Junyi Sun

孙 俊 一


Naked Lamb: Thinking on the Right of Privacy in the Digital Age— Writing


Naked Lamb: Thinking on the Right of Privacy in the Digital Age is a writing piece.

赤裸的羔羊:数字时代的隐私思考 是一件写作作品。

In this paper, I choose privacy as the topic of my discussion. And, since I am from China, I will list some special cases that happened in China in the paper. Through these examples, I will further explain my views and explore the discussions of Chinese society, government and people on digital privacy questions.

The digital age has greatly increased the degree of openness of information. But the more information is made public, the more privacy is needed. Privacy has become a sensitive ethical issue in the digital field. Because, I think, on the one hand, for each individual, privacy is a buffer zone that separates the psychological system from the social system, and can prevent people's psychology from being completely exposed to society. This is an important part of being able to exist in society as a person. The lack of this part and the received threats and damage are serious ethical and social issues. For the overall social framework of any country, the protection of privacy is also a prerequisite for the existence of a social trust system. The moral standards of a society as a whole are also reflected in its respect and protection of privacy.

Therefore, in the digital age, the relationship between privacy and personal information particularly requires people to rethink. Some personal information that does not seem to be private may also expose personal privacy. For personal information, the scale of protection is a question worth considering. Protection that is too wide or too narrow is not desirable. We should advocate the protection of personal information based on the interests of privacy, rather than simply separating privacy and personal information protection.

The research on privacy rights in China started relatively late. In addition, China has always had a very blurred boundary between a society of human relations and a society under the rule of law. This has resulted in a weak public awareness of the law. Although the Constitution clearly stipulates that the law protects the privacy of citizens, the specific legal provisions and protection content are scattered among various laws and regulations. In particular, the law's protection of online or digital privacy is "hidden" in various legal provisions.

At the same time, there is a lack of special laws with clear and systematic regulations, especially in China. These laws and regulations are very fragmented, trivial, incomplete, and unsystematic, and their content is repetitive and lacks unity and cohesion.

The rapid development and popularization of computer and Internet technologies in China have also made it easier to invade personal privacy technically. In September 2012, Chinese Internet company 360 was accused of maliciously violating the robots agreement, forcibly grabbing Baidu data and using its own software to steal data from users’ computers. This incident is considered to be a landmark incident of China's digital privacy leakage that has attracted widespread public attention. Prior to this, although some people pointed out on the Internet that companies such as Tencent, 360 were stealing user privacy data, they did not receive good public attention until the incident broke out. From 2008 to 2012, it was the time when the installation frequency of 360 company's products on home computers in China reached its peak.

360's behavior of maliciously grabbing users' private information in violation of industry ethics has seriously violated users' privacy in morals. As a general rule recognized by the industry, the Robots protocol is the range of open and undisclosed information set by the website for all search engine tools, not for one or several search engine tools. Such as website password login system information, user registration information, social and job search website user information, e-commerce and banking service user information, etc. These are the contents that the Robots protocol is set to prohibit search engines from scanning and capturing by default. Once 360 can grab the private information of customers at will, personal privacy power becomes very weak.

If Baidu and 360's privacy theft incident is just one of many cases involving infringement of privacy rights from a global perspective. Then, the first case of China's “人肉搜索 Human flesh search" that occurred in 2008 is more representative. The case originated from the suicide of a female employee Jiang in Beijing. Later, the blog that recorded "husband cheating" during her lifetime was discovered by netizens. Netizens launched a “human flesh search" against their husband Wang.

In a short period of time, China's major forums were full of posts containing the names, photos, and addresses of Wang and his family. A large number of netizens left messages, expressing shame and scolding for Wang's behavior. Many netizens believe that Wang's "extramarital affairs" is one of the reasons that prompted Jiang to commit suicide. Some netizens even went to the residence of Wang and his parents to harass. For example, writing and posting insulting slogans on the wall in front of Wang's house.

