Was one of the closing remarks of the Pew Research’s presentation at this year’s Austin held South By South West, #SXSW15: The Changing Privacy Landscape.
Quoting Danah Boyd, in one of the last slides presenting Americans’ Privacy Strategies Post-Snowden, Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, detailed the social and business implications of a reshaped Privacy landscape following the Snowden revelations almost 2 years ago now.
While the presentation focused on the opinions of a representative US based online panel of 475 adults, the results align with other findings related to how citizens feel about being tracked and monitored through their online behavior.
While Privacy is not anymore seen as binary on/off choice, fueled by the free economy – “it’s free so you choose to use the service or not in exchange for your personal data” – the study clearly showed that context and personal choice does matter.
In this day and age, where Privacy harms still remain ill defined let alone even punishable, trade-offs remain part of the bargain: is this service or app worth my exchange of data or even loss of Privacy?
Interestingly, the study also showed that, unlike common belief, the young are more focused on networked Privacy then their elders and yet, many know they do not know what is going on.
The earlier research from the Pew Research Center published at the end of last year already found that 91% of American adults “agree” or “strongly agree” that they have lost control over how their information is collected and used by companies.
This in turn fosters resignation – even hopelessness – as citizens but also consumers’ Trust is eroding due to unsystematic Privacy management.
While the research focused initially on changing habits following Edward Snowden’s revelations about surveillance programs such as PRISM, it does follow a more global trend related to how people are changing their own behavior.
In this particular report, 22% of all adults say they have changed their use of various technology platforms. More specifically, 15% have avoided certain apps while 13% have gone as far as uninstalling certain apps.
Today Pew comes out with a new report entitled American’s Attitudes about Privacy, Security and Surveillance, where permissions are mentioned: 88% say it is important that they not have someone watch or listen to them without their permission (67% feel this is “very important” and 20% say it is “somewhat important”).
Back at SXSW, quoting Justice Louis Brandeis in one of the initial US references to Privacy (except for possibly the 4th amendment that applies mainly to US citizens on US soil), Rob Pegoraro already echoed the idea of control when it comes to users information:
Through the multitude of Privacy literature that is currently being written to address consumer – and investigative journalism – worries about loss of Privacy, data hoarding and excessive monetization of personal data, the following remedies are usually proposed:
- Use of alternative search engine that doesn’t keep track of search history;
- Privacy-enhancing browser plug-ins such the EFF’s Privacy badger;
- Mobile encryption for calls and text messages;
- Proxy servers or VPN;
- Email encryption programs such as PGP, Pretty Good Privacy;
- Anonymity software such as Tor;
- Locally-networked communications such as FireChat.
Yet we are probably not all ready to install Tor and accept latency in connection speeds due to mirrored requests. We might however want to shed some light on how our mobile applications are accessing our personal data.
A simple step to make your online activities more private or at least regain control over your accessed permissions is to simply scan the apps you installed on your mobile and laptop.
Then decide what to keep and which accesses to revoke or app to entirely uninstall, just as over 1/5th of respondents reported doing in the Pew Research Study.