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Applying Awareness, Wisdom and Compassion to Online Privacy Choices

"We can either use the technologies of our age or be used by them."

-The Wisdom 2.0 Conference

Last weekend I attended the Wisdom 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. Technology leaders from Google, Zappos, and Facebook, as well as media powerhouse and lifestyle guru, Arianna Huffington, and mindfulness teachers Jon Kabat-Zinn and Eckhart Tolle discussed the timely question, “How can we live with greater presence, meaning and mindfulness in the technology age?”

Every day we make choices regarding how we engage with technology and the personal information we share – be it online, on mobile apps or on social media. By applying the techniques of a mindfulness practice, such as conscious awareness, we can make more informed decisions about our personal privacy.

Echoing themes from the Wisdom 2.0 conference, I’ve put together some ways you can apply awareness, wisdom, and compassion to your online privacy choices:

Cultivate Awareness

We should pay particular attention to the privacy policies and privacy settings of the technologies we use. Each of us can also begin to cultivate personal opinions regarding what information is appropriate to share publicly.

Privacy Policies

Be a conscious consumer. Take the time to read the privacy policies provided with the technology you use. Key items include:

• What personal information is collected

• How personal information is used and shared

• How your information is stored securely

• Your ability to control marketing preferences

Privacy Settings

Many technologies and social media platforms offer privacy settings that allow you to control certain aspects of the user experience (for example, setting a public or private account). Review them carefully and reset the default settings (which often offer less user protection) if you so choose.

• Evaluate prompts that ask you to “allow” geo-location tracking on your mobile device, grant permission for social sign or allow access to your address book

• Determine your boundaries with a cost/benefit analysis. Is there sufficient value in the technology or a compelling experience that is worth “giving up” your personal information?

Apply Wisdom

Wisdom goes deep. It is based on your individual experiences, knowledge, and common sense. As you increase your awareness of privacy issues and deepen your insight into your personal values about privacy, you can begin to apply this wisdom to your online privacy choices.

Wisdom is the practice of discernment, using your intellect and awareness to make mindful and informed choices. Ask yourself whether sharing certain personal information makes sense in a particular context. Remember – Make Sure It’s Legit Before You Submit.

This takes practice! It involves using technology with intention rather than in our automatic, habitual ways. How often do we multitask – tweeting while watching TV, downloading apps when on the bus, checking Facebook while on a call? Focus is essential if we’re to use technology in a conscious way that respects our standards for personal privacy.

Practice Compassion

Compassion means displaying warmth, sensitivity and empathy towards those you interact with online, particularly in social media. Tune into your personal values and make sure they are consistent as you engage with others both online and offline. Avoid the snarky comments and cyber-bullying tactics. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it in cyberspace.

Ask yourself if the content you are posting is harmful or mean-spirited, or in line with the Buddhist practice of right speech which is “true, kind, and helpful.” Also be mindful of disclosing someone’s personal information that they would prefer not to share publicly (such as photos of a new baby or information about an illness), or tagging others in compromising photos. A compassionate privacy practice might include sharing certain comments via private messages rather than on someone’s public wall or feed.

How are you living with greater presence, meaning, and mindfulness online?

Share Mindfully.

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