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Your privacy resolutions for 2023

opinion  Paul Jarvis · Jan 2, 2023

A new year brings new goals and resolutions. Some folks want to eat better, some want to work out more, and others may want to start taking their online privacy more seriously.

Maybe privacy matters to you personally because you’re sick of Big Tech making a lot of money mining and selling your data. Maybe you want to ensure your company is compliant with ever-changing privacy laws. Maybe you want to ensure your data isn’t leaked, your accounts aren’t hacked, or your identity isn’t stolen.

Whatever your reason for wanting to put a bit more focus into digital privacy in this new year, it’s best to keep a few simple things in mind.

Privacy doesn’t have a start and finish line

I’ve heard folks say that privacy is “a marathon, not a sprint,” and that’s reasonably but not entirely accurate.

Where the metaphor above falls short is that there’s no starting line (since you can’t go back in time) and no finish line either (you can’t ever be “done” with privacy or “win” at it - because it’s constantly changing and evolving).

Instead, it’s essential to know and be ok with the fact that you can’t change your past habits (or lack of) regarding how you’ve used the internet and that if you want to do ALL THE THINGS right away, you’ll no doubt get overwhelmed and do none of them.

So, it’s best to define your own personal scope of what matters and what doesn’t when it comes to upping your privacy game. And this short list of what matters can and will change over time. But for now, a simple and short list of what matters and what can be quick wins is important.

What matters (to you) about digital privacy this year

For most folks, it comes down to a few critical factors in making privacy matter more:

  1. Access to accounts - are you using random and unique passwords? Have you turned on two-factor authentication for all your accounts? Is 2FA going through an authenticator app, not an easily hacked SMS? PS: Here’s how to use 2FA with Fathom Analytics.
  2. Publicly available data - what about you is online for anyone to look up or know? How much of that data are you giving away freely? What can be removed from the internet (if things like your home address or phone number are listed publicly)?
  3. How much do you want to “give away for free” to Big Tech? Huge companies and data brokers make billions of dollars off our data, and we don’t see a penny. Instead, we’re forced into Surveillance Capitalism. What can we do to avoid this? Use alternative products to Big Tech, use a VPN, use different search engines and browsers, and ask our governments to pass laws banning or restricting this surveillance.

Your own list could be different than the above, and that’s ok. Hopefully, it’s shorter. And for each point of care, you’d like to focus on, you don’t need a vast, 24-page comprehensive strategy—instead, you need a few habits to change things.

What to consider to keep the privacy ball moving

If you want to ensure this is a resolution you keep beyond Feb, set yourself up for success. Here’s how that can work:

  • Make sure your new privacy resolutions don’t impact your relationships: i.e. don’t force your grandparents to use Signal with a burner phone number... just to share the recipes you miss from childhood.
  • Make sure your privacy resolutions are things that actually and truly matter: i.e. don’t force yourself to use a faraday bag if you routinely talk to your spouse via text while you’re out or need directions.
  • Make sure your privacy resolutions aren’t so strict or cumbersome they’re hard to follow: i.e. don’t beat yourself up if you don’t quit every social media network today (when you use them to keep in touch with friends and family).
  • Make sure you revisit your accomplishments for your privacy resolutions often: remember, this isn’t a sprint or a marathon—it’s about taking small steps as often as possible to better protect your digital privacy.

And finally - remember you can take a break. You don’t have to care about and learn about digital privacy 24/7/365. Focus on it for a bit, take a break, and come back to it. You’ll be less likely to burn out… remember, there’s a reason most gyms are basically empty come February… it’s because folks with great intentions bit off too much about what they wanted to accomplish quickly.

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Paul Jarvis

Paul Jarvis, author + designer

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