Today, we can see that in many subsequent “human flesh search” cases, such online privacy violations under the mask of justice have often caused great harm to the parties and their families. Because a person’s guilt is not determined by public opinion and the public, but should be determined by strong evidence, fair laws, and judges. The law protects personal information, private activities, and private space from illegal infringements, and also protects personal privacy on the Internet. However, citizens' right to use their own freedom of speech must be premised on not infringing on the legal rights of others. We also need to see that if there is no Internet, the influence and destructive power of this "Human flesh search" will not be so strong. The Internet has unblocked the channels of social expression, and has also enabled the leaked personal privacy to be quickly spread across the Internet. This makes it easier to violate personal privacy.

Another representative event is the social discussion on privacy issues behind face recognition technology starting in 2020. The fuse of this social discussion was that in November 2020, a short video of "a man wearing a helmet and going to a sales office to buy a house" was published on the Internet and caused explosive discussions. Real estate companies collect facial information without the consent of consumers and use artificial intelligence network data analysis to offer different prices to consumers. Some people even claimed to have spent 300,000 yuan more because their information was collected. This kind of privacy-violating "black box operation" immediately aroused public emotional dissatisfaction and public opinion attention.

People suddenly find that our lives have been occupied by a large number of facial information collection devices. Shopping malls, residential areas, and apps have begun to compulsorily obtain facial information. Our information is collected "without feeling”. These facial data information are often used in mobile payment, device unlocking, data analysis and other scenarios designed to a large number of personal privacy. These devices were originally designed to ensure user data security and provide convenience for people. However, because of the crazy collection and disorderly management of facial information by information processors, it has become one of the biggest privacy risks in today's Internet society.

Because the facial features of a person are the same as fingerprints, which are unique biometric information. Once illegally collected, it may endanger the personal and property safety of consumers, or even commit crimes. Many people suddenly realize that facial information data seems to be no longer our personal privacy information. This new social threat has triggered further public concerns about privacy and personal data security.

The discussion of the "buying a house with a helmet" incident ostensibly calls for the law to clarify the application boundary of face recognition as soon as possible. But at a deeper level, this shows the people's strong demand for privacy protection. Because with the development of digital technology, more and more technologies like face recognition will generate new privacy thinking. However, the law has always been concerned about the scope of use of new technologies similar to face recognition systems, but the process is slow. Judging from the current situation, some companies or units are using these new technologies to collect this person’s privacy while ignoring the public’s right to know and privacy. The supervision methods of administrative agencies are also slightly passive and weak. No user will really read the privacy policy of the sign-in interface carefully. In this case, the user has unconditionally given their privacy to these companies.

This situation seems to be improving. The Supreme Court of China has promulgated many new regulations and judicial interpretations starting in 2020. The new justice undoubtedly provides a certain guarantee for the privacy of the people. But who knows what the next technology will steal our privacy? And while waiting for the answer and explanation from the law, how should the rights that have been violated be guarded?

It seems that interests cannot be considered by moral standards, and any immoral interests will infringe some people's rights to a certain extent. When I think about privacy issues from an ethical point of view, I will find that as people’s lives continue to alternate between virtual and real worlds, everyone’s moral standards are being challenged or changed. Because of the virtual form of digital media and the constantly changing communication methods, many traditional moral judgment standards are no longer applicable. Then we should be more vigilant while waiting for the delayed response of the law. On the one hand, this vigilance is a moral rethinking of existing cognition; on the other hand, for us in the real and virtual worlds, we must be wary of what digital media asks when it provides us with convenience and fun in life. And try to use investigation and thinking to fight against one-sided information.

The famous contemporary political commentator Walter Lippmann once said in his book "Public Opinion": The media can simplify the chaotic reality into a simple reality and pass it on to the public. And we must be vigilant in discussing the moral issues of digital media: do we really understand the truth or have all the information, instead of just being tamed by digital media technology and becoming a naked lamb?
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