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I’m feeling vindicated.

For years I’ve been telling anyone who would listen that one of the biggest challenges with managing digital privacy isn’t one of compliance, but of understanding the needs of individuals and providing the necessary information and tools to allow them to make their own decisions as they relate to privacy.

After all, there is no standard definition of privacy. I may be perfectly comfortable sharing certain details of my life, but desiring to keep other details to myself. And I may decide to change my standards depending on the context of a certain transaction, or after determining that an organization has earned my trust.

Being constrained by what someone else feels is appropriate may prevent me from getting the most out of an online experience.

Yet, when I express this belief to others in the community of privacy professionals, I’m often met by arguments in favor of a regime that assumes the consumer is in need of outside constraints. That, left to their own devices, people will share too much and be left vulnerable to exploitation.

Following the current domestic surveillance saga, I note that the public is responding in a way that is encouraging. The conversations on the topic of digital privacy are finally moving outside of the lawyer’s office and thrust into the public square. Or, more to the point, the conversations that have been happening in the public square all along are finally being heard.

After all, the government-corporate partnership that dictates how our private data are collected and secured and managed – for our collective good – has been exposed as being among the most egregious of privacy violators.

That dynamic is the driving force behind the documentary by filmmaker Cullen Hoback: Terms & Conditions May Apply. And I like the way Hoback explains the underlying issue in his contributed essay in the Guardian when he writes:

“…the unholy alliance of the surveillance-industrial complex is just that: complex.”

The harder the regulators work to protect us and guard our privacy, the harder it is to actually accomplish the task. But if we are allowed to make those decisions I have confidence that we’ll all be better satisfied with the results. And if not, we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.

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