Think about your day-to-day life. Did you wake up to the sound of your phone’s alarm? Did you communicate with someone remotely using social media? If you live in a modestly urban area, did you go outside today? If you answered yes to any of those, then you’re living in the digital age, where our lives are intricately tangled with technology and the internet.
What is Privacy?
Now more than ever, technology is integrated into our lives seamlessly, often improving our relationships and experiences. But the rise of digital technologies has also created concerns about privacy* – which is (roughly) the capacity to control what you share about yourself. Part of this is being informed and aware of who gets to access your information, and the where and when and why of it all. For example, how private are your Google searches? The other half is your ability to decide what is done with your data, and how those decisions are respected by platforms and companies.
* Digital privacy: protection and security of personal online information.
What is a digital footprint?
Everything you do on the internet creates or involves data, which is really just information or facts. These are the bits and pieces of information that you actively choose to share, like tweets, posts, or photos… but also the facts about your activity on the web. Things like how often you visit a website, or the fact that you searched for an item on Amazon. Did you know Snapchat gets to see which websites you visit before and after opening their app?
Consent in the digital age
Social platforms nicely ask you to read and agree to their Terms of Service. But let’s admit it – we often don’t read those long, technical documents, and often they’re not designed for easy reading. Researchers have found that our ability to give informed consent is actively undermined by the design and presentation of privacy policies and terms of service.* You shouldn’t need a legal education or an impressive vocabulary to have your privacy respected on the internet!
*Terms of Service (ToS): rules a user must agree to before using a particular online service. ToS vary but they generally include what the user can and cannot do with the service, what personal data the user is agreeing to share, and how that data will be used by the company.