Accessibility of Information and Personal Privacy

As information becomes easier to create, access and distribute, new opportunities arise. New technologies can lead to economic growth and greater convenience, but they can also lead to a loss of privacy and the abuse of power.

For example, electronic medical records can make it easier for medical professionals to share information and learn about a patient's medical history. Some fear, however, that if these records are not properly secured, sensitive information about a patient's medical history could be misused. As technologies advance, it is important to anticipate problems and respond with technical and administrative protections. Medical records management, for example, is addressed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Social networking sites, like Facebook, also require users to weigh the benefits and hazards of making information widely available. While it is convenient to let your friends know where you are and what you're doing, it is not something you'd want a potential stalker or cyberstalker to know.

Information from profiles could also be used to perpetrate identity theft. Birth dates, for example, are sometimes used to verify people's identities for phone or electronic transactions. Pet names, relative names, and hometown information are sometimes used for password retrieval questions.

Consequently, it is important to regulate what information you share and with whom you share it.


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