Can We Strike a Balance Between Privacy and Online Safety?

Rights that users have while using their data and information online fall within the realm of digital privacy. Online safety deals with how companies protect your data and how it may be used if needed.

While it can be confusing, the privacy paradox is being taken more seriously by people these days. The backlash that Facebook and its other platforms like WhatsApp and Instagram had to face stands testament to this.

Facial Recognition

Moderating content on social media and enforcing censorship have divided public opinion. In May, it became possible to punish social networks that fail to remove potentially harmful content.

In November 2021, Meta, the new Facebook parent company, declared that it wouldn’t use facial recognition software for identifying faces in photographs and videos. It was in response to concerns about technology being a serious threat to privacy and security. Upon opting into the software, a user would be notified of a fellow user posting an image or a video with them in it.

The technology indeed helps prevent fraud and impersonation, but of late, many complaints have been filed that accuse Facebook of storing scans of faces. The correct approach would be to weigh how much of a help facial recognition is against concerns that are growing about the technology being used.

It has put social media companies in the face of a challenge. Targeted advertising is based on user profiles being created after online tracking. Therefore, many experts deemed it intrusive, and millions of users wish to evade it.

Contact Tracing Apps to Fight Covid-19

As we try to limp back to normalcy on the path of recovery, we find technology playing a pivotal role in the health, social, and business sectors. In the UK, such apps of the NHS store the test results of individuals for a fortnight and trace if any of them have come in close contact with anyone who has tested positive. Of course, privacy specialists see the intrusive nature of such applications.

Additionally, the effectiveness of such apps is under question by many. The system has many flaws, considering that groups that are more vulnerable, comprising people that may not have smartphone access.

Apple Tools to Spot Child Abuse Images

Apple declared in August that it would introduce new measures for safety to find child sexual abuse material (CSAM) on the devices of American customers. The tech giant has said in a statement that they seek to protect children from predators using communication tools.

The development drew a mixed response. Advocates of privacy raised concerns that authoritarian governments could use the technology to spy on their citizens. Due to these concerns, Apple decided to delay the introduction of the technology after taking more inputs and making further improvements.

Aiming for Privacy on Your Own

Resisting certain technologies means that you will not use them. For instance, millions of people choose to reject targeted advertising. However, there are things you simply cannot refuse.

Take websites as an example. Every time you visit them, they learn certain details about you, like your location. Such things happen instantly and without your knowledge. And, in many cases, it might seem useful. For instance, e-commerce websites might adjust their shipping prices according to your whereabouts. However, it also means that they can manipulate prices according to certain details (like devices you use or location). Here are some of the tips for becoming more private online:

  • Do not provide too much personal information. Your online profiles do not need to reveal too many details. Stick to the required fields, and do not be tempted to share certain information in exchange for coupons/discounts.
  • Protect your accounts. Use complex passwords and two-factor authentication to ensure adequate protection for your accounts.
  • Encrypt internet traffic. You can use a personal VPN to ensure that every action you perform at home is secure. A Virtual Private Network encrypts internet traffic, preventing entities from intercepting and reading it. This tool also hides your IP address, meaning you can evade price discrimination based on location.


The debate on privacy vs. security is sure to continue raging for a while. The onus lies on the tech companies to restrain themselves from misusing the new technologies and violating user privacy. Failing to do so will dent user confidence in them which will lead to conflicts between advocates of privacy and the companies. Finding a balance between the two, user privacy and security, is critical.

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