Trends come and go, but some classics endure the test of time. Styles change as often as social networks do, and though we may be a little embarrassed by our old MySpace avatar, we should never forget that timeless, perennially stylish value that outlasts the seasons: Privacy.
Like the little black dress or jeans and a crisp white t-shirt, a personal privacy practice is a must have in every closet. It’s perfect for all occasions online and off. It doesn’t have to be complex, expensive or time consuming. If you invest in a few high-quality basics, you’ll come to see that when it comes to protecting your privacy and your data, less is more (no oversharing required).
As style icon Leonardo Da Vinci said:
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
In this article, we’ll discuss how we know privacy remains a value with global appeal, some of the disconnects between our values and our behavior, and a simple privacy makeover to refresh our look online.
Privacy Never Goes Out of Fashion
Privacy is neither seasonal, regional, or stale, and a recent survey by EMC Corporation of 15,000 consumers in 15 countries makes a compelling case that personal privacy is timeless.
Michael Kaiser, Executive Director, National Cyber Security Alliance said of the report:
“The data captured in the EMC Privacy Index gives a fascinating view into the attitudes of global consumers and validates a fundamental point – respecting privacy and safeguarding data is a core value that should be shared by businesses, governments and individuals to enable a more trusted ecosystem.”
According to the study, consumers want the benefits of technology, but only 45% say they’re willing to trade some privacy in order to enjoy them. Attitudes towards privacy and the willingness to trade it for functionality and increased convenience vary among the countries surveyed. The U.S. ranks somewhere in the middle (10th out of 15). Residents of the UK, Netherlands, Canada and Germany are the least likely to trade their personal data for convenience. On the other end of the spectrum, those in India, the Middle East and China/Hong Kong are most comfortable sharing their personal data for benefits online.
The survey respondents were far more willing to share with governments than social media sites:
50% would yield privacy to government institutions.
47% say yes to doctors, health insurers and other medical institutions.
38% would yield a little privacy to banks and other financial institutions.
33% are willing to trust employers and their systems.
29% are prepared to trust their privacy to online stores.
27% would trade privacy for social media, email or SMS.
Consumers are pessimistic about the current state and future of privacy protections. 59% percent believe they have less privacy than they did a year ago, and 81% expect privacy will be eroded even further over the next 5 years.
Despite this concern and the apparent value privacy represents for many, consumers are not taking action to protect themselves and their information. For example:
62% do not change their passwords regularly.
39% do not employ password protection on their mobile devices.
4 out of 10 do not customize the privacy settings on social media.
Updating Clashing Values
The EMC report outlines three major paradoxes in our attitudes towards privacy:
1.We want it all: Despite engaging in online behaviors which generate a high volume of personal data, we’re increasingly unwilling to trade that data for a better experience online.
2. We take no action: Though we use technology which exposes our personal information, we take surprisingly little action to protect ourselves.
3. We overshare: Despite reporting that we trust social media companies the least, they are ground zero for sharing enormous amounts of personal information.
With these paradoxes in mind, it’s time for a privacy makeover. Updating the way we look at our personal information and our privacy choices can do wonders for improving our personal “privacy style.” We can learn to be confident and savvy as we engage with technology, and it’s crucial to express our personal values as we do. Privacy is not “one size fits all.”
Cleaning Out the Closet
Let’s clear out some of the old habits from your closet and incorporate new strategies to refresh your privacy awareness and practice. You may have made some privacy “mistakes” in the past (see also: “I can’t believe I wore that!”). Now is your chance to start over with a clean slate and build a solid privacy foundation.
1. Choose wisely. When we want it all, but we can’t have it all, discernment is what our wardrobe and our privacy practice needs. Determine for yourself the appropriate balance of privacy and convenience. Pay attention to privacy policies and settings so you know what companies to trust with your personal information. Remember: It’s OK not to share your information if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. Measure any loss of convenience against the potential consequences of a data breach or misuse of your information.
2. Apathy is out. A lack of privacy awareness is so last season. Privacy Don’t: taking no action to protect our privacy online. If you truly care about your privacy, align your values with your behavior. Privacy is only dead if we let it die, so take responsibility for your privacy personally and publicly.
3. Less is more. If we’re uneasy with social media security and practices, why do we accessorize our profiles so heavily? Don’t be shy about being private. There are ways to resist oversharing online.
Regardless of how you choose to define your personal privacy, the most important tip of all is to be mindful and act in alignment with your values. Make a statement that’s unique to you and develop a signature look. Your privacy will never go out of style.