Privacy and the Internet have a complex relationship. On the one hand, technology has enhanced privacy by offering more accessible means to communicate and access information. For example, activities that once required in-person visits to banks, post offices, libraries, shops and doctors’ offices can now be carried out alone from the sanctity of the home. Accompanying advances in encryption have made many online transactions and interactions increasingly secure, with users enjoying greater protection of their messages from prying eyes.
At the same time, new and varied threats to privacy have emerged with the growth of the digital universe. Government surveillance is exponentially easier and cheaper, painting a detailed picture of individuals’ communications, movements and browsing habits. Sophisticated identity thieves, cybercriminals and hackers have exploited vulnerabilities in online banking and e-commerce platforms for financial gain. Online retailers, search engines and email providers track users’ behavior, collating and selling information to advertisers and marketers.