In the name of privacy

On: October 17, 2014
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About David de Bie


   

As technologies get more and more advanced in tracking, monitoring, and data analysis, the issue of privacy has become a very relevant topic and a much discussed debate. The digital footprint is one of the key terms that is resonating in this debate. Recently there was some fuss about a free wifi hotspot which included in its Terms of Service that the user would have to give up his first born child when agreeing to the terms. In another case a ‘hacker’ collected all the data of users on a free wifi hotspot (De Correspondent). And then there is the problem with cookies collecting everything you do on the internet – and companies making use of this data. While browsing the web, users leave a trace of which they are either unaware, or just don’t know what implications this data could have on their lives.

study of Pew Internet (in which the term ‘digital footprint’ is coined) shows that although people are curious about their online data – 48% searches for himself online – , the majority of them doesn’t take any steps to protect their privacy (71%). As we believe that educating people should start at the moment that using the web becomes more and more necessary, the focus of this project will be on teenagers. According to danah boyd, teenagers are not concerned with third parties accessing their data, rather, they are concerned about the things authoritarian figures, such as parents or teachers, know about them. What matters to teenagers is their social privacy. Although this is an important aspect, it is also important to understand what leaving a trace on the web, the digital footprint, can mean for your privacy. This is the main focus of this project: to educate teenagers about privacy issues and give them some tips and tricks to make their footprints a little less deep.

In the Name of Privacy
In order to create this knowledge, we created a website called “In the Name of Privacy”. The focus of the website is mainly on the technicalities of the web that are less familiar to the teenagers. The website addresses four topics: ‘Terms of Service’, ‘Cookies’, ‘Public WiFi spots’ and ‘Sharing’. After an initial inventory, we identified these topics as key points to the privacy discussion.

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As it’s a growing issue, it’s not difficult to create a website about privacy, however it is a challenge to create a concept that really engages with teenagers and, at the same time, is informative. Our solution is explaining the concepts not in a threatening way, as usual when talking about serious issues, but using humour. The goal was to create a fun experience with serious content, explaining it by using jokes, images, memes and direct speech (as if the website is talking directly to the user), similar to many entertainment content nowadays.

Terms of Service
Perhaps one of the biggest lies people tell is: ‘I have read the terms of service’. So, we made our own Terms of Service and included a number of absurdities in the text. When the users agrees to these terms, a short ‘test’ follows with questions that dont relate to our Terms of Service at all. There are no right answers. After submitting the (obviously wrong) answers, there is a short explanation on why you should always read the Terms of Service. The point is to create the awareness that users should always read the Terms of Service because in fact they’re signing a contract. Also, some tips are provided on how to read Terms of Service more quickly and efficiently and other useful sources, such as the website Terms of Service; Didn’t Read, where different Terms of Service are classified from class A (which is good), to class E (which is bad).

Wi-Fi
In order to save precious megabytes on data subscriptions, many teenagers use public Wi-Fi spots at cafés, bars and other public places. Since many of these wireless connections are not secured, they expose their users to possible data interception and even infection of smartphones, tablets and laptops with malware and spyware. The Wi-Fi section of our project explains the risks and solutions.

Cookies
When clicking on the Cookies part, users will be led through a website that uses Amazon.com as a case study. First the user will be asked to buy a book about privacy. After following the whole process, the website will explain different forms of Cookies and what is harmful about them regarding privacy. After that there’s an explanation of how to get rid of Cookies.

Sharing
In order to inform and educate about the consequences of sharing content online, we developed an interactive question/answer tour that passes through some of the main information usually given away by teens that can have consequences, such as pictures, location, personal information and credit card numbers. After some questions, tips and advices are shown in order to stimulate a more responsible usage of social media and sharing tools.

Future improvements
Although we made use of a lot of images, the explanation of the different issues is still somewhat text based – in the future we would like to find a solution to make it even more visual, so the users wouldn’t have to read a lot of text. We believe this will contribute to the engagement of the teenagers and a better understanding of the topics.

Moreover, regarding the Cookies part, in the future we will try to explain a little bit better that Cookies in itself are not harmful for privacy, but the ways they are used by companies collecting their data could be. Even more, most websites would not be able function without Cookies, Amazon.com is an excellent example of this, as they remember certain things the website to create the best user experience.

Furthermore, we will keep adding useful tools on all of the subjects as new tools are created every day and we probably still missed a lot of them.

We’re always open for advice and suggestions, so please visit our website and let us know what you think by reacting to this post.

 

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Chaïm Wijnberg

Suzanne Tromp

Gabriel Reis

Jan-Jaap Heine

David de Bie

 

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