Digital privacy rights come before convenience

By Gu Liping Source:Global Times Published: 2019/5/12 18:53:40

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Chinese people have always attached great importance to reputation while ignoring privacy rights.

In Chinese society, whether privacy is shared was a criterion to judge how close a relationship is. With social development and the awakening of an individual's self-consciousness, Chinese have gradually realized that privacy is an important personal right and is closely related to civilization and human dignity.

Privacy has also been protected by specific legal provisions since the Tort Liability Law of China took effect in 2010.

As Chinese people's awareness of privacy protection has risen, various measures have been taken to protect privacy. The connotation of privacy has also been enhanced. Nevertheless, people's privacy is now facing enormous challenges in the era of the internet and big data.

While ubiquitous networks and massive information offer convenience for people, they have also brought serious challenges to privacy protection.

In the age of big data, one's every word and action can be digitized and people's privacy becomes extremely vulnerable. Through fast and effective data mining technology, unprecedented digital privacy has emerged, including one's browsing history, remarks on social media and online shopping history. One also may be unaware when his/her digital privacy is used illegally by unscrupulous people.

In the internet era, privacy is nowhere to be found. Everyone is becoming "transparent" and even "naked." Such a dilemma is inseparable from the rapid development of communication technology and people's lack of awareness of digital privacy protection.

As new media and we-media become popular, people can easily access and share information online to enrich life, build relations, and even make profits. But many have not realized that their private information is shared publicly.

In addition, e-commerce enterprises and social media operators are digging out users' information. With big data technology and artificial intelligence, simple information could be integrated into something private and valuable.

Robin Li Yanhong, CEO of Baidu, Inc, said at the China Development Forum in March 2018 that Chinese people, not sensitive to privacy, are willing to trade privacy for convenience and efficiency in many cases. His controversial remarks can to a certain extent mirror the objective reality that Chinese people face.

Many Chinese love to buy things and order takeouts online. Enjoying convenience and benefits, they have to provide private information online. The internet has indeed changed people's lifestyles, but convenience should never be obtained at the expense of sacrificing people's privacy.

To effectively protect privacy rights, improving people's privacy consciousness is necessary. Without a correct understanding of new media and we-media, many have not realized that information shared on such platforms can be spread very rapidly and widely. In addition, many barely understand that certain personal information is vital and must be well protected. Once such private information is used illegally by others, severe harm can result.

Enhancing people's awareness of privacy protection is a common topic, but still needs to be emphasized repeatedly. In a bid to effectively protect Chinese citizens' privacy, this issue should be handled in a multi-pronged manner.

Moreover, the dilemma of privacy in China is related to the rapid development of network technology. Problems caused by technology should also be solved by technology. E-commerce enterprises and social media operators should adopt new technological methods, including anonymity, encryption, data perturbation and deletion to protect users' privacy.

Finally, policies and regulations introduced and implemented by government sectors are the bottom line for the protection of privacy rights in the big data era.

The author is a professor at the School of Journalism and Communication, Nanjing Normal University.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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