Internet advent has led to a revolution in how individuals work, behave, and communicate daily. Despite its unprecedented connectivity and convenience, privacy concerns about users’ information have rapidly risen. The apprehensions linked to Internet privacy infringements are growing into pervasive issues, leading to consequences permeating social lives and interactions among individuals. The repercussions can extend into and beyond personal lives, exposing people to complexities relating to privacy infringements. Analyzing the social consequences of Internet privacy infringements will foster an understanding of the related outcomes, including users’ trust erosion, chilling effect on free speech, and personal information commodification, polarizing and fragmenting communities.
Internet privacy infringements grind down users’ trust in service providers and online platforms. For example, Internet consumers worry about their personal information, especially when they perceive a loss of control over personal data or unwanted intrusion (Alzaidi & Agag, 2022, p. 2). This aspect suggests that individuals’ will to engage in online activities, such as transactions, sharing private data, and expressing opinions, decrease due to loss of trust in Internet providers and other companies handling their personal information. Hence, the reduced confidence impacts the social fabric by preventing collaborations and interactions in the digital world.
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Chilling Effect on Freedom of Speech
The infringements of Internet privacy can promote a chilling effect, which prevents free speech. For example, individuals often avoid free speech against powerful entities, including the government, due to fear of repercussions for engaging in controversial discussions or expressing dissenting sentiments (Henschke, 2020, p. 140). It means that the chilling effect hinders the open discourse and exchange of ideas in a vibrant approach, averting social progress and creating a conformity climate that suppresses diverse perspectives. Therefore, the lack of Internet privacy stifles personal choices, leading to unhealthy interactions in social platforms and the community.
Personal Data Commodification
Privacy infringements within the Internet landscapes foster personal data commodification. For example, a scandal involving Facebook shows that a researcher collected approximately 87 million of its users’ data, which was then exploited without users’ authorization (Hu, 2020, p. 1). The commodification attracts social consequences, perpetuating a culture where companies trade individuals’ private data for monetary gains without user authorization, creating information bubbles that reinforce negative beliefs among Internet users on the storage and usage of their information. As such, treating personal data as a commodity for sale due to privacy infringements contributes to fragmentation and polarization of communities, resulting in echo chamber amplification limiting social information availability.
Internet privacy infringements facilitate substantial social consequences, surpassing personal concerns. Personal info commodification, trust erosion, and a chilling effect impacting the freedom of speech weaken the interactions within social platforms and the Internet in the community. The infringements threaten individuals’ ability to engage and create meaningful interactions within the digital realm due to the concerns linked to online data privacy intrusion and repercussions that might arise from taking part in critical topics involving powerful institutions, including governments. Thus, privacy infringements within the Internet and social platforms create consequences that prevent digital users from exercising their freedom of expression, fearing personal information intrusion and commodification.
Alzaidi, M. S., & Agag, G. (2022). The role of trust and privacy concerns in using social media for e-retail services: The moderating role of COVID-19. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 68(103042), 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jretconser.2022.103042
Henschke, A. (2020). Privacy, the Internet of things and state surveillance: Handling personal information within an inhuman system. Moral Philosophy and Politics, 7(1), 123–149. https://doi.org/10.1515/mopp-2019-0056
Hu, M. (2020). Cambridge Analytica’s black box. Big Data & Society, 7(2), 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1177/2053951720938091