by SF Team, 21 April 2014

Featured Image
Created by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra (CC BY 2.0)

We have many different selves and present them in different ways to the world. We craft personas appropriate to various aspects of our lives. These are not static, but ever evolving and layered in context. It is part of how we express ourselves.

We do this because who we are and how we behave has impact on others. We want to present the best, most relevant parts of ourselves in a given context. We choose to ignore the warts and wobbly bits in favour of the identity we’ve claimed as our own in that space. It’s part of being human, being in control of our own lives and choosing what we reveal about ourselves, under what circumstances and when. When privacy is violated, it removes that power and freedom of choice.

The world today does not look as it did yesterday. Nor will it ever again. We now know we are being watched, with or without our permission. Entities outside our control are tracking and recording every aspect of our digital selves. The extent of the risk this holds remains to be seen and we have no idea to what degree our actions of today are compromising our privacy of tomorrow. It will depend on conditions we cannot yet imagine, individually or collectively. The question is how much of this are we actively choosing?

When we promote and practice openness, we contribute to a world with more freedom, more sharing and more collaboration. We do this in the hope that we can make better decisions, for ourselves and the world we live in. Dragnet surveillance and the trading of our personal data, by governments and big business alike, is in direct contrast to this idea. It allows power to remain in the hands of the few and diminishes our choices.

Openness is a choice, one we believe has great benefit in certain contexts, but it should remain a choice. In the pursuit of defending that choice, the following principles are helping to inform our thought process:

Good practice starts at home. Pay close attention to the choices we make in the environment we control.

Pay attention to our users. Technology is the easy part. User behaviour is almost always where systems break.

Make surveillance expensive Increase the overhead for those wishing to snoop by making it just that little bit more difficult.

Move with the herd We should be ready in case people need to communicate with us securely.

Understand that there is no silver bullet. The best we can currently expect is being able to raise the bar high enough to eliminate threats from anyone other than well funded government agencies.

This is what we’re going to do:

  • Audit our online services. Do a critical review of the services we use and how that choice impacts on our privacy.
  • Move towards privacy-friendly companies or regimes. This is our way of adding urgency and motivation to the technology companies to join the charge and lobby their governments for change.
  • Secure our communication channels. Look for channels making use of open standards, which allow scrutiny of the technology.
  • Secure our web browsing. Start with browser plugins and advance to hiding in the network when appropriate.
  • Invite Fellowship applications. In keeping with our model, support individuals working in this field anyway to amplify their work.
  • Seek out partners. Collaborate around what we do and implement. Keep up to date with industry standards and best practices. Iterate and adapt with the ever changing technology.
  • Track the legal conversations. As technology evolves, greater surveillance capabilities are enabled. Legal standards around surveillance and privacy are fighting to keep up.
  • Advocate for change. We deserve the right to know who is tracking our data and how, and to set limits on its use. Having good checks and balances is something we, as citizens and consumers, can and should fight for.
Posted in privacy