Recently, Ron Steinman submitted an article to Navigate New Media entitled "Privacy and the Internet." The article follows. On this site we often celebrate the exciting advances in digital media, but we felt that his article represented the view of many people who are concerned that the advances, which increase our productivity and connectivity, come at a cost to privacy. Steinman's article does a good job of identifying the potential problem.Rather than just identify the potential problem, we felt it would be a good idea to look at Steinman's concerns and do some research on the real state of privacy in America, and on the web. In a companion article&#8212;which follows below Steinman's article&#8212;editor Larry Elin and doctoral student Natalia Berrios help us to identify which issues of privacy we should fear, to tell us what measures we can take to protect ourselves, and to help us determine whether the risks are worth the benefits in most cases. The Internet is not going away, and it is now a core part of American life. We want to help people avoid extremes in dealing with their digital privacy while being very clear about the risks.Ron Steinman's essay&#8230;Some call the time in which we live the era of post-privacy. It is our own fault that privacy as we once knew it is breathing its last. We have no on to blame but ourselves. Here is why.When you enter the World Wide Web, an algorithm tracks everything you do. In no time at all computers access everything about you. This is akin to unauthorized search and seizure. Think of this &#8211; someone in cyberspace knows everything about you . . . everything. And they, whoever they are, make use of it to their advantage. Advertisers now have complete access to every Web transaction you make, whether you are simply surfing the Web or buying a book or a pair of jeans. With the click of a mouse, a smart investigator can easily discover everything about your life.By not being vigilant we open the most intimate facts of our lives for all to see. We live in the era of social networks, with a curious need to reveal everything we know about ourselves to everyone else. We foolishly give out too much information about who we are, what we love or hate, our politics, and worse, photos of loved ones, especially children. We seem too eager to post this information on Facebook and the many other social networking sites. We allow Google to increase its worldwide data gathering to further its growing reach as it documents everything about how we live, where we live, and, probably soon, why.&#160;The FTC has a website where consumers can see how to protect themselves from online privacy invasionMany people seem to think it all right to open up their life on the Web for all to see. For reasons I do not fully understand, they ignore the fact that we must carefully guard who we are and what we are -- our privacy -- or what little there is left of it. Has the world become so complex that people feel they must seek attention any way they can? By exposing themselves in public, do they think they have found the answer to retaining their individuality? Has the hive destroyed the individual for the sake of connectivity through a series of friends of friends of friends, many of whom one would not recognize if he or she were staring you in the face? Is connectedness, no matter the consequences, the new paradigm for successfully existing in society?The Internet governs the age in which we live. There is no denying the importance and power of the World Wide Web. It is a tool that, if used properly, meaning wisely, will benefit everyone. But that is not always the case. The power it holds over our lives is becoming more sinister by the minute. Our era is the most transparent in history. Privacy is suddenly an oddity in society. People no longer to care about what others know about their lives. If they did, they would limit access to who they are. Even in the best of times, protecting one's privacy has been difficult. We do not live in the "best of times."It is our own fault that many, seemingly gladly, give away all their secrets. We have no one to fault but ourselves for allowing outsiders often-complete access into our lives. I read recently that, " we share and over share," everything in our lives. It is as if we fear that someone else's personal life will overtake our own. This is not how I want to live. There have been many instances in history where a person's privacy has become a tool of the oppressor. That worries me. I object to spam, spyware, cookies that divulge everything about you, viruses that can wreck your day and phishing. It is not so much whether one believes in privacy, but rather the attitude that so many have about understanding what privacy really means. For the sake of connecting, people are more than willing to reveal everything not only about themselves and their children, but their innermost thoughts. I look at these sites and it astounds me to see names, address, birthdates, photos of the kids, lovers past and present, and enemies. People today have become hooked on the phenomenon of seeing all their sophomoric, angry, petty and sometimes thoughtful ideas in print, with, of course, those pictures of their babies and cohorts in sometimes compromising positions. Either those who spew that information in public are too na&#239;ve to know better or they represent the most trusting generation in history. There is no answer that satisfies me. Are people's lives so empty that they must connect at all costs?I believe that parts of our lives must remain personal. There are no rules that say each of us must