Today is being observed as the second annual International Data Privacy Day by the United States government, Canada, 27 European countries and a number of big corporations, including Yahoo! and Intel.
Though data privacy is a big issue these days - it's not a whole lot of fun to think about. We offer below a list of four things you should make sure to know about regarding privacy, including some pointers to discussions of how the privacy situation today is more complicated than a traditional approach to privacy protection may allow for. We're not going to focus on how to get your tin foil hat to use PGP encryption, we've got a short list of things that all of us realistically should know about for a baseline of online privacy awareness.
- The Electronic Frontier Foundation
- Basic Privacy Settings
- Browser Protection
- More Complex Perspectives
The EFF is the foremost watchdog organization on electronic privacy, copyright law and related matters. Right now they are running a campaign challenging the White House regarding cookies on the White House website.
You should know about the EFF, and you should consider making a donation to help them keep on looking out for us all. Big vendors like Google and Yahoo! simply cannot be trusted so organizations like the EFF are essential. If you're a Twitter user, you can follow the EFF there too.
It's a new world online and there are new ways that information gets passed around. If the rules of the road in the US changed to mirror those in Europe or Japan, you'd probably read the driver's manual again - right? Now that it's a social networking world, it would be a good idea to take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with privacy settings in these new places we're all communicating. One good place to start is Sophos's guide to Facebook profile settings. You may or may not agree with all their recommendations, but they are asking many of the right questions about privacy on social networks.
It's a good idea to know what technologies are available to let you browse or otherwise use the web anonymously, just in case you ever decide you want to. We're not going to focus on this much, but it's kind of like knowing where the fire extinguisher is at work and home. Maybe you'll never need to use it.
There's private browsing in IE or the stealth mode in Chrome. This author uses an awesome Firefox plugin called URLbarEXT which does a lot of things and anonymous surfing just happens to be one of them.
If you or someone you know lives under a repressive government, or are part of a culture that lived someplace for thousands of years before a government now considered "freedom loving" stole it from you and gave you all their nuclear waste, you might want to check out BlogSafer.org. It's a wiki in multiple languages about best practices for anonymous blogging.
In the Good Old Days you could just threaten to punch anyone who repeated your secrets into a tin can that had a string coming out of it, but as the privacy landscape has changed, philosophical considerations have as well. It's not as simple as "don't tell anybody my secret stuff!" anymore.
For some insight into other ways of looking at data privacy, you should check out the following articles:
Open web thought leader Chris Messina starts with this premise:
My somewhat pessimistic view is that privacy is an illusion, and that more and more historic vestiges of so-called privacy are slipping through our fingers with the advent of increasingly ubiquitous and promiscuous technologies, the results of which are not all necessarily bad (take a look at just how captivating the Facebook Newsfeed is!)
Bringer of affliction to the comfortable Marc Canter tackles the debate around Facebook's trailblazing Dynamic Privacy strategy. He says:
Well let me just say that one way to figure out what's valuable - is to find out who DOESN'T want to give you access or control over it. And in this case - trust me - moving my data around IS the most valuable thing we need to preserve, control and fight for.
Harvard and Cluetrain co-author Doc Searls are working on a project called VRM, or Vendor Relationship Management. It's the flip side of CRM, Customer Relationship Management. Privacy is one of many matters for which a static policy may not be as desirable as we people/consumers/users having an empowered relationship with vendors.
Those are the things we think are most important, and realistic, to know about on International Data Privacy Day. What about you?