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Privacy for Humans

You may not have consciously registered it, but do you ever find yourself feeling as though your personal privacy concerns are considered by many to be antiquated or obsolete? Do you ever have the sense that the only way you can embrace new technology is by trading in control over your personal information? Do you ever feel that you are treated as “data” or a “user” rather than as a human being?

Let’s start a movement – Privacy for Humans. Privacy for Humans stakes a claim on important mental ground we may be unintentionally ceding to companies, governments, and the admittedly exciting social technology revolution. It is not anti-technology, it is pro-human. Privacy for Humans seeks to draw attention to the almost unspoken assumption that we’re being pushed towards a “post-privacy” age.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You are more than your data. You are more dynamic than your avatar. You are more than your user profile.

Let’s take a look at that word, “user.” A user is a role. A user “operates a machine.” One is said to be a drug “user.” Someone who takes and never gives is considered a user. There’s a pervasive negativity just under the surface. Though the term has its current roots in the early days of computing, it’s important to recognize that the word “user” can be distinctly dehumanizing.

Once we may have been “computer users,” but now we have a responsibility to assert our rights so that we aren’t “used” and our privacy compromised. From unchecked government surveillance to unregulated tracking by data brokers, we may be losing sight of the value of the individual beings that make up society. On social media where we are disconnected from face to face, personal interactions, we may have a tendency to treat others as less than human.

Privacy for Humans is one way for us to find a path for ourselves.

Here are some suggestions on ideas to debate and discuss with your friends and colleagues:

1. What are the characteristics that make us human?

2. What are some circumstances where we are made to feel less than human, “used” or treated as “users” – where our privacy, security or online reputation is not respected or valued?

3. What would it take for us to feel human in our interactions with technology?

We can empower ourselves and others living in this increasingly complex information economy. We can live according to our principles and make mindful privacy choices. Privacy for Humans acknowledges that our modern life occurs at the intersection of technology and humanity. But technology is intended for use by and for the benefit for humans — sentient beings — not data sets. We are living, breathing humans with personalities, interests, ideas, and values. We are humans in relationship with other humans. We are flesh and blood. We have intelligence and feeling. This is the true currency of life.

Let’s celebrate our humanity and what makes us human.

“One way or another, we have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life and dedicate ourselves to that.” Joseph Campbell

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