Welcome to “Popular Privacy”
Privacy is popular — again.
While our cultural views towards privacy have ebbed and flowed over the past 100 years, 2020 and the incoming California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) means privacy is back with a vengeance. Although our ever-chic European counterparts with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) were earlier to the privacy party, there is still hope the US’s entrance may be fashionable.
In the midst of amazing technological advancement, we’re reckoning with how individual property rights and the data we generate interact in the 21st century. You’ve heard about the contradictions in passing — the latest Facebook hearings, multi-million record data breaches, or misuses of DNA databases — we gain utility from services collecting our data, but is it worth the negative headlines?
Defining the line between privacy and utility maximization is one of the foremost ethical challenges of our modern era. Those ‘in the know’ can make the future sound bleak, while others attempt to wallpaper over the problems data collection can create by amplifying the tremendous good it can do. Why all of this controversy? How can we understand what went wrong and how to make it right? What does all of this really mean for me, just an average lady?
In this Popular Privacy series, I’m hoping to make sense of the privacy technology and regulatory landscape right along with you. Each week I’ll pick a topic and look to explain some of the ‘hot’ (read: nerdy) debates going on in the world of consumer data privacy the way I’d want it explained to the ‘me’ of four years ago.
Four years ago, I knew nothing of cookies, privacy policies, mobile device IDs, or the IAB TCF — don’t worry we’ll get to those later . That’s when I became immersed in AdTech and the emerging Data Ethics ‘scene.’ Since that time, I’ve been lucky enough to hold a variety of roles within a privacy-conscious tech company working with teams across several countries. This revealed in me a passion for trying to find an answer to one central question: How can we minimize the bad social outcomes of data collection without diminishing the good resulting from data exchange?
As a result, I’m a bit of an ‘armchair’ Data Ethicist/Public Interest Technologist (check out this real one!) wishing to work towards making the answer to the data privacy problem simple. I’ll be the first to admit there are people with much more expertise in this area than I currently have, but I’m hoping there is a niche for someone looking to explain in plain language how technology, policy, and our notion of privacy ethics intersect and will shape the products of the future. My goal is not to pontificate, demonize, or prescribe, but rather to try to present models for what solutions to the ethical data exchange challenges we face today might look like. So, if you have a passing interest in topics such as:
- When did people start caring about data privacy?
- Should I allow <enter pop-up notification here> on my phone?
- What’s my data worth online?
- Why are these pesky little banners following me?
- What’s the difference between privacy, compliance, and security?
- How can I design programs and products to respect consumer privacy?
just maybe, I’m your gal. I look forward to making it worth your while.
Disclaimer: Please note many of the posts here will be from a distinctly American or Western point of view. This does not result from lack of interest in other cultural interpretations, but rather from lack of expertise. Please note all opinions are my own and do not reflect my employer’s positions.