This week is Data Privacy Week! Until this year, it was Data Privacy Day, so I guess this makes it even more important? Of course, we should be thinking about our privacy every day, but we have busy lives and sometimes we just need a reminder to stop and take stock. I’ve fully updated my Privacy Checklist, which you should definitely check out when you’re done here. But first, let’s look ahead at privacy in 2022.
I think we’ve hit a tipping point on privacy here in the United States, and perhaps globally. A majority of people are now truly concerned about the collection, sharing and general abuse of their private data. Maybe we’ve finally just had a preponderance of evidence. But I feel like there’s finally a consensus that surveillance capitalism is a real problem and a realization that companies are not going to self-regulate.
Leveling Up Privacy Awareness
I think many people are still focused more on the “me” aspects than on the “we” aspects of privacy. And certainly, that’s where everyone should start. However, I’d like to encourage you to think bigger. Realize that your privacy is actually deeply intertwined with those around you. For example, your contact list or address book probably includes dozens if not hundreds of people. It’s like the Kevin Bacon game. Think of how much I could learn from your contact list – not just about you, but about the people in that list – especially if I also had access to their contact lists. It’s called a social graph and it can be quite revealing.
But privacy is also critical to us as a whole – as consumers, as citizens and as just plain human beings. As Carissa Véliz has so aptly observed, Privacy is Power. And if you are the least bit skeptical about that claim, I highly recommend you read the book (or maybe Data and Goliath, or both). We act differently when being observed, or even when we think we might be being observed. It’s not about having something to hide. It’s not about secrets. To quote the move Anon, “It is not that I have something to hide… I’ve got nothing I want you to see”.
Get Educated & Get Involved
So, here’s my challenge to you for 2022. First and foremost, handle the “me” part. Check out my Privacy Checklist for tons of ideas, including links to many other top resources. And when you feel you’ve got a good handle on your checklist, help your loved ones. It isn’t just for their benefit, it actually helps all of us. The concept of herd immunity doesn’t just apply biological viruses. The more people that achieve a basic level of cybersecurity and privacy, the better off we all are – even those of us who have not yet done these things.
But then I’d like to ask that you get involved. I honestly believe that we’re on the cusp of real change when it comes to privacy – both socially and politically. There’s never been a better time to make your voice heard and your desire for privacy known. Politicians, at least here in the US, seem to be primed to take action, from both major parties – and it’s an election year. Schedule a meeting with your representative(s). No, seriously, they do this all the time. Bring a friend or two for moral support. Attend town hall events – not just at the federal and state level, but also at the local level. You can also call or write your representatives. If you can’t get directly involved, then donate to organizations who are fighting for your rights every day.
This could be the year that we turn the corner on privacy rights. And it will be, if we each do our part.