Privacy, or more specifically online privacy, has been getting a lot of attention of late. Whether it is big brands being hacked, online services facing security breaches or our right to privacy being questioned by our governments, there is almost daily media coverage of it. Nobody, it seems is immune from it.
The recent atrocities that the Parisians have faced has in part led to amendments to the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill currently being read in the Lords, the inclusion of the so-called ’snoopers charter'. Of course, once suggested, it propagates the social networks rapidly, what starts as something quite legitimate has everyone in mild panic at the prospect of their Facebook posts being read by someone at GCHQ. It becomes a real fear - and transforms into downright objection. Why do governments need to store this kind of data?
We can be assured that these acts of law won’t go away, the author Dan Brown covers the sentiment very well ”we fear what we do not understand”. We will see more laws introduced that will strip us of more and more privacy online. The fear and objection is likely to increase.
The bill and the awful terrorist acts that occurred in Paris piqued my curiosity around the concept of security and privacy so I’ve been listening to some podcasts to find out a bit more detail (after Serial finished I needed something to fill the void). Amongst them, two really stood out for me. Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller’s Reith lectures from 2011 (she’s the former head of MI5) and Glenn Greenwald talking in a TED radio broadcast (Greenwald was the journalist who was given access to the data that Edward Snowden was leaking).
In the Reith lectures, Baroness Manningham-Buller talked about how security and freedom could not be separated in our modern world. In that we have to give up some of our freedom to security in order to enjoy a greater freedom (a little paradoxical, I know). It is however, an intriguing concept, we have to give up freedom in order to be free. So how much will we feel comfortable giving up? This is something I think we, as UX professionals will start to see more and more in usability testing. We will see participants questioning how much data they simply hand over online.
In the second, Glenn Greenwald talks about balancing a government’s right to keep certain things private, and what is in the public’s best interest to share. More specifically he said that everyone has secrets, but in order to maintain them the best thing to do is not store them anywhere digitally. I think we will either start to see people refuse to impart private information across digital networks, or people will just live with the concept that there is no such thing as privacy anymore, there will be less of a middle ground and a harder line on which approach you take.
For now, what is being proposed means someone at GCHQ will not be reading an average persons’ Facebook posts or tweets. However, knowing what is happening and what is likely to come helps us to shape our engagement with clients and users.