Data protection and privacy

Since the expose of mass surveillance by Edward Snowden that carry out by the US government, Israel and Britain (the PRISM program) on their citizens, on international user of US-based service providers and on some world leaders (the program run by National Security Agency), and also the Wikileaks case earlier this decade, the internet users have becoming more concerned whether their daily private communications being free from government surveillance. Today digital era witnessed that internet users are dealing with increasing number of privacy and security issues. Elsewhere, citizens are beginning to question their governments whether similar programs has been existed in their own countries.

Unfortunately, the governments all around the world has some form of mechanism to acquire user data (be internet users and mobile users) under the auspicious name of national security and counter-terrorism agenda. Many governments carry out such programs under secrecy. Leading technology and communication companies (especially internet and cloud-based companies) are now taking active stand in responding to government requests on their user communication data. Many of them have its own user’s privacy guideline such as the need for warrant by government agencies to get data on their user so, that they able to protect their user. Many of these companies too are now publishing their own ‘Transparency Reports’ such as Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Dropbox, Sonic.net among others.

Citizens all around the world now has becoming more active in advocating their rights on privacy and communication security to their governments and improving legal framework, law enforcement and effectiveness that dealing with individual/ user data and privacy. The existence of not-for-profit organizations, as part of civil society players (i.e.: Center for Digital Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation) to hold government and companies accountable on dealing with surveillance and privacy issues should be applauded so that, public interests can be top priorities. The emergence of cloud computing needs its set of regulation model that does not undermine user’s data protection and individual privacy information.

The collection of individual data is also useful in many ways for example, the policy makers can use user profile data to determine trend of internet user and crafting policies that enabling digital gaps or, business can use data on online spending and cater their marketing needs to gain more market shares. However, commercial interest of technology companies and policy interest of government must respect netizens’ rights to privacy and access to information. Democracy values should be extended and regulated (using the same democracy values) in the superhighway environment. Recent debates of data protection require us to re-thinking working model of democracy to cope with robust development of information technology.

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