Discussions over privacy shouldn’t be reserved for academics, national security experts and online marketers. Do you ever feel unqualified to speak up on issues of data security and privacy rights? Ordinary people may feel uneasy about voicing concerns over major privacy issues, as if the debate itself required special clearance or credentials. The tide is changing though and now more than ever we need to engage everyone in the discussion. Ordinary people care about privacy and data security, and privacy matters to each of us individually for various reasons.
Privacy Concerns by the Numbers
A Harris poll recently reported how privacy impacts consumer trust and the reputation of companies. Consumers place great emphasis on the privacy of personal information. According to the poll, more than three-quarters of consumers are concerned about the private information companies collected about them and less than half of them trust companies to act responsibly with their private data. 76% of consumers strongly or somewhat agree that they are concerned about the increasing amount of personal information companies collect. Only 44% of consumers strongly or somewhat agree that they trust companies to act responsibly when it comes to using all the private data they have on file.
Findings from a January 2014 Pew Research survey show that 18% of online adults have had important personal information stolen such as their Social Security Number, credit card, or bank account information. Additionally, 21% of online adults reported they had an email or social networking account compromised.
Real Lives Behind the Numbers
If you’ve never experienced a data breach or violation of your privacy rights, connecting these concerns to your own life can seem a bit abstract. Yet people who have experienced them are just like us— everyday people with hopes, dreams, and concerns. They’re our neighbors, family, and friends.
Consider the young couple in the photo above, newly married, applying for their first mortgage. They’ve saved and planned, but when the bank comes back with concerns over the husband’s credit score, the dream comes to an end. He had no idea his identity had been stolen, and now faces a costly and frustrating maze to repair the damage. He feels remorse for not being more proactive and protective about his online identity and periodically reviewing his credit report.
Consider the grandfather living alone, curious about new ways to connect with family members who have spread out across the country, busy with their own lives. He’s heard how social media can help him be there for the highs and lows, but he’s concerned about privacy settings. The path is unclear, the policies are full of jargon. He needs guidance and assurances that he’s not compromising his own or his loved ones’ privacy.
Consider the recent college grad, offered a promising new job complete with benefits. The company healthcare provider points her to an online portal to register along with a stack of consent forms to sign. But what, exactly, is she signing? How does she know if the portal is secure? How can she be certain the information she shares won’t be exploited or mismanaged by her new employer or the healthcare provider?
Do any of these stories sound familiar? Have you or someone you know encountered these privacy concerns and their social and emotional effects?
We as ordinary people can promote privacy awareness and cultivate a privacy practice. We can make extraordinary changes by modeling the way for our friends and family, inspiring a shared vision, and challenging the current process.
“Most activism is brought about by us ordinary people.”
Patricia Hill Collins (author and sociology professor)
Join the conversation: Share your story about why you care about privacy. Post comments about your privacy concerns below or post on Twitter with the hashtag #icareaboutprivacy.