Have Nothing To Hide? We Need To Talk About Privacy In 2016

Since the United States’ National Security Agency’s’ invasive collection of citizen’s phone records and the non-mandated spying of foreign intelligence and government officials, the heat on global privacy concerns has somewhat died down in recent months.

However, global bills passed in the shadow of state terror alerts have far from ceased. These have placed the privacy debate at the forefront of the national security agenda, which should elicit much conversation on what the informed public are sacrificing in the name of security.

I’m sure most of you have heard (or if you haven’t you should watch below) the much renowned TED talk by journalist Glenn Greenwald on “Why Privacy Matters” in 2014.

 

Following the Edward Snowden revelations exposing government surveillance initiatives such as PRISM and The Five Eyes, this is one in few public privacy discussions that is unapologetically on point in revealing the state of mass surveillance currently legalised by government mandates. The discussion epitomises the necessity for privacy protections in place for the sake of civil liberties.

Greenwald’s social experiment denounces those who claim they have nothing to hide by asking audiences who claim they are not concerned about privacy to forfeit passwords to emails. Greenwald has since received no offers to uphold his invitation.

Alas, proving the fact that there remains amongst the most open of us some innate concern when it comes to personal and informational privacy.

In this global state of surveillance concerns, the informed public are especially weary of competitive political trends that limit our civil liberties. Are these growing surveillance measures in response to genuine terror threats or just a false flag as a consequence of the aftermath of Snowden’s leaks?

– In Australia, as of October 13th 2015, the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill came into effect. Essentially, this forces ISPs to collect your metadata including whom you contact, the duration of the call, source of the communication, type of communication and location of equipment used. Whilst critics argue that this is a blatant disregard for privacy, advocates of the data retention bill raise that the collection of metadata has always been largely practiced by ISPs prior to the bill taking effect, and that the bill essentially only provides a legislative framework on best practices.

– In the United States, mandates such as the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, otherwise known as CISA, have also passed the US Senate earlier this year much to the disapproval of privacy advocates. Despite the CISA’s voluntary nature, the broadly defined notion of “cybersecurity threat” is vague in defining when action should be taken for government officials to gain warrantless access to personal information. There are also clauses in the bill that only require companies to “know at the time of sharing” that the data shared and passed onto government officials could be used to personally identify users. This leaves companies legally not liable for when passed information contains sensitive information. If company representatives do not fully examine the contents of the information at the time of sharing it enables companies to claim ignorance.

– In France, the Intelligence Bill passed through the French Senate mid-2015 also reigns in favours for a wide range of surveillance powers to take effect without prior approval by a judge. The bill essentially gives intelligence agencies a right to listen in on digital and mobile phone communications, including enabling “keylogger” activities on computers. ISPs are also required to install “black boxes” that will alert government officials on suspicious online behaviour. All surveillance activities are being legalised on the basis of a loosely defined notion of “terrorism” and related activity.

– In China, the National Security Law passed mid-2015 also extends its legal reach over the Internet. The law stipulates that it will “protect people’s fundamental interests”, which is once again language that is open to interpretation. More severe than perhaps other global legislation, the law also mandates criticism of the government as an attempt to disturb the social order and its structures of power, authority and hierarchy. The draft anti-terrorism law also furthers the state of permanent digital surveillance through requiring technology companies to install government accessible “backdoors” to software and applications.

Undoubtedly, changes in legislation have a number of setbacks for the international business market.

Cyber-sovereignty, for one, may further subdivide an already heavily monitored Internet, increase costs of international opportunities, jeopardise international markets and ultimately privacy.

What can you do about it?

Citizen journalism and public inquiries, for one, can be adopted through programs that influence the acceptability of government regulations.

Albeit this could work both ways either for or against privacy, government campaigns have not exactly been executed to sell the public on how government officials have mandated companies to spy on customers. Privacy advocates, on the contrary, have been progressive in executing social campaigns.

For the informed public, there are a number of campaigns that you can join as part of your grassroots activism efforts. Today, we’ll have a look at two great privacy campaigns, what they do and why we need another one for 2016. Hopefully, privacy advocates and marketers alike can pick up some marketing psychology insight from this blog for your next social campaign in the fight for privacy.

1. Join the “Stop Watching Us” Petition and Campaign
Website: https://optin.stopwatching.us/
Video Campaign: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGmiw_rrNxk

 

Give Privacy A Nudge

The campaign is great as it essentially gives privacy a nudge. Indeed, the campaign itself is widely supported by an overarching social psychology theory. Behavioural economic and socio-political theorists bring up a concept known as the ‘Nudge’ theory. Nudges are the first step in social transformation to positively reinforce changes in behaviour toward a public opinion.

The Nudge theory, made famous by Harvard Law School professor Cass Sunstein in his book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness promotes non-forced compliance as a means to motivate, incentivise and influence decision making of the informed public. This is said to be more effective than say legislation or enforcement.

