the businesses and agencies you deal with accountable, and practice your due diligence as a home user of technology. If you do that, you can enjoy the best of both worlds.
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