protect our own privacy. This is unfortunate but understandable. Each of us views public exposure -- another way to think of the end of privacy -- differently. It also seems, at least to me, that most people are too blind, too busy or really do not care as much as they should about who knows so much about their lives. Though it sometimes seems that way, life is not a mash up. We should have the facility to close the door on our personal life when we want. The lives we live should not be open for everyone to see at will. More to the point, what we want to be and where we want to go, should remain ours alone, not completely accessible to any and all people with whom we interact.With hordes of people marching to the beat of public openness at all costs &#8211; almost five hundred million subscribers to Facebook alone not counting other social networking sites around the world -- the idea of privacy is becoming an anachronism in society. Why else would even the so-called smartest among us reveal everything about themselves in the increasingly open public forums of social networks? Strange? No. We live in a world where public display seems the highest value of all. Privacy matters little to almost everyone until the fateful day when what privacy they thought they had no longer exists.&#160;Many companies provide software to clean your system of unwanted cookies and other prying eyesPeople often confuse privacy -- call it confidentiality -- with transparency --call it openness. The two surely intersect. They overlap. However, they are not the same. Transparency is the common cry by people who want to know everything about the lives we live. I find that dangerous. Transparency with the continued loss of privacy does not make for a better world. Social networks and their presumed openness pretty much end the privacy we once thought precious, something we should fight hard to retain. On any social networking site, where you find people who blatantly reveal everything about their selves, is an additional friend here and there worth the loss of who you are?Somewhere out there, there may be someone who knows me perhaps better than I know myself. Someone I cannot identify. It is a frightening thought. I am doing everything I can to resist giving up my personal identity but I am sure that I am losing the battle. It may be impossible to protect who you are and those closest to you once you enter the information highway. This is not about those who work every angle to invade our privacy for monetary gain. I do not deny anyone the right to make as much money as he or she can. This is rather a call to those who care about privacy and the keeping of secrets to resist the invasion every way we can. Where you can, keep your information to yourself, and those you know and trust.Sadly, I believe that most Americans do not think before they reveal. Until we start protecting who we are, our lives will be fodder for a growing multitude of prying eyes.Elin and Berrios respond&#8230;Ron Steinman represents the views of many Americans in his essay on privacy. His views may even fit into a segment of society that privacy scholar Alan Westin (Professor of Public Law &amp; Government Emeritus, Columbia University) calls privacy fundamentalism. Westin's privacy fundamentalists are people who are very concerned about business threats to their privacy and may even favor the regulation of how businesses collect and process information about us. They believe that "consumers have lost all control over how personal information is collected and used by companies" (epic.org). Other Westin segments are "pragmatists," who are willing to sacrifice some of their right to privacy in exchange for some convenience or benefit; and the "unconcerned," who have little or no concern about personal privacy at all.In fact, beginning with Westin's research in the 1960s, and based on polls and other studies conducted more recently by Pew, Zogby, Harris, The Annenberg Pubic Policy Center, UPI, and others, Steinman's point of view would resonate with a significant majority of people. For example, in 2000, 86% of respondents in a Pew study (and exactly the same percentage in a BusinessWeek/Harris poll the same year) said that people should be able to opt-in and give consent before any personal information is collected and shared by a Web site. This was felt so strongly that 94% of respondents thought that privacy violators should be punished.In other studies by the Markle Foundation, Gallup, Harris, and BusinessWeek, majorities ranging from 54% to 64% of respondents thought that self-regulation by businesses and Web sites was insufficient, and that the there should be rules to protect individuals from having their private information gathered and used. 89% opposed web tracking where their data would be combined with their identity, and 65% believe that tracking data is an invasion of privacy.Steinman's view of the sanctity of privacy is deeply, and uniquely, rooted in American history. Even other countries are aware of this, as evidenced by the following quotes from websites preparing visitors to the U. S. from other countries. Americans seem to hold privacy in high regard, at least to others."Americans have a very strong sense of privacy &#8211; a word that has no translation in Russian. When Americans talk, they like to have a lot of space between themselves and their conversation partners. You will probably notice that children in your host families will go to their rooms and close their doors to be alone. This is perfectly normal, and demonstrates the American attitude toward privacy. Individualism is