How much can we trust the Internet?


Every inch of my body itched with utter discomfort and terror as I viewed the sequel to 13 Cameras: 14 Cameras. As I saw the ease with which the landlord of the vacation house could successfully, secretly observe each room and each member of the family at the estate, fear expanded within the depths of my stomach and teased it to surrender its contents. I felt unfamiliar distrust with my surroundings—what if I was unknowingly being surveilled through the screws that fasten the wall sockets to the walls of my room or through the camera in my phone? I trust technology that depends upon the Internet to aid me through every day; I truly cannot fathom comfortable survival without it.

However, to what extent can we trust the Internet?

First, the information we seamlessly provide electronically to various companies while subscribing to email lists or completing online purchases is extremely valuable and private. Credit card numbers, phone numbers, email addresses, billing and shipping addresses, full names, and birthdates are just a few examples of the sacred information that we willingly forfeit to copious companies to store within their vast banks of computers. All the while, we neglect the obvious possible consequences.

I am a culprit of succumbing to negligence; I rarely consider the minuscule safety that conducting a purchase online or using a public WiFi server provides. Various open-source programs can be utilized to hijack online accounts when a person scrolls through social media sites while being on a public WiFi server. According to an article on the BBC News website that was posted on June 2011, an example of an open-source tool is FireSheep: it was released in October 2010 and had been downloaded over two-million times at the date of the article’s publication. FireSheep was developed over eight years ago; the reality that malicious programs and their devastating effects have thoroughly advanced since 2011 is disturbing.

However, an article posted on the website Medium states that privacy issues have been present on the Internet since its creation. It argues that although the Internet has experienced publicized issues with data privacy, cybersecurity, and investment busts, the Internet is becoming more secure as each day passes. The article also states that the increased safety of the Internet can thank competition; the most innovative, protective products are constantly put onto the market by competing companies. Likewise, the article states that scandals, such as Facebook’s with Cambridge Analytica, present society with knowledge involving what is completely unacceptable on today’s social media and digital platforms.

Therefore, I researched exactly which social media websites have the ability to conduct without the majority of their users being aware of having granted the social media websites the authority to do so.

An article posted on the website The Guardian states that apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, when granted access to the microphone and camera of a phone, can access both the front and back camera, record through each camera at any time the app is not completely closed, take pictures and videos without disclosing that information to the user, live stream the camera on the Internet, use face recognition to detect facial expressions, and detect if a person is alone or viewing their phone with another person.

While typing the listed information above, chills shot up my spine and expanded to the backs of my arms—like ants scurrying for safety after a foot crushes the exterior of their anthill. I would be bluffing if I stated that I did not suddenly conceal the front camera of my computer with a strip of yellow construction paper after the article advised me to. Also, information covered in the article encouraged me to realize that I still utilize the same Snapchat and Instagram accounts that I created approximately five years ago. Therefore, there is a true possibility present that a company, or even a person, has secretly been viewing my life and growth for the past five years.

Therefore, to appease my uneasy feelings, I searched for recommendations on what to do to protect my digital footprint from those who might obtain a vicious plan of taking advantage of my information.

The website MakeUseOf argues that one of the simplest ways to conceal online identity is to utilize a virtual private network (VPN) while browsing the Internet. The article states that when a person is engaged in insecure browsing, their computer has the ability to reach out to another website. Once that connection is made, the person can view the second site; however, another person, who is purposely watching, has the ability to view the second site as well. Therefore, a VPN allows the development of a server between the person and the second site to occur—the VPN server conceals their identity.  

The article also suggests to turn on ad blockers while searching the Internet to prevent data from being transferred to snoopers. Browsing can be tracked through cookies—which come from a number of sources; one of the most wicked ways a person can receive a tracker is through ads. Blocking ads prohibits ads from placing files into a computer; therefore, no files or tracking information would have the ability to be transferred. However, little can be done to appease feelings of violation; the terms of service of major online services frequently require that users forfeit a fair amount of their rights to privacy to use the service.

Overall, I believe that we need to be more cautious of not only the information we put onto the Internet but of the information we permit various companies to obtain as well. We should all legitimately consider the permissions an app requests succeeding its download and be cautious of unfamiliar links or files that present themselves randomly. As intimidating and creepy as the Internet can be, it is an essential staple to current everyday life. Therefore, it is crucial that we acknowledge the consequences of risky decisions and attempt to present the most positive digital footprint possible.