Privacy vs Our Digital Lives

The news that Google is facing a class-action law suit in the UK for collecting personal data without permission back in 2011, again makes us confront an unpleasant truth.  Like Ostriches we stick our head in the sand and pretend we have a measure of privacy in our lives. Unfortunately, today we have very little control over the personal data we share and certainly no choice about how it is used.

There is plenty of research that shows most people are comfortable trading some privacy for the convenience of running their lives: finding their way, looking up restaurants, ordering on-line, banking on the go.  However, many are completely unaware of how those seemingly innocuous actions can be used and traded.  More importantly there is rarely a discussion about the ‘cost’ of making the privacy trade.

Giving personal details to sign into free Wi-Fi on a train, sign up to get a discount in an online store, agree to massive long list of Terms & Conditions without reading them is a cost to an individual, a measure of privacy is lost and we all do it.  To apply an old adage…. “there’s no such thing as a free lunch!”

But the tide is turning, whether the Google case puts control of personal data front and centre of the privacy discussion or other clear breaches of privacy hit home with individuals, there are positive signs that people are becoming much more aware of the issues and looking for ways to control how much they are prepared to share.  The debate about encryption is part of this discussion.  How can it be incorporated into our on-line activity, not be a barrier to convenience and protect the important things we just don’t want to be publicly available?  Making a choice to use apps or tools that provide ways to secure your conversations, data and information either in a personal context or your working life will be increasingly common.

As our trust in the large organisations diminishes, our personal commitment to taking some responsibility for our own privacy will grow.  It’s not about locking everything down, as we’ve seen for many of us there is a level of comfort and lack of concern about some personal information, it’s about the ability to control, choose and manage our personal preferences.