Internet needs regulation

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While resolutions to Internet privacy concerns aren’t forthcoming, more should be done to prevent corporations from looking at the content of user emails.

Controversy erupted last week after Microsoft admitted to reading emails from a journalist’s Hotmail account in the course of tracking down a leak.

In the aftermath of their admission, the company introduced new rules governing when they can look at user emails.

Online privacy is in its death throes. Edward Snowden’s revelations and incursions like the one Microsoft has admitted to have combined to make Internet users wary about who’s watching them and collecting their data.

It used to be that parents warned their children about predatory individuals on the Internet. The current reality of predatory corporations and governments necessitates a total rethink of how we guard against online threats.

Virtually no one reads the user agreements that they are required to agree to when signing up for an email account. Users, though, should begin to rethink this standard practice and take an interest in what they are signing over to corporations.

Once upon a time, most long-distance correspondence was done through snail mail. With paper mail, there are legal regulations in place to ensure those with ulterior motives don’t search it. Unfortunately, these regulations aren’t in place for email.

Email service providers should be required to create more transparent user agreements. Providers could offer options for greater privacy at a premium. On the whole, governments should take a larger role in ensuring the integrity of online correspondence.

However, given the scale of the problem and the likeliness that governments and corporations will resist reform, nothing less than a democratic uprising or complete change of public opinion will be required to get significant action on this issue.

These scenarios are unlikely. Controversies about Internet privacy fade quickly into the background. Just about everyone knows there have been complaints about privacy invasions by Gmail and Facebook, but very few people genuinely care.

New technologies necessitate new regulations. Either we take action to rein in violations of our privacy or we continue to disregard the warning signs. Privacy is dead. Long live privacy?

— Journal Editorial Board

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