In this chapter, the authors will briefly discuss some cross cultural concerns regarding Internet privacy. The authors believe that due to the cross cultural nature of the Internet itself, different cultures will tend to result in different concerns regarding Internet privacy. As such, there is no single system of protecting Internet privacy that may be suitable for all cultures. The authors also utilize focus groups from various countries spanning Asia and the United States to discover the differences between cultures. Hopefully an understanding of such differences will aid in future research on Internet privacy to take a more culture sensitive approach.
Just as the Internet has allowed for the instant transmission of much needed information, it has also become a channel for some unsavory elements. Organizations and individuals can now collect information on individuals with speed, ease, and relative accuracy. Masses of unwanted solicitation e-mails, commonly known as “spam,” have been identified by many as a “scourge” upon the Internet (Herbert, 2006). Also of concern are various scams that are precipitated over the Internet, the most famous probably being the 419 scam, more commonly known as the “Nigerian” scam, where the e-mail recipient is asked to provide private information in exchange for large amounts of cash money. While at first glance this scourge may simply be an annoyance for ISPs and e-mail inboxes, privacy is also an underlying concern here. Most companies who participate in spam and scams usually obtain e-mail lists that are available for purchase commercially. E-mails on such lists may be harvested manually, or more commonly, simply obtained when Internet users carelessly disclose their e-mail addresses.
However, while arguments rage over various sides of the privacy issues, be it debates over the blurring of public and private space and ethical responsibilities (Tavani & Grodzinsky, 2002), the legal and ethical battle between right to know and right to privacy (Sitton, 2006), or clashes on whether Internet service providers (ISPs) are required to disclose user information to the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA), little attention has been paid to how different countries react to the issue of Internet privacy. In the United States, several years of unsolicited telephone calls and spam e-mail have resulted in the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry, the CAN-SPAM act, and the Spy Act of 2007 (H.R. 964), and Verizon, a United States cellular telephone service provider, has recently won a court case against cell phone spammers. While the intentions and effectiveness of acts such as CAN-SPAM and H.R. 964 are fiercely debated, it is important to recognize that for better or for ill, legal measures have been taken in an attempt to curb or at least control matters involving privacy and spam.