Data Privacy

Why privacy starts with people

I read an excellent and thought-provoking article this week, on what privacy means to people and how that should apply to tech and app design.

Its specific focus was on Facebook, and Mark Zuckerberg’s so-called privacy pivot, but the themes it explores are universal. Notably, what does privacy even mean? The answer here (and there will be others) was: whatever people want it to mean.

As article author Stephanie Nguyen says: “Privacy is amorphous. There are many definitions of privacy, and they depend on countless factors. For one person, the value of privacy may be about freedom of choice–the ability to manage her own state of well-being without her data getting scooped up and monetized. For another person, privacy might be about anonymity–the status quo that you mind your own business.”

So Zuckerberg (and anyone else) who thinks a one-size-fits-all solution will work for ever user is kidding themselves from the outset – and probably building or adapting a product that a vast majority of the supposed end users won’t actually feel meets their needs.

Rather, actual privacy by design starts with the user, and builds out from there. What do users want, what do they need – and how do you deliver that?

As Nguyen explains: “What’s missing is a reckoning with the complexity of the problem itself–the myriad ways people interpret privacy. And to do that, you need human-centered design.”

Putting people at the centre of their personal data and digital world is an important goal by any standards, whoever you are. But all privacy needs are not equal – and that has to be acknowledged and accepted from design onwards.

In’s case, our version of privacy is giving individuals control back over their personal data, letting them gather it together for greater convenience and insight, and then decide if they want to share it – or not.

In this way, privacy becomes about trusting individuals to make their own decisions, and giving them the digital tools to do that, just as much as it is enabling them to share more data securely and on their own terms.

Empowering people to make their own choices? Radical, sensible – and very much the future.