Privacy Is About Tradeoffs… And Things Go Wrong When Those Tradeoffs Are Not Clear
from the privacy-week dept
We’ve teamed up with Namecheap and the EFF to promote Internet Privacy Week and continue the fight to protect your privacy online. Show your support by signing and sharing the new Internet Privacy Bill of Rights.
I’ve talked before about how privacy is not a “thing,” it’s a tradeoff. The idea of “perfect” privacy makes no sense, because people reveal all sorts of stuff about themselves all the time because the tradeoff is worth it. For example, just walking out of your house to go to the grocery store is a tradeoff. You give up some amount of privacy (someone can see you leaving your house, others can see what you’re buying), because we think it’s worth that minimal loss of privacy to get food. But it’s an individual tradeoff based on our own individual decision making — people who are famous celebrities or hiding from someone who wants to kill them may view the tradeoffs differently. That’s why it always bothers me a little when people focus on privacy as if it’s a thing, rather than looking at the cost-benefit tradeoffs that each individual needs to make.
But a big reason why privacy debates concerning internet services today are such a big problem is that the tradeoffs aren’t as clear or as explicit as they should be. The reason people get upset about privacy issues on internet services isn’t so much that they don’t like giving up information to get a useful service — people seem quite happy to do that. It’s that they’re not quite clear on what they’re giving up and what they’re getting back and how to weigh those two things. And that (quite reasonably!) makes people nervous and worried about their “privacy.” That’s why, in helping Namecheap put together a Privacy Bill of Rights for internet companies, we focused on things that really do make the tradeoffs more explicit and put the user in control. Concepts like better transparency and control are the keys here. Trading information for services can be a great deal — it’s what powers a large part of the internet we all find so valuable. But it needs to be done in a manner that doesn’t make people nervous or afraid. It needs to be done in a manner where they understand the tradeoffs and truly do have some control.
In such a world, where companies aren’t focusing on tricking people or doing bad things with their data, then we can have a truly powerful internet that provides lots of services, but without people and users feeling like they’re being abused or sucked dry of their information for little benefit. We’re hopeful that in framing the discussion this way, companies will recognize the value of actually being more upfront and transparent, and users will be much more in control over their information and what they get in exchange for sharing it. If you agree with these principles too, please share the document and sign on to the bill of rights. Namecheap has promised to donate $5000 to EFF for every 500 signatures.