Cyberspace is the rapidly growing network of computing and communication technologies; wherein the Internet, by providing a new, speedy means of inexpensive communication is also becoming a rich source of information about online website visitors. Undoubtedly, communication, speech and expression constitute some of the most basic liberties of individuals, and to a large extent, can be considered inalienable. Human-beings treasure privacy, linking it to the concepts of personal freedom, self-determination and well-being.
Prof. Roger Clarke (1998) defined the term Privacy as: “Privacy is the interest that individuals have in sustaining a ‘personal space’, free from interference by other people and organizations”. In effect, privacy is an interest with several dimensions, and one of its dimensions being “Privacy of Personal Data”, also known as “data privacy” or “information privacy”. The essence of privacy of personal data is the understanding that individuals can legitimately claim that data about themselves should not be automatically available to other individuals and organizations, and that, even where data is possessed by another party, the individual must be able to exercise a substantial degree of control over the data and its use. Thus, every individual has an inherent desire to control, or at least significantly influence, the handling of data about themselves. As the use of Internet grows, so do concerns regarding online collection and use of consumer information.
In India, Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian Constitution clearly lays down the propositions as “Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression”. However, this very right gets violated every so often by the marketers, and companies for the sake of promoting business activities.
Websites collect much personal information both explicitly, through registration pages, survey forms, order forms, and online contests and by using software in ways that are not obvious to e-consumers. Through cookies and tracking software, website owners are also able to follow e-consumers’ online activities and gather information about their personal interests and preferences. Marketers have long collected data to assist in making informed decisions in order to target market products and services that are increasingly tailored to their visitor’s interests. Consumers do not appear concerned about this type of privacy invasion. However, condition worsens when these businesses especially the e-commerce companies are unable to protect highly personalized information, collected and stored explicitly, of e-consumers from the prying eyes.
How do well-meaning companies get themselves into trouble with their privacy policies? Among the biggest problems is a statement such as, “We will not share your information with any third party.” Very reassuring – Ain’t it? But unfortunately, it is almost certainly false. The Founder of CYBER COPS India had presented his views in a public conference in a Privacy India conference in New Delhi, India in 2012 titled “Consumer Privacy in Cyberspace” wherein he had presented a live case study which had showed that when it comes to the Web, there are numerous legitimate third parties with whom the site owner shares the user information just to operate the site: the site’s hosting company, the user’s own ISP (to whom the web pages are transmitted on their way to the user), the courier delivering any purchases, the banks clearing credit card payments, the website designing companies etc.
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