I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to speak at TEDx Dayton last October. The event was held at the historic Victoria Theater in beautiful downtown Dayton. My Talk is “The Humanity in Privacy.” Here are some thoughts I tried to convey at the sold-out event.
1. Privacy is as important as ever. Our respective values for privacy are as complex, layered and different as each of us. And that value or need for privacy is essential to our very humanity. Indeed, without some form or privacy, we arguably cannot be human. This is because privacy allows us to be vulnerable with ourselves as we try and figure out what we believe and who we want to be. Privacy provides a refuge in which we can expose our ideas to the fresh air of another’s viewpoint without the fear of judgment. Privacy provides that safety we all need as we try and make that most vital of human connections with another. When privacy is taken away, we recoil and withdraw. We cease to be, at least in some part, who we truly are.
2. Privacy is still possible today. Yes, I really believe that. Indeed, cynics abound. When I tell people what I do for a living, one of the first things I usually hear is, “We have no privacy, anymore.” Sure, privacy may not look like it used to. (Very few of us can pull a J.D. Salinger these days.) But it is still possible. As I share in my Talk, if one man can find privacy again after being labeled Public Enemy #1 in one of America’s largest cities, surely, we can find our own brand of privacy on a smaller scale. You still have the power to make choices and take steps to bring your behavior in line with your personal value for privacy.
3. Privacy takes the both of us. But it not just up to you. Privacy really is a two-party transaction between givers and takers. If we want our privacy valued, it will take the both of us. We both must be better givers and takers of personal information – that of others and our own.
a. Be a better giver. As givers, we can make better choices about what information we want to share and why. We do that by using discretion with what we make public and pushing back on unnecessary requests for our information, be it from people or companies. We also take ownership of our value for privacy by educating ourselves about the individuals, businesses, products and services to which we entrust our information. You determine your privacy value by the choices you make. Trust me, this works. You see, I am a private guy. It is not just my profession. People know this. I know this because no fewer than four people reached out and asked me if they could share the YouTube link to my very public TED Talk. They wanted to make sure I was ok with it. While that may sound funny, it makes my point acutely. Rightly or wrongly, these four people appreciate my value for privacy and thought differently as a result.
b. Be a better taker. When entrusted with someone’s personal information, take a minute to think about that person’s wishes when contemplating sharing that information. If you are not sure, is it not worth checking? Would you not want the same consideration? When in doubt, don’t disclose. If you receive mail, email or texts by mistake, treat it as you would want your own errant messages handled-whether at work or not. Do your part to create less demand for individuals or businesses who trade on people’s privacy. Don’t listen to gossip and certainly don’t regurgitate it. Don’t click on links to the latest hack of a celebrity cloud account or buy the magazines that profit of it.
And if you run a business, you can be a better taker. Keep your privacy promises and do your part as a taker to honor the choices of the giver. Your customers will appreciate it. And guess what? They will often give you more data, more business and are more likely to stay with you when you have a breach or some other privacy- related issue. You see, in the end, privacy is about trust. Trust is good for business.
Lastly, if you have never been to a TED or TEDx event, you really should go. Talk about an oasis of positivity and inspiration in what can often be a world that is a desert of cynicism and criticism! In Dayton, the event has sold out in each of its four years. Furthermore, these sell outs often occur before the speakers are even announced. I think that tells you something. I think that says we are all searching to be inspired, to have hope and to expand our perception of the modern world and our place in it. It is very interesting (and reassuring) that in the technological age in which we live, an in-person, all-day event can create a sense of community, purpose, and enlightenment. So, I encourage you to go, wherever you may live. Like Yosemite National Park, it is a recommendation I have yet to regret making.