As the name suggests, the Nudge theory essentially benefits through giving the public a greater insight as to why citizens should go about protecting their privacy rights.

For example, the nudge, especially, has had proven effects in the United Kingdom (“UK”). Enacted by the UK government as a governance strategy to modify behaviour toward areas such as health, energy, education, diversity, tax and giving, this strategy is effective in improving public policy through tackling non-rational elements of decision-making.

In recourse to non-mandated surveillance, what we need today is not so much a focus on punishing unethical behaviour within the bounds of the law, as has been the widely adopted solution thus far, but more so in rewarding positive choices.

The video campaign, essentially, acts as a means to encourage the informed public in making constructive decisions. This protects privacy through publicly voicing concerns against surveillance for the sake of positive personal and social benefit. For example, for you it may be as simple as family benefits.

Narratives For Instruction-Based Learning

Storytelling is also another instructional method for narrative-based learning which the video campaign does well. Telling a story, essentially, positions the audience with the narrator’s context to stimulate emotional engagement as central to the narrative.

Essentially, constructionism emphasises learning as a process of constructing ‘meaning’ through a synthesis of ongoing interaction with the world. ‘Stop Watching Us’ is multifunctional as it appeals to emotions, whilst recounting facts and events. And thus, persuasion occurs to stimulate behavioural change through our in-depth understanding of privacy.

Is ‘Fear-Mongering’ effective?

Though critics may suggest that ‘Stop Watching Us’ is ‘fear-mongering’ at its peak and that voluntary compliance whilst socially valuable does not always motivate people to act, social psychology theory suggests that the ‘fear appeal’ is a cognitive model that stimulates ‘protection motivation’. This determines the degree of change in our perception of surveillance and privacy.

For example, dramatic music accompanies a succession of celebrity endorsements through well-known actors such as John Cusack to emphasise the seriousness of the revelations, build rapport with the audience and persuade the public to change behaviour in the acceptance of surveillance.

Though there are some limitations to the use of fear appeals, where its effectiveness is based on emotional engagement of the targeted audience and the personal perceived severity of the threat, the video’s success lies in its general appeal to the masses at the time.

2. Join the ‘Reset The Net’ Petition and Campaign
Website: https://www.resetthenet.org/
Video Campaign: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKk8MHFLNNE

 

Another campaign is ‘Reset The Net’ by Fight For The Future in 2014 which also harnessed significant support from Internet companies such as Google and Mozilla. These advocates encourage the need for changes in the public policy landscape involving privacy but with a grassroots activism mentality.

Grassroots Activism and Community Organising

Again, the grassroots activism mentality is once again grounded by in depth social psychology theory that supports the effectiveness of these campaigns.

There’s a concept known as the ‘grassroots’ or community organising theory that states that collective action is most influential in changing governance policies through members of a community working together to produce solutions to problems. As a result, there is a great capacity for change.

The first steps toward change being: awareness, mobilization, training/capacity building and action research/policy analysis.

reset the net packOnly after following these steps to organise individuals around an issue can there be a shift in social norms and increased public involvement concerning an issue.

So basically, if you’re like me and spend up-in-the-minute time reading policy updates in the news then you’re a prime target for call-to-actions toward privacy advocacy.

Grassroots advocacy sets call-to-actions to influence decision makers. Partnerships, media advocacy, social protest and legal advocacy are just the starting point to further the agenda in the fight for our privacy.

The ‘Reset The Net’ video and petition follows similar social psychology techniques to the ‘Stop Watching Us’ campaign but further involves us through providing preventative measures and call-to-actions to secure our privacy.

The ‘grassroots’ mentality supporting the campaign, essentially establishes explicit goals to bring people together for the purpose of achieving social justice and social change. These all impact and improve governance policies through increasing political will and power of constituents. Thus, we all have to thank social psychology for grassroots action that led to the deeming of NSA surveillance programs as illegal by U.S. courts.

What can be done better?

Albeit both are largely successful campaigns, there are a number of ways these two campaigns can be improved. For example, there could be an emphasis on peer-to-peer conversations and peer networks such as forums, wikis, social media and blogs as a means of outreach. Personally, I think it would have been much more effective for ‘Stop Watching Us’ and ‘Reset The Net’ to deliver a full-service campaign by opening forums to facilitate conversation and debate amongst the public and industry professionals.  Also, hosting physical rallies to further the simplicity of access by the public could encourage action to be taken to push forward anti-surveillance and privacy inclusions in policies.

Can you do a better job for a much needed privacy campaign for 2016?

Get the conversation started in the new year. Join me on privacy advocacy today.

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Hoi Sze Lam

Hoi Sze Lam is an autodidact of all things digital marketing, and is a privacy advocate with a keen interest in cyber affairs. Given the time she reads, breathes and follows good food, wood fires, travel and technology from down under.

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