Play Privacy As A Team Sport
Protecting digital privacy is a job no one can do alone. While there are many steps you can take to protect your own privacy, the real protection comes when we recognize that privacy is a team sport. So as we celebrate Data Privacy Day on January 28, don’t just change your tools and behavior to protect your own privacy—encourage your friends, family, and colleagues to take action, too.
Don’t just install an end-to-end encrypted messaging app like Signal or WhatsApp. Encourage others to join you, too, so that you can all communicate securely. Beyond protecting just your communications, you’re building up a user base that can protect others who use encrypted, secure services and give them the shield of plausible deniability. Use of a small secure messaging app made for activists, for example, may be seen as a signal that someone is engaged in sensitive communications that require end-to-end encryption. But as a service’s user base gets larger and more diverse, it’s less likely that simply downloading and using it will indicate anything about a particular user’s activities.
On WhatsApp in particular, don’t just change your back-up settings to prevent unencrypted cloud storage of your messages. Talk to your contacts about changing their settings, too. If any one participant in a conversation has cloud back-ups turned on, then copies of your conversations with them will be stored in the cloud unencrypted at rest.
The same applies to email service providers. If keeping your email communications away from large tech companies like Google or Yahoo is a concern, don’t just move your email to a different email provider or your own server. Encourage your contacts to do the same, too, otherwise your communications with contacts who use Gmail or Yahoo Mail will be exposed to the companies you may have been trying to avoid.
Don’t just encrypt your own device. Suggest full-disk encryption to your contacts and coworkers, too, so your files are safe after you share them.
Don’t just install Privacy Badger. Show it to your friends and family to download, too, so we can send a louder message together to advertisers demanding responsible ads that do not track users without consent.
Don’t just change your own social media settings and behavior. Talk with your friends about the potentially sensitive data you reveal about each other online. Even if you don’t have a social media account, or even if you untag yourself from posts, friends can still unintentionally identify you, report your location, and make their connections to you public. If you use Facebook for organizing, work with others to keep your Facebook groups private and secure.
Working together for privacy applies in offline situations, too. Don’t just prepare yourself and your own devices for a protest. Whether in the U.S. or internationally, share precautions with organizers and fellow protesters, too, and discuss ahead of time how you can safely document your event with powerful photos, videos, and other media.
Of course, there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all privacy advice, and each individual should consider their own threat model when taking the steps listed above. But the more we share information and best practices, the more we can each fine-tune the ways we protect ourselves and each other. It can take a community of privacy-conscious users to protect the privacy of any one individual. Join us in celebrating Data Privacy Day and rallying your community around the privacy stakes we all share.