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People today freely use The Internet sample essay

People today freely use The Internet, E-mail, and Online Messaging to communicate with other people. It’s a great way to talk to loved ones who live far away, conduct business, and just have fun with friends, but there is a downside. People who we don’t know can obtain information about us by tracking e-mails and messages and unless these things are encrypted, everything we write can be pulled up and used against us. That is why people who use the Internet need to be much more aware of their online privacy and security.

The Internet started in 1969 by the U. S. overnment. They wanted a communication system that couldn’t be destroyed in the event of an emergency. It consisted of four computers linked together called DARPANET. In the 1970’s people found that they could use this system to send messages between the computers to get to other people. More and more people started using this system and by the end of the 70’s, it was international. The earliest found company to use instant messaging was Mirabilis in November of 1996. Instant messaging is like a telephone conversation done between two people on the computer in real time.

Popular companies that have instant messaging are AOL, Yahoo, and NET Messenger Service. E-mail or Electronic Mail is a way of composing, sending, and receiving messages over the computer. E-mail started in 1965, which means it actually began before the Internet and in fact helped start the Internet. First e-mail was used for multiple users to communicate through a mainframe computer. Now even though the government does not have control over the Internet in present day, they can still monitor what individuals are writing especially after September 11th. “The Sept. 1 terrorists relied heavily on the Internet, and the hijackers appear to have plotted their carnage using Yahoo e-mail. ” The FBI believes they can now catch suspected terrorists by looking at suspicious email, but what constitutes suspicious? They have developed a program called Carnivore that looks through e-mail to find suspicious information. But, critics of this are not so sure of it’s benefits because it can be used to look for keywords such as “hijack” in mass amounts of e-mails, and whenever it finds an e-mail or message that has that word the FBI is entitled to read that message.

If someone is just asking another person through e-mail about the current terrorist situation will that set off an alarm with the FBI and now that person’s e-mails will be tracked? Very possibly. The PATRIOT (Provide Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) Act provides investigators with more flexibility to pursue interception of e-mail messages, and monitoring of Web surfing and other PC-based communications.

But does the general public believe that that government should have the right to look into private e-mails if they could catch a terrorist by doing it? According to a survey of PCWorld. m, “a total of 60 percent said they had serious concerns about giving the government more access to personal e-mail while 38 percent said they had little or no concern. ” While the government and FBI feel that this is a completely legitimate way to weed out the terrorists in America, many others find it a complete invasion of privacy.

This isn’t only a government vs. he people issue. As of 2004, “1 in 5 companies has had employees’ electronic messages subpoenaed in the course of a lawsuit or regulatory investigation” and “another 13 percent of 840 companies surveyed this year have battled workplace lawsuits triggered by employee e-mail. This means that private emails being sent while at work can be retrieved and used against a person in a court of law. The right to privacy is completely being revoked in these situations. That is why Americans need to be more aware of how to protect their privacy and there are ways to do this.

First is by looking at the actual disclaimers that most people just sign without actually reading. American Online or AOL and Yahoo are two major providers of both e-mail and instant messaging. Looking into what their privacy policies are, you find this. Your AIM information consists of personally identifiable information collected or received about you when you register. Your AIM information may be shared within AOL and its business divisions. Your AIM information, including the contents of your online communications, may be accessed and disclosed in response to legal process (for example, a court order, search warrant or subpoena), or in other circumstances in which AOL has a good faith belief that AIM or AOL are being used for unlawful purposes.

AOL may also access or disclose your AIM information when necessary to protect the rights or property of AIM or AOL, or in special cases such as a threat to your safety or that of others. (http://www. aol. com/info/p_privacy. adp. ) Yahoo’s disclaimer is similar saying that “Yahoo! collects personally identifiable information when you register for a Yahoo! account,” and “we reasonably believe it is necessary to share information in order to investigate, prevent, or take action regarding illegal activities.

Basically both are stating that, for the most part, our privacies are protected unless there is a need to look at the e-mails or messages being sent. That is a big but though. People should read that and decipher that the government or business we work at could basically make up a story as to why they need to read an email and both of these e-mail companies would have to comply. That really isn’t protecting us. At least we should know ahead of time though that these are the company policies so it shouldn’t come as a surprise if our privacy was breached.

This brings us to the concept of encryption. “Chances are that nobody is watching the data you send out, but unless the information is over a secure (encrypted) connection, you can’t be reasonably sure that it’s safe. ” The definition of encryption is “the process of encoding information in such a way that only the person (or computer) with the key can decode it. ” There are different encryption systems, but essentially two computers have secret codes that hold the key to decoding the messages sent between them.

So if a message is encrypted, only your friend’s computer will be able to read what you sent to them. Does this type of security interest the common person? It definitely should and is quite easy to obtain. There are messenger services that provide e-mail and instant messaging. One is called Hushmail, which includes encryption enhancements. All you have to do is sign up for it just like you would Yahoo! or AOL and the only downside is that storage space is limited. But the option is out there for people to choose safety over unnecessary storage.

Yahoo! nd AOL are the trusted and most used e-mail and instant message companies so most people just subscribe to these two, but really need to research what else is out there in regards to encrypted messaging companies like Hushmail. Customers of AOL though can upgrade to AIM 5. 2, which uses encrypted messages. Yahoo! on the other hand only has a form of encryption. The “system sends the message unprotected to Yahoo’s server. The recipient is given a URL to view the document on an SSL-protected web page. ” Consumers feel this is a weak link because the message is still being sent without it being secure, but it is a step forward.

There are other simple general steps that a consumer should do or at least think about before signing onto an e-mailing system. One is to always know the software that you are downloading onto your computer. Many programs appear to be legitimate, but they really just want to get your information and use it for bad reasons that veer into your personal privacy. Also, if a person shares a computer with many people, like a college library system, that person needs to make sure they clear their passwords and personal information before leaving their seat.

And basically people just need to be more suspicious. Even though that’s a bad outlook, if you’re messages are not encrypted, then you need to be more aware of what you’re writing. If you think it could be construed in a negative way, then you shouldn’t send it over an unprotected system that could one-day work against you. In conclusion, “although companies and other entities operating in the online or electronic commerce environment have a responsibility to ensure the privacy of personally identifiable information online, the Online Privacy Alliance believes that consumers also have a role to play.

Consumers should look for privacy policies on the web sites they visit as well as be aware of the various self-enforcement mechanisms currently available. ”After the tragedy of September 11th, the government does need to do certain things in order to further protect our country against another attack, but this shouldn’t mean attacking American’s privacy and security. Americans shouldn’t have to live in constant fear of Big Brother looking into our personal letters and messages to loved ones and friends, and also shouldn’t be afraid that some things being said are going to be taken the wrong way.

That is the opposite of making us feel more secure and safe because that basically means we’re being attacked from within our own government. Saying that, there are many things that we, as consumers, are responsible for knowing what is out there to give us more security. There is encryption and the big companies out there that provide e-mail and instant messaging are getting on board and providing encrypted programs for us to use.

We should also be responsible enough to actually read all disclaimers that we usually don’t bother to read so that we are not shocked when we learn that the government just looked at our private message to someone. It’s hard as one person to fight something like Carnivore, but we can do simple things like read disclaimers, be smart about what e-mail programs we subscribe to and be safe and responsible when we are on the Internet.

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