Many choose personal convenience over internet privacy

Julia Cherner

On Nov. 17,  Snapchat announced the addition of “Snapcash,” a new feature that enables  users over the age of 18 to send money to their friends through the application with the click of a button.

Earlier this fall, Apple released a new feature called Apple Pay, allowing users to pay through Touch ID on their iPhones in select stores.

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According to a recent Bark survey, 38 percent of students said that they appreciate the fact that online services are more efficient because of the increased access they have to personal data, and 39 percent of adults surveyed by Pew agreed with the same statement.

But as technological features like these have helped make life more convenient, they also carry risks of giving out too much personal information. In a recent survey done by Pew Research, 91 percent of adults believed that consumers have lost a sense of control over the amount of personal information collected and used by companies.

“There is nothing wrong with opting for convenience as long as you’ve also spent some time thinking about what you may be sacrificing or giving up in exchange for it,” said English teacher and district educational technology coach John Blaber. “If you’re not paying in currency, you’re paying with a currency of your time and attention and sharing and disclosing more personal information.”

Since 2009, Google has been providing users personalized advertisements based on the wording of their emails and the websites they have visited, a feature they call “interest based advertising.” According to Google’s support website, two of their main reasons for personalized ads are to keep Google free and to make ads more helpful and convenient for users.

According to Blaber, the aspect of convenience is often a facade.

“Convenience is the great sugar coating that companies sell us in order to get us to use technology without considering the potential risks or downsides,” Blaber said. “There are any number of things I might do to make my life more convenient in a certain way, but that doesn’t mean that in the long run, those things would be more beneficial for me.”

Blaber said that the biggest risk is unknowingly getting hacked after sharing seemingly harmless information online.

“It’s not that people will steal information from you; it’s that you will give information away willingly and then find out later on that you wish you hadn’t,” Blaber said.

Sophomore John Van Liere, president of the Conspiracy Club, which discusses problems such as internet privacy, said that he is wary of the amount of information he shares online.

“I noticed that the more and more capabilities our phones have, the more it seems that it would be easier for someone to see everything that you’re doing,” Van Liere said. “You’re publicizing everything you do on Snapchat, your fingerprint is stored on your phone, you can pay people through your phone now, so it just makes it easier and easier for a person or an association to figure out everything you’re doing.”

Van Liere said that he believes teenagers are more willing than adults to share private information for convenience’s sake because they have grown up in the digital age.

According to the Bark survey, 49 percent of students reported that they believe they already do enough to protect themselves online, whereas only 37 percent of adults agreed with the same statement in the survey done by Pew Research.

“I think part of it just comes with wisdom,” Van Liere said. “They are older and realize that it’s probably not the best thing to give out everything about themselves. Part of it is also that they didn’t have this kind of technology, so they’re a lot more willing to protect themselves from it, even if it requires reading 100 pages of terms and conditions for iTunes.”

However, Blaber argued that teenagers should not be blamed for giving out information online because the heads of corporations often pressure them to do so in an attempt to make money. He added that because adults are the ones producing this technology, they bear the responsibility for its negative consequences, such as privacy, as well.

According to Rose Chavira, head of information and technology services (IT) for the TUHSD district, the technology team takes extreme precautions to protect data such as students’ grades and contact information.

Chavira added that students should take precautions on their own to prevent their information from being spread.

“I would say that nothing should ever be posted online or put into an email or a text that you don’t want to be seen by potentially a lot of people,” Chavira said.“There’s this semblance of privacy to email and to Facebook, but really anything on the internet is hackable and available.”

Blaber added that because technology is still relatively new to our society, some of its consequences are yet to be seen.

“We don’t know the long term consequences of making the choice to give third parties information about yourself that they then own or have the right to use and re-sell,” Blaber said. “We don’t know [the consequences] because it’s a relatively recent phenomenon.”