Power to the people: How consumers can use their power to change data privacy

Gal Ringel
4
min read

<hl>How does consumer activism affect companies' data privacy practices, and what can you do as a consumer to help bring more awareness?<hl>

Power to the people

Today’s revolutions start online. Moves that in the past would have gone unnoticed create a massive backlash, forcing the world’s biggest tech companies to recalculate their route. We’ve never had this sort of power before as consumers, and it’s all thanks to the lively global debate around data ownership.

Several recent incidents demonstrate the power of data privacy awareness combined with consumer activism. WhatsApp delayed its plans to change its company’s data-sharing practices when worried users started flocking to other apps; Microsoft removed public user data from its Productivity Score feature after users described it as a workplace surveillance tool, and Zoom added end-to-end encryption to the video conferencing platform following global market demand.  

People may have a cynical response to “keyboard activism,” but the above examples prove that online consumers have a lot of power when switching apps, shutting down data access, and sharing information on social media is now so easy.

As a result, 77% of surveyed users reported that they’re familiar with the topic of data privacy and the use of private information by companies. More than 90% of internet users are concerned about at least one data privacy issue, and more than 100 countries have some piece of data privacy legislation in place, including revolutionary laws like Europe’s GDPR. This isn’t keyboard activism; it’s genuine activism that yields real, world-changing results.    

Here’s how you can join the fight for data ownership

fight for data ownership

If these words manage to inspire you into taking part in the global fight for data ownership, here are a few things you can do, all relatively simple that will benefit you personally.

Talk: Participate in online and offline discussions. Share your thoughts and knowledge, ask eye-opening questions, and listen to what others have to say. Understand how digital platforms work and take advantage of specific features that encourage algorithms to promote certain content. Comments and likes help information float, hashtags (like #dataownership or #ownyourdata) make it more organized and more. The online town square also includes fake news, so take things with a grain of salt and fact-check when possible.

Read: Data ownership is a topic that never suffers from a shortage in reading materials. You can read product descriptions and privacy policies or visit Mine’s Privacy in Action index to learn how companies treat users’ data. This information will help you decide what brands deserve access to your private information and lead you to the next step: information sharing.  

Share: If you come across a fascinating article, share the link on your digital channels (hey, you’re reading an article right now #justsaying). Add a little TL;DR description that will make it easier for people to know what it’s all about and initiate a new debate. Many of the triumphant battles we’ve mentioned here started with people merely sharing articles on disturbing features and policies.

Create: If you’re a creative person, use your talent to turn the information you’ve consumed into engaging and informative art. Design infographics, write an article, or even tell a joke. There are no wrong answers, and your creative outlet will channel worries into action and help grab people’s attention.

Manage: Now that you’ve gathered and shared information, you can independently manage your data and prevent companies that failed to earn your trust from accessing your private information (you can do this easily with Mine). You should also share these steps and results with others. Let people know how many services initially had access and the percentage of companies you chose to remove.

As you may have noticed, these steps use different skills that allow each person to take part in the global awareness campaign. We can all offer something valuable to this critical cause, based on our strong suits and schedule limitations. The main thing is that we feel empowered to act and invite others to join. The end goal isn’t a massive physical protest (although that’s not a bad thing). All we want is for people to pay attention and take ownership over what’s theirs.  

Using awareness in the fight for data ownership is poetic justice. We’re utilizing information to protect information, harnessing the very platforms that enjoy our data to build a safer future. If 2020 was the year of data privacy awareness, 2021 will be all about data privacy activism.

The open discussions that lead to public backlash, can encourage regulations or policies that will protect consumer rights. At the end of this data domino game, the companies and organizations that ignored consumers’ voices will fall, and those who respect their audience’s privacy will stand proud.