When I created the I’m Getting Arrested app for Occupy Wall Street in 2011, as some guy in Brooklyn making an app for protesters, I was well aware of the trust that I would have to establish for people to actually use the app for its intended purpose. Demonstrators are a very vulnerable group! I deliberately created IGA to avoid possessing any of the user’s personal information. When people asked me how many people used it, I proudly declared, I don’t know! We did not register or track anything or anybody. It all ran from the app. No server. No tracking codes. Nothing! This ethos is built into Quadrant 2’s best known social justice apps. If we can avoid possessing personal information in an app we create, that’s what we do.
In this blog post, we'll explore why privacy matters, the risks of not prioritizing privacy, and how organizations can protect their stakeholders' privacy.
First and foremost, privacy is a fundamental human right. It is enshrined in many international human rights declarations and treaties, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Privacy is important because it allows individuals to control their personal information and maintain autonomy over their lives. Without privacy, individuals may feel vulnerable, exposed, or even unsafe.
In the digital age, privacy is even more important. With the vast amounts of personal data that are collected and shared online, individuals are at risk of having their privacy violated in ways that were never before possible. Personal data can be used to micro target individuals with advertisements, manipulate their opinions, and with AI, commit identity theft via digital doppelgangers. Without privacy protections, individuals may (should) feel like they have no control over their personal information or how it is used.
For social justice organizations, privacy is especially important because of the nature of their work. These organizations often deal with sensitive issues like human rights abuses, political activism, and social justice. They may work with vulnerable populations like refugees or survivors of violence, whose privacy must be protected in order to ensure their safety and wellbeing.
Furthermore these organizations often rely on the trust of their stakeholders, including donors, volunteers, and clients. If these stakeholders feel like their privacy is not being respected or protected, they may be less likely to engage with the organization. This could lead to a loss of funding, volunteers, or clients, which could have a significant impact on the organization's ability to carry out its mission.
In order to protect privacy, these organizations can take a number of steps. One of the most important is to implement strong data protection policies and practices. This could include things like data encryption, password protection, and regular data audits. Organizations should also be transparent with their stakeholders about what data is being collected, how it is being used, and who has access to it. Or … you could just not collect this information at all!
This is what we do with our newest product Jotto. It’s a messaging platform that evolved out of the creation of our social justice apps such as the I’m Getting Arrested app for Occupy Wall Street and the Stop and Frisk Watch, Migracam and Mobile Justice apps for the ACLU. Jotto has no user registration at all! In other words, users don’t even have a way to trade their phone number, email address or provide a trackable social media identity as the price of admission - even if they really wanted to (because, did I mention we have no registration at all?).
This is anathema to new tech products for several reasons, there is money to be made selling the user data itself as a business model, or as human scrap if the product flops. Personally, I hope to discover that Jotto may attract interest from a large untapped population who would prefer to maintain their digital privacy. A private majority if you will.
In conclusion, privacy is a fundamental human right that is especially important in the digital age. For social justice organizations, privacy is crucial in order to protect vulnerable populations, maintain stakeholder trust, and advance their mission. By prioritizing privacy in their policies, practices, and advocacy efforts, progressive organizations can help to ensure that individuals' privacy is respected and protected in the digital world.