The Social Cost of Caring About My Data

As the writer of this blog, people expect me to judge them for doing things I'm trying to avoid. Like using Facebook, posting family photos on Instagram, using Google services, etc. Over the weekend a friend worried that the reason I hadn't responded to a happy birthday text was because I thought it was an invasion of my privacy (I just wasn't looking at my phone).

The fact is, my wife and my friends still use Gmail, which means most of my email is still on Google servers. We have smart TVs in our house that probably log everything we watch, and that data is likely being sold off somewhere. If I were trying to be an purist, I would go crazy.

My only goal is to investigate ways to protect my data with the least amount of friction, or do the hard learning and report back my findings here. If it's not easy for the average person to do, why is it so hard? How can it be easier?

Easy Is the Only Way

It's like being a vegetarian and going out to dinner with meat eaters who think they can't order meat because it will offend you. But I don't expect people to do anything that's not easy – too much of life is inherently hard. It's not easy to stop eating meat in the U.S., although it's getting easier. And it certainly isn't easy to use the internet or the latest tech while caring about your data.

We need systems that make it easy for the average person to do the right thing by default. And until we have them, holding people morally accountable is counterproductive.

It's understandable that instead of being curious about why I've made my decision, people feel the need to defend their own. I usually keep my biggest interest to myself in conversations because I don't want to make anyone uncomfortable.

Many people's reasoning for not caring about their data is a lack of knowledge on how it's being used and abused. I try to help inform them if they're interested. Although I do run into very tech savvy people who still think my data advocacy is an over reaction and very tinfoil hat-y.

What Should I Do?

So I ask you dear readers, is there a way to bring people into the light with regards to their data without sounding like an overbearing crackpot? Have you successfully deployed any explanations or strategies that convince people to care about the theft and abuse of their data?

I don't have comments here but you can email me or find me on twitter. I also follow discussions on Hacker News and Reddit.

Cover image by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash

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