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Protect Your Personal Connection to Privacy


Privacy is inherently personal. As individuals, we feel strongly attached to our privacy and our personal information. So how do we align our behaviors with our feelings? What should we do to ensure nothing comes between us and our privacy?

Where can we “get smart on privacy”?

Mozilla, the free software community behind the Firefox web browser, has detailed information on how to enhance your privacy awareness and develop your privacy practice. We can’t protect our privacy without a little education on the subject, and the “Get Smart on Privacy” website is a great place to begin. The site breaks down the tips into “Ask,” “Learn,” “Act,” and “Discuss.”

1. Ask how important privacy is to you. We’ve looked at this before in the post “Discover Your True Perspective on Privacy.” If you need to give shape to your privacy perspective, the piece contains helpful questions you can use to assess your feelings.

2. Learn how to control your online privacy. For you to have true control over your privacy, you must be able to make a real choice. This involves understanding what constitutes a true versus false choice as well as the mental models which influence sound decision making. A primer on these topics is available in the article, “Be Choosy in Your Privacy Choices.”

3. Act on your decisions by using tools which can enable enhanced choice and control. Mozilla promotes tools such as Do Not Track, the “Forget Button,” DuckDuckGo, and other Privacy Add-ons in the context of the Firefox browser. The National Cyber Security Alliance website, also provides guides for mobile devices, social networks, and privacy settings.

4. Discuss privacy and security with others. Talking about privacy doesn’t make you sound paranoid or anti-social. The truth is ordinary people everywhere care about privacy.

Do we need a “privacy nudge?”

At times we unwittingly allow companies to come between us and our privacy. It isn’t our apathy so much as a lack of transparency. Often we cannot see how apps and social media sites behave behind the scenes. How would our attitudes and behaviors change if we possessed greater visibility into how and how often our information is shared?

The answer? Dramatically. A recent Carnegie Mellon experiment demonstrated “that when people learn exactly how many times these apps share that information they act fast to limit further sharing.”

According to the study:

“In one phase of a study that evaluated the benefits of app permission managers—software that gives people control over what sensitive information their apps can access—23 smartphone users received a daily message, or “privacy nudge,” telling them how many times information such as location, contact lists, or phone call logs had been shared. Some nudges were alarming. One notable example: “Your location has been shared 5,398 times with Facebook, Groupon, GO Launcher EX, and seven other apps in the last 14 days.”

Awareness leads to action. As Pew Research indicates, there’s increasing concern about privacy among consumers, especially in the wake of Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations. (For a deeper look at the statistics, be sure to check out “Are You Playing Your Part in the Privacy Movement?”)

Do we need someone to help protect our privacy?

Just because privacy is personal doesn’t mean we have to go it alone. In fact, the United Nations’ human rights council recently announced it would establish the role of a “privacy rapporteur” to cover privacy issues. The idea: Freedom from excessive surveillance is a fundamental human right. According to an article in the UK’s The Guardian:

“The rapporteur, who is set to be appointed in June, will have the remit to monitor, investigate and report on privacy issues and offer advice to governments about compliance. They will also look into alleged violations.”

While the support of the UN is most welcome, common sense dictates we should remain personally dedicated to the preservation of our privacy. As Michelle De Mooy, Deputy Director of the Consumer Privacy Project at the Center for Democracy & Technology said:

“Privacy is at the heart of freedom and autonomy… It’s up to all of us to get involved and speak up so that it stays that way.”

Be proud to take your privacy personally.

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