THE BLOG

Internet And/Or Privacy?

02/08/2013 10:14 BST | Updated 30/09/2013 10:12 BST

The relationship between internet and our privacy has seemed to dominate the news lately.

Today, BBC News reported on the law firms found to have used private investigators convicted of illegally obtaining information. Along with these companies, financial services firms, insurance companies and celebrities were also identified as clients.

One need only think back a year to a similar sounding case; the phone hacking scandal that destroyed the reputation of British media, forcing one newspaper in particular to close.

Elsewhere in the news, the largest ever leak of US government files culminated in a hefty prison sentence this week. US Army Private Bradley Manning was convicted of spying charges and now faces a maximum sentence of up to 136 years. Julian Assange, founder of the anti-secrecy organisation 'Wikileaks' - whom Manning leaked classified information to - condemned the conviction as a 'dangerous precedent' and declared Manning was a 'hero' rather than a criminal.

This week also saw figures for e-crime reaching a worrying high, with an increasing number of cases being recorded, while only a short while ago the media was reporting concern for how we monitor internet crime, focusing on the problem of child pornography and its censorship.

So in an age where we are constantly logging on to the internet, updating social media with our locations, sharing family photos and organising a lot of our personal business (banking, insurance...) online, is all this just a case of being more internet savvy or are we really facing a privacy crisis?

Of course there are steps we can take to being more secure online; parental controls for children, anti-virus software, taking caution when clicking onto external links from emails, using spam filters and, importantly, monitoring our 'privacy' settings on social media and email accounts.

But when it comes to hacking, leaking and illegal obtaining of information, what steps can we take?

Not a lot it seems. Which is why these news stories become even more frightening. Our personal privacy and important information, if hacked, can end up in anyone's hands leaving us vulnerable to fraud and blackmail amongst other crimes.

In that case perhaps it's down to internet providers, the government and police to help monitor online criminal activity or irregularities in someone's internet or email account. Of course, this is highly problematic considering internet security is an international problem - the internet is, after all, called the world wide web.

The dramatists amongst us might also urge that if internet security is heightened, then we need to be careful we don't end up in a 'Big Brother' Orwellian-like state, with every digital move monitored and questioned by officials.

Yet one thing is for sure. An online balance needs to be made, and it's about time we started treating the internet as we would any paper-based service and that includes the crimes associated with it.

Privacy is a human right - invasion of that needs to be completely justified in the interests of the greater good, else it is completely wrong. End of.