When people speak about computer privacy, they usually are referring to the keeping of an online user's information protected and private. The issues surrounding computer privacy are many. Problems can arise simply by attempting to define "privacy" in the digital world. Debates also can stem from Internet recording protocols, the changing perceptions of what "privacy" means among private citizens and growing advancements in technology.
One of the major issues that surrounds computer privacy is the ongoing debate about what digital privacy is. Technology evolves and advances at a rapid rate and citizens adopt the technology in step, so the concept of computer privacy can change meaning as fast as new technology develops and presents new problems for its users. Lawmakers and legislators can find this to be an obstacle while they try to legally protect citizens and their information while still providing them with the freedom to access it.
Those who participate in digital environments often have their activities tracked. Internet Protocol (IP) addresses can identify users' computers, and search engine websites can store information about users' queries for more than a year in some cases. The visibility of these activities by the public is a point of contention, as is the issue of who gets to control the reproduction of these visible activities. For example, the ethics of posting and circulating a picture of someone on the Internet are often debated.
It is interesting to note that most citizens are more comfortable giving private businesses, rather than the government, their information and letting them store it for an indefinite period of time. This might help businesses establish and maintain long-term relationships with clients, but their responsibilities also increase. Customers expect that their details, whether personal, financial or professional, will be kept private and safe from others. As such, businesses might invest in computer privacy by protecting their databases and encrypting information, but certain business practices might suffer as a result. Marketing efforts can be severely restricted if customers do not wish to have their information sold, traded or used in that capacity.
Computer privacy finds another roadblock in that using technology can mean that users have to first provide personal information about themselves. For instance, to use a social network website, users typically have to create accounts and supply some sort identifying information during the registration process, such as an email address that might be required to create a profile. Many users do not fully understand how their information will be collected and distributed from that point forward. To complicate matters, social networking sites often make user profiles public by default, leaving a user's personal information in full view for anyone wanting to access it. The increasing requirement for users to provide identifying information and have it publicly displayed is a continued cause for concern among privacy advocates.