Companies who collect and use your information commonly state in their privacy policies that they are “committed to your privacy.” These notices are important and, when companies take steps to protect your privacy and data security, can form the basis of your trust in them. We know from our own personal relationships that we build trust though meaningful actions and consistency.
Have you ever asked yourself whether YOU are fully committed to your privacy? What is the depth of your commitment?
We seldom stop to consider what the word commitment means in the context of privacy. To be fully committed means “feeling dedication and loyalty to a cause, activity, or job; wholeheartedly dedicated.” It’s time to reinvigorate our commitment to ourselves and champion the privacy cause.
First, begin with the premise that you are worth it. The right to privacy is a fundamental human right, and you owe it to yourself to question the corporate, governmental or societal pressures that might otherwise make you feel unworthy of that right. Make a promise to yourself to prioritize your personal privacy.
Affirming your commitment to privacy doesn’t have to be an abstract concept. To start, break the actions into small, practical steps. Determine what can you control and what choices you have about sharing your personal information. Any action is a step in the right direction. A recent Consumer Report survey of online consumers found that 62% of respondents had done nothing to protect their privacy on the Internet. Don’t resign yourself to inaction, fear or apathy. Do something!
As Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, “Commitment is an act, not a word.”
When you commit to something, your words are validated by your action. Perhaps the greatest form of commitment involves acting socially responsible with regards to privacy issues.
Practical tips for committing to privacy
• Set your intention. Create a mission statement which encapsulates your values. For example, “Privacy matters to me because of [x, y, & z], and I will take steps to protect my personal information.” Write your intention on a piece of paper and place it somewhere you can see it every-day (on the fridge or in your workspace).
• Set simple, specific and actionable goals. These might include:
o I will periodically review and update my social media privacy settings.
o I will change my passwords every [X] days.
o I will password protect my smartphone.
o I will order and review my credit report every 4 months.
o I will update my web browser settings to take advantage of privacy features like “private browsing mode”.
o I will use secure Wi-Fi and “https” whenever I connect to a wireless network.
o I will protect my online accounts with two-factor authentication.
o I will watch news programs about data privacy issues. (The recent Frontline series about government surveillance is a must see.)
o I will talk to my teenagers about privacy.
• Make protecting your privacy a habit. One of the best ways to form a habit is to start with something so small “you can’t not do it.” For example, if you want to be more mindful of how you post and comment on Facebook, you might practice the simple habit of counting to ten and thinking of the word “privacy” each time before you post. If it seems simple, that’s the idea. Just pausing before you post will go a long way to remind you of your commitment to privacy.
• Enlist the support of friends and family. Goals are much easier to achieve with social support. Don’t keep your interest in privacy a secret. Create a “privacy team” with your colleagues to help sustain your self-discipline and keep you dedicated and on track.
• Stay motivated. If you slip up don’t get upset. Start again. Try using a commitment device like Beeminder or Stickk. Both apps are platforms for holding yourself accountable to your commitments, using a powerful combination of social collaboration and potential financial punishment. Social psychology research backs the idea of commitment contracts as well as the benefit of having an audience to cheer you on and support your goal. Raising the stakes by putting your own money or reputation on the line can ensure you have “skin in the game.”
Congratulate yourself and celebrate your accomplishment each time you take an action towards your new undertaking. Hold yourself to a high standard and you’ll go a long way to developing and keeping your commitment to your privacy.