April 16, 2004 | By Donna Wentworth

danah Goes Meta on Gmail, A9

danah boyd has a long and worthwhile post offering her vision of what civil rights activists should do about the development of very cool technologies that nevertheless leave users vulnerable to privacy violations:

"Let me dig out of this hole and return to the civil rights activists. As people's concerns lower, they're willing to tolerate much more invasive access to data because they only see the incentives and they don't see the consequences. This is rational. We tend to operate on local, not meta levels in everyday life. The role of the civil rights activist is to go meta and deal with first point #2 - can any rational abuse of data be expected? Their role is to look at the larger picture and protect people from engaging in localized decisions that might harm the larger picture.

There are usually two approaches that said activists take:
1) Try to educate the masses.
2) Try to change XYZ from happening through any means possible.


So, as i see it, i have two roles as an activist on this issue:
- Educate people to conceptualize vulnerability and go through the exercise of thinking about who a design might affect, how, and why. Encourage them to minimize vulnerability in their design, not simply protect privacy.
- Work directly in domains that are all about vulnerability management and dive deep into the design issues with a conscientious perspective trying to maximize the protections afforded to users."

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