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Because Privacy: A Mantra for the Mindful Use of Technology


“Because privacy.”

It’s a simple mantra. Just five syllables you can use to ground yourself in your privacy practice. When you are confronted with a request for your information, whether it’s for a grocery store discount card or a new mobile app, use this modern mantra to put the brakes on your habitual submission.

Using “because” as a preposition is a hallmark of our Internet age. According to an article in The Atlantic, the construction is an “explanation that maximizes efficiency and irony in equal measure” and one “that is exceptionally bloggy and aggressively casual and implicitly ironic.”

All the more reason for us to turn it on its head and connect it to an authentic, responsible, transformative and personally empowering mantra. While a mantra is generally spiritual in nature  – a word or sound that helps you keep your focus during meditation – you can use the mantra “because privacy” as a spark for privacy awareness. It can become your personal motto as you engage with technology.

When we volunteer personal data or use online services that somehow capture our data, we should not do so with the assumption that those who collect, store, and use our information will necessarily respect our privacy by default. Don’t get swept along with the river of automatic behavior. Cross over and activate your “privacy consciousness” by reminding yourself that your privacy matters and considering the actions you can take to protect yourself.

Use “because privacy” as a mantra to activate your privacy consciousness.

Use “because privacy” as an affirmation, a testimonial that your privacy is important, and that you and your personal information have value.

Use “because privacy” sincerely and earnestly. It’s not meant to be cynical commentary.

The mantra “because privacy” can apply equally well to companies and governments. It can be a simple way to elevate the thought process when companies design products and features. It can be a guiding principle when government drafts legislation. “Because privacy” asserts a preference for privacy by design.

Because Privacy in Action

Where might you use this mantra? Here are some examples.

• Why read the privacy policy before you download that mobile app?  Because privacy.

• Why use two-factor authentication? Because privacy.

• Why restrict your privacy settings on social media? Because privacy.

• Why pause before you post photos online? Because privacy.

• Why limit online tracking by using private search and browsing tools?

• Why form an opinion about government surveillance? Because privacy.

• Why unsubscribe from marketing emails you no longer wish to receive? Because privacy.

The Practical Power of Because Privacy

When we assert our preference for privacy, responsible companies listen. When we choose to place a high value on our privacy, we can influence corporate policies and the design of software interfaces.

Take Google’s new Gmail feature which highlights email newsletter unsubscribe options and integrates an easier way for you to unsubscribe. According to this overview of Google’s announcement in Forbes which quotes from Google’s blog:

“Now when a sender includes an “Unsubscribe” link in a Promotions, Social or Forums message, Gmail will surface it to the top, right next to the sender address,” the post reads. “If you’re interested in the message’s content, it won’t get in the way, and if not, it’ll make it easier to keep your inbox clutter-free.”

Outlook email has had similar functionality for a while, and other standalone products like offer simple unsubscribe options and email management.

This is but one example where awareness of and preference for clearer choices regarding our privacy have brought about effective change. What else can we influence if we keep our mantra in mind and act accordingly? Share the considerations of “because privacy” with friends and family. Repeat and assert your commitment and others will join you.

Kelly McGonical, Ph.D. reminds us in her book The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It:

“Our own actions influence the actions of countless other people, and each choice we make for ourselves can serve as inspiration or temptation for others.”

Why be an inspiration to others? Because privacy.

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