Balancing Convenience and Privacy: Navigating the Digital Landscape of Personal Information

I went shopping in one of my local grocery stores during Thanksgiving break. At the check-out, they had a new payment method that scanned your palm and connected it to the credit card preloaded into your Amazon account. In that one sentence alone, I want you to think about how much of your personal information is already stored on the internet. 

This new feature is an Amazon product created to make payment easier in stores. But while the convenience of saving around ten seconds per transaction may seem appealing, it raises questions about the sacrifices involved. On one hand, having our information saved somewhere simplifies our daily tasks. On the other, it opens up the possibility of data exploitation and privacy breaches, especially in cases of personal identification security, such as facial recognition or fingerprint scanning.

In an age of technological advancements where personal information has become a valuable commodity, the increasing integration of digital solutions into our daily lives demands careful consideration. While these technological innovations offer unparalleled convenience, there are risks associated with exploitation, such as the unauthorized collection, analysis, and sale of user data and property. An easy and already current example is household appliances. Today, many appliances often have audio recordings saved to recognize voices when one wants to change the lights in the house or, say, the temperature. This also means that the systems have access to my daily routines, preferences, and, especially, recordings of my voice that could very well be used against me. Thus, striking a balance between efficiency and safeguarding privacy becomes imperative as we embrace these conveniences; the ease with which computers can obtain and potentially sell information should not underscore the importance of discerning what we willingly share with the world.

You will always be able to change passwords. After all, you just push the “Forgot password” button, and in a short period of time, you now have access to your account which makes it harder to hack. But what about your fingerprints? What about the structure of your palms? What about your face? Those features of your identity are not so easily changed. If those parts of your identity were to be hacked, there is nothing else you can do other than accept it and hope that your information can be recovered and hopefully reprotected. Just think: how many times have you accessed information through a fingerprint? How many times have you unlocked your stored credit card number through a backup password or Face ID? I’m guessing your answer is quite a few times. If we look at the bigger picture and see how often we store our information in our devices, we come to realize how accessible our information will always be in the digital world, and there’s nothing we can do to remove it or change it. 

As students of this campus, most of us are no more than 19 years old. What may appear inconsequential now, such as a mere saved BlueLink login, carries the weight of a temporal trajectory that will unfold in the coming decades — twenty, thirty, or perhaps even a century from now. We have decades ahead of us to live. Depending on our digital choices, we have decades ahead of us to live with our information readily accessible to be misused. 

I encourage you to think before you click the save button for your information on your phone or computer. I encourage you to think about what exactly you are storing for the internet to have complete control over. I warn you to think about what it is you’re giving the digital world access to and if you’re okay with your information being present there for the rest of your life, no matter the steps you take to remove it.