another characteristic that defines American culture and one that you will notice everywhere &#8211; at work and at home." (http://www.ccfrussia.ru/?mod=s_page&amp;sp_id=233 A website preparing Eastern Europeans for brief stays in the US) ."Individuality: U.S. Americans are encouraged at an early age to be independent and to develop their own goals in life. They are encouraged to not depend (too much) on others including their friends, teachers and parents. They are rewarded when they try harder to reach their goals.""Privacy: U.S. Americans like their privacy and enjoy spending time alone. Foreign visitors will find U.S. American homes and offices open, but what is inside the American mind is considered to be private. To ask the question 'What is on your mind?' may be considered by some to be intrusive." (http://www.internationalstudentguidetotheusa.com/articles/culture.php A website preparing international students visiting the US)So where does this important and uniquely American sense of privacy come from? As we will see, it comes largely from American citizens' historical distrust of their own government. But this has changed, as we have seen, now that the internet has enabled so many more parties to pry. It is interesting that Steinman's (and many others') greatest fear is a violation of their privacy from other entities &#8211; marketers, advertisers, media companies, banks, and so forth. To complicate matters, in her forthcoming book, Danah Boyd argues that there is a generational difference between members of Steinman's generation and the young, who are less concerned about surrendering their privacy to the government, big corporations, and each other. They just don't want their parents to know what they are up to. The young fall into Westin's "unconcerned" segment.The notions of privacy and individual liberty in this country had a rocky start. In the 1600s, Puritans established colonies where they could freely practice their brand of Christianity, free from persecution by the Church of England, but their clergy routinely encouraged people to spy on each other, and report moral transgressions. During the French and Indian War, British troops were often housed with civilians. This may seem like a small price to pay for the guy who may save your scalp, but in those days, large extended families lived in small farmhouses, and it wasn't unusual for several people to share a bed. During the latter part of the 1700s, the first postal service came into existence, but it did not guarantee that correspondence wouldn't be read by the carrier, or anybody else.&#160;Our earliest fears were of our own government violating our privacyThe combination of British behavior toward the colonies, which included censorship of the press and random search and seizures, and the colonists' own behavior toward each other, led to the codification of certain personal freedoms in the Bill of Rights. The Fourth Amendment, which guarantees the right from unreasonable search and seizure, is the one most closely associated with the right to privacy. Although the constitution does not, anywhere, specifically guarantee a right to privacy, Congress has enacted a number of laws to protect consumers, which have had the effect of protecting some rights to privacy. Your health, financial, and educational records are protected, for example (ConsumerPrivacyGuide.org).But for over two hundred years between the Bill of Rights and Ron Steinman's essay, there had been many violations of individual privacy, and deep suspicion of the government for doing most of it. For example, when the first census was conducted in 1790, many citizens were distrustful of the government collecting so much personal information from its citizens. And, it turns out, for good reason, as census information was used by both sides in the Civil War to find possible insurgents. Abuses we may be more familiar with began when communication technology came on the scene, in 1838, with the invention of the telegraph. Telegraph message bugging started immediately. The police began tapping telephone conversations in 1890, and a device to bug phone calls was invented in 1907. And finally, in 1928, in Olmstead v. U.S., 277 U.S. 438, 478, the Supreme Court ruled that it is actually constitutional to seize electronic communication, which prompted Justice Louis Brandeis's famous dissent, in which he articulates much of what Steinman laments. He refers to privacy as, "the right to be let alone &#8212; the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men. To protect that right, every unjustifiable intrusion by the government upon the privacy of the individual, whatever the means employed, must be deemed a violation of the Fourth Amendment."There is much evidence to suggest that American notions of privacy swing back and forth with historic events. In general, Americans are willing to sacrifice many freedoms, including privacy, when threatened from without. Recently, the Patriot Act, enacted after the 9/11 attacks, made legal certain actions by the government that would have been unthinkable while the framers of the Constitution were busy writing the Fourth Amendment. But almost 200 years ago, the great Mohawk warrior and statesman Thayendanegea marveled, "In the government you (Whites) call civilized, the happiness of the people is constantly sacrificed to the splendor of empire." He was in a position to know. Known by his Anglo name Joseph Brant, he had fought with the British, had traveled throughout the known world, and had become a learned scholar and philosopher. He had seen how Whites quickly --almost eagerly --gave up personal liberties and freedom to preserve the pretext of civilization, often for a false sense of security under a duplicitous monarch.&#160;Even traffic cameras are regarded as invasions of privacyThe American sense of privacy, though rooted in its distrust (well deserved, it turns out) of its own government, is now threatened by both the corporation and other individuals. While Steinman focuses on how easily corporations can gather, process, utilize and share information for the purposes of marketing and commerce, our own neighbors are often the most egregious violators of our privacy on the internet. The recent case of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University freshman who committed suicide when his roommate shot a video of him having sex with another man, and broadcast it on the internet, is an example. The roommate, Dharun Ravi and an accomplice, Molly Wei, were charged with two counts of violating New Jersey's privacy laws, and may face hate crime charges as well.Technology expert and owner of Windswept Software, Brendan Daunt, sees Steinman's essay as a familiar argument that comes with advances in technology. In an interview, he says it's "like the idea of Big Brother: an old argument on a new medium," and there are people on both sides of the fence. In response to Steinman's article, Daunt explains:"The more people are made aware of just how easy it is to compromise privacy (even unintentionally), the more vigilant they will become. Just as the information era radically changed our culture overnight, there should now be an ever-increasing wave of good or healthy information that will help people shore-up their personal life in way that makes them feel comfortable again. There are ways to be safe and the most important place to start is understanding, at least conceptually, what can happen when you do not make a conscious decision to protect yourself. Every time you walk out the door, you consider the weather, the travel and even the nature of your destination when deciding simply what to wear - and how much you want to expose. The same thought process must be used when getting on the Net. Up until fairly recently however, most people were approaching this freedom blissfully ignorant of the consequences. The more awareness that can be raised about the issue, the better off everyone will be and this new technological evolution will mature into the resource that it should be. It is not wholly unprecedented that a fledgling (well-intended) industry takes a disproportionate share of casualties in the beginning. Look at how long it's taken the auto industry to insist of basic safety features or even the credit card companies to simply make it more difficult for someone to do any harm with a quick imprint of the front of your card. There are many more examples of almost reckless innovation in technology that eventually is implemented appropriately for society. The Internet is certainly the most extreme example of such a case and, ironically, it will have the dubious distinction of cleaning itself up by promoting the better way to use itself."Equating the value of privacy to religion, Daunt says there are people at both extremes-complete and total privacy versus open access to information-but most people are somewhere in the middle, weighing out the risks and benefits: an example of Westin's "pragmatists." Additionally, as Daunt points out, the very idea of privacy on the internet is an illusion.As of late, the news media has focused on several lawsuits against major internet websites such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo demonstrating that misuse of private information has serious consequences. These lawsuits are likely to continue to be filed when these companies violate the privacy of users, especially because they are much more highly visible targets than professional hackers.So what are the options? Do we either sacrifice our privacy and freely surf the internet? Or do we never even consider logging on because we fear exposing ourselves? Perhaps the solution will be sweeping restrictive regulation of the internet by Congress. Unfortunately, this would be highly inefficient given the cost and gridlock involved in passing any regulation, let alone on an infrastructure as important as the internet. Mr. Daunt makes the point that how we protect ourselves on the internet should become as common sense and everyday, the way we protect our bodies from the weather with clothing. He insists that clear information on the risks of the internet should be ubiquitous. Rather than sweeping legislation, there should be major Public Service Announcement campaigns directed towards education of lack of internet privacy. Targeted to all segments of the population, particularly the more vulnerable ones, these PSA campaigns would be widespread across all forms of media and hopefully eventually change attitudes, much like the success of the anti-smoking campaign. In the meantime, there's not much we can really do, although CNN provides a typical, basic list of how to protect yourself on the internet: Maintain good security practices Exercise greater awareness of how your info could be used Check credit reports Tell your financial institutions to check your account Report any cybercrimes to law enforcement.These simple instructions may seem to be common sense in this day and age, but clearly they aren't to everyone. Fortunately, most banks and credit card companies will contact you if they detect suspicious activity on your account. Ultimately, however, it is up to the individual to protect their privacy